By Juanice Gray
It’s April. Students are about to graduate and head out into the real world to put that degree to work. They will be filling out applications and waiting for the call to come.
It finally does.
An interview is set for next Thursday at 10 a.m. and excitement and hope burst forth.
Then they open their closets.
One of the first decisions a person makes in the professional world is what to wear to the interview. A candidate for a job wants to look groomed, clean and be appropriately dressed but those jeans, polos, tees and sundresses just won’t do.
A new business or even casual suit or dress can set one back a bundle.
If only there were somewhere for the recent graduate to turn.
For those who earn degrees at the Natchitoches Campus of Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC), they are answering the need with a free clothing boutique.
Business instructors Kacey Rogers and Marné Deranger created the CLTCC Business Boutique to help students when going to job interviews and transitioning to the workforce.
“When you dress to impress, you dress for success,” said Deranger. “However, many of our students do not have the resources necessary to make a great first impression when interviewing with a potential employer. The Business Boutique can help address this resource gap.”
CLTCC has a collection of donated professional clothing for students to check out. Carey Carruth Hamblin, a business student, helped create the boutique, and is in charge of checking clothing in and out.
In addition, Deranger, Rogers and Hamblin will act as personal stylists to ensure students look their best.
Instructors host two “Dress for Success” days per month when students are expected to attend class in professional attire. During these two days, instructors mentor and counsel students on how to dress for the job they want. Instructors also help students prepare for job interviews. A variety of professionals from the community also are brought in to assist.
Rogers said they teach students everything from clothes care to bargain shopping to layering techniques and wardrobe builders.
“Some clothes have to be dry cleaned,” Rogers said. “Is that a good investment or should they choose something that can be laundered and ironed? We also encourage the use of tanks for women. They are an inexpensive base garment that can build your wardrobe and are easy ways to add layers and colors.” For the men, they advise dress shirts in muted colors and slacks in neutral colors that can be interchanged.
Deranger said they also want the students to be comfortable and know it is ok to ask them for guidance.
“This is an investment in yourself,” Hamblin said. “You want to look your best and even when dropping off your resume you want to dress well.”
When presenting a resume, take the opportunity to look at the boss and employees to see what level of dress is acceptable in that workplace.
“The first impression sets the bar,” said Rogers. “Pay attention to your grooming, hair and make-up and accessories and be prepared with a pen and paper when you show up for the interview. This shows you put forth the effort and are coachable.”
One thing all three stress, is dressing for the size you are and your body type. There are styles today for every size from a zero on up and petite to tall. The boutique has a selection of many sizes and styles for both men and women. For the men, sometimes a suit and tie is the right choice, but for other professions, a nice pair of khakis and a button down dress shirt is the better choice. The women said some professions, like a welder or electrician, probably wouldn’t show up for an interview in a suit and tie. A pair of slacks and a shirt with a blazer might be the better choice for them, however fit, style and color come into play.
The boutique is stocked with scarves, hosiery, ties, shoes, vests and jackets in a variety of colors, styles and textures.
Alicia White is a student in the cosmetology department at CLTCC. The Dress for Success program carries over to them for personal grooming advice and application. “You want to look natural, neat and presentable, fresh but groomed,” she said. The cosmetology department offers cuts and coloring, manicures, pedicures and more to get students, and the general public, ready to face the world.
Instructor Jordan Hebert advised being respectful, listening before responding and trying to remain calm and composed.
All instructors at CLTCC take the Dress for Success program seriously. “We don’t want anyone to miss out on a business opportunity,” Deranger said.
Hebert said their salon is full service and open to the public for a minimal fee.
“Our goal is to take awkward out of the interview process. Whether it be the right clothes, hairstyle, shoes or nail polish color – feeling your best boosts confidence,” Rogers said. “These students depend on us for our opinions and we want to send them out with everything they need to find success.”
For more information or to make a donation to the Business Boutique, contact Marné Deranger or for information on the salon services, contact Jordan Hebert by calling 318-357-3162.
By Juanice Gray