Classwork into practice: Student helps others look professional with Career Outfitters
Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Blythe Boyd scheduled as many job interviews as she could just to get experience and learn more about being professional. She did not always get an offer, but she walked away from each interview with another piece of knowledge.
The sophomore from Virginia Beach, Virginia, recalled a group interview where she was frustrated with some of the other interviewees and their unprofessional dress and behavior.
So when the 19-year-old received an email that Career and Professional Development was looking for an intern to take the lead on the Career Outfitters program, which helps provide students with new or gently used professional clothing and accessories, she applied immediately.
“I love event planning, organizing, and coordinating things, but being involved with a program that provides professional wear to students who don’t have access to it really spoke to me,” said Boyd.
Career Outfitters, a service project that started in 2013, will take place at Smith Career Center, on Feb. 1, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Feb. 2, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.
“The fact that I can help students on campus get access to professional wear is exciting, because eventually we are all going to have to enter the workforce and be professionals,” said Boyd.
Boyd is a fashion merchandising and design major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences who knows that dressing professionally definitely boosts confidence.
“I think there is a time and place for some things, and professionalism is a skill that is lacking in my generation,” she said.
However, her work with Career Outfitters will help fellow students gain insight into what type of clothing is appropriate for business casual and business professional events.
“Blythe has done a tremendous job coordinating this event,” said Becca Scott, associate director in Career and Professional Development. “Her background and expertise in the fashion and retail industry have been vital to this year’s event.
"She has worked to promote the event within the local business community and helped secure two partners who held clothing drives to donate to the program,” Scott said. “Her creativity, organization, and hard work have had a positive impact on the program, and we appreciate her dedication.”
The career closet is replenished throughout the year with donations from alumni, faculty, staff, and local business professionals. There are hundreds of items in the closet: suits for men and women; blazers and sport coats; dress pants for men and women; dress shirts and blouses; skirts and dresses; as well as accessories like jewelry, ties, and belts.
Boyd goes through all the donations, sorting and organizing the items according to type and size.
“It is really exciting to look at all the stuff we have in the closet and be able to put together a good outfit that doesn’t make someone feel like they are just blending in with everyone else with the black suit and white shirt,” said Boyd. “Knowing how to present yourself in a professional manner includes being aware of what is appropriate to wear to a job interview and how to behave.”
In addition to receiving and sorting donations and organizing the clothing on the racks, Boyd is responsible for creating a pleasant shopping experience during the two-day event when students are invited to come and choose an outfit or a piece of clothing, free of charge, to finish their professional ensemble.
Boyd will analyze the square footage and layout of the second floor of Smith Career Center to create a comfortable atmosphere for students. Boyd said her major has helped her know how to set up a conducive shopping environment.
For example, she knows how to direct a shopper’s focus to a certain area, and how to arrange the space with clothing racks and furnishings so shoppers can easily move around and find items.
“My major has also really helped me with reaching out to companies during this process. It was helpful to get an idea of how the companies work,” said Boyd.
Growing up, Boyd placed great importance on participating in service projects whether for school or in the community. In her home community, Boyd served on the student council organization, volunteering to work with a charity run event.
She also worked each summer with the children in her church during vacation Bible school. Working with Career Outfitters has given Boyd a way to give back to her campus community.
“I am helping students feel confident because of what they are wearing,” said Boyd. “And I hope their confidence shines through in their actions and behavior, too.”
Donations of professional wear are accepted 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Smith Career Center. For large donations, call 540-231-6241. All donations are tax deductible.