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Students Get A (Pants) Leg Up

By Jacqui Shine '05

In a tight economy, a job seeker needs every advantage she can get, and the college’s new “Suit Yourself” program has been giving students a leg up since its inception last fall. The program, which is run by the Career Development Office, ensures that Smithies will stand out in appearance, as well as qualifications, by outfitting job- and internship-seekers in one of the classic black suits that makes up the unusual new “lending library.”

Funded by a grant from Goldman Sachs, “Suit Yourself” makes available to students a collection of professional clothing -- pants, skirts and jackets, all in matching black and a range of sizes -- to borrow for job or internship interviews or other professional situations. Participation requires only the presentation of a student ID and a promise to return the clothes, dry-cleaned, when the interview is over, which makes the cost of wearing a classic black interview suit under $10.

First-year student Nabila Noor has already participated in the program. Noor, a member of Smith’s Model United Nations debate team, has borrowed suits for weekend tournaments and finds the program both accessible and convenient. “Because I am a first-year student,” she says, “I didn’t think I would need a suit so early in my Smith career. But then I joined Model UN, and the dress code for our conferences is strictly professional.”

CDO counselors recognized that, while the right look can give a job candidate an edge, a student’s budget can’t always accommodate the purchase of professional attire. As spring interview season heated up, the program’s customers proved to be a diverse group, including some who couldn’t afford a suit and others who had last-minute interviews and no time to shop.

“The program really eases your anxiety over how you’ll dress for an interview,” says senior Helen Lee, who has borrowed suits for job interviews in New York City and Boston. “I don’t have to think, is this suit contemporary enough? Am I over the top? I can use the time I would spend worrying about my appearance to better prepare for interviews.”

Students can try on the garments during daily open hours, when student workers are on duty to help clients choose clothing and arrange a return schedule. Borrowers must provide their own top and shoes, allowing students to add their own personal style. “I’ve opted to wear my suit without much adornment,” says Lee. “The suits are really simple and elegant, so even if you choose not to accessorize you’ve still got a great look.”

More than 50 students have borrowed suits this year, many on multiple occasions. Not surprisingly, more than half of those have been seniors, but a number of students from all four classes, as well as graduate students, have availed themselves of the suit collection for interviews, conferences and other formal events.
So while “Suit Yourself” doesn’t address the stress of creating résumés or writing cover letters, it does eliminate one fear: standing in front of the closet on interview day with nothing to wear.

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