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Helping students ‘suit up’ for the Career Fair

To prepare students for today’s Career Networking Fair, two organizations teamed up to collect gently used business attire and give it to students in need.

The Career Center and the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) at USF handed out about 28 men’s and women’s business suits Sept. 23 to students in need. Any student who came to Marshall Student Center Room 2708 with a student ID could pick up a suit.

The first impression an employer has of a potential employee is critical during the interviewing process, and dressing in a professional manner is key to getting that second interview or the job itself, said career counselor Dottie Washington. SIFE’s Suits of Success program is aimed at teaching students how to properly dress themselves when going through the interview process, said junior finance/marketing major and SIFE member Noraida Martinez.

“What people see is how you dress and present yourself,” she said. “Your skills will get you beyond the job, but to make an impression on the employer is important.”

Washington said she wanted to provide students with something to help them in the long run.

“It makes a difference to help students in a small way, and some of the suits still have the price tags on them,” she said.

The Suits of Success program accepted anything from men’s dress shirts and ties to coordinated women’s business suits in black, navy or gray.

SIFE worked with Wal-Mart, a sponsor of the national Dress for Success program, to put on a fashion show displaying business attire sold at the Wal-Mart located on Fletcher Avenue.

Dress for Success is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life,” according to the program’s Web site,

“We put the fashion show on to show students how to dress for the job interview. You usually don’t think about what you are going to wear to an interview until it is time for the interview to take place,” said USF Assistant Director of Financial Aid Dameion Lovett.

The fashion show was held while students browsed the racks filled with business suits in the Marshall Student Center.

Steffanie Jameson, an MBA student at USF St. Petersburg, traveled to the Tampa campus when she heard of the suit giveaway.

“I found a suit to buy, but with alterations it would cost way too much,” she said. “So, I’ve found a suit here that doesn’t quite match with the skirt but I can make it work.”

SIFE has seen very successful suit giveaways the past three semesters, with an estimated 200-300 students in attendance during spring 2008. SIFE and the Career Center have another business suit drive in the works for spring, which should take place before that semester’s Career Networking Fair.

All suits not taken during this semester’s drive were donated to the Dress for Success program.