With HHS student expertise, Career Closet makes Purdue look good — for free

Kiana Skobel stands in the Purdue Career Closet

Kiana Skobel, a sophomore in the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, is gaining internship experience at Career Closet, a feature of the Purdue Center for Career Opportunities, while helping her fellow Boilermakers look good and feel confident for their next career fair or job interview.Tim Brouk

Written by: Tim Brouk, tbrouk@purdue.edu

Kiana Skobel is using her fashion-forward talents to help her fellow Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences students look good — all while earning internship credits.

The sophomore studying retail management in the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) is an intern at the Career Closet, a feature of the Purdue Center for Career Opportunities located on the second floor of Young Hall. Hours of operation are 1-4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday as well as 8:45-9:45 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. This free resource assists Purdue students by providing donated business clothes just in time for career fairs, job interviews and internship opportunities. Students must make appointments first to shop at the Career Closet.

HHS students like Skobel have worked in the Career Closet since its opening in 2014 to assist their peers in selecting just the right suits, ties, belts and shoes that are sure to impress a potential boss or company recruiter. Students are allowed up to one full outfit per academic school year.

“It is my favorite thing when people come out of their dressing room with an outfit that they like, that they feel good in, and it looks professional,” said Skobel, who hopes for a career in fashion and apparel.

Some upcoming HHS career fairs:

  • HTM Professional Development Day, 5:30-8 p.m. Feb. 21, Marriott Hall
  • Purdue Health Programs Expo, 2-5 p.m. Feb. 27, Purdue Memorial Union
  • Purdue Health and Human Sciences Networking Night, 4-7 p.m. Feb. 28, East and West Faculty Lounges, Purdue Memorial Union

The Career Closet was initiated by donations from Shirley Marciniak, a former senior career services consultant at the Center for Career Opportunities. Many more donations from the community followed. The space has since helped hundreds look their best in professional situations.

Of course, establishing a career is much different than it was several years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic favored virtual interviews over face-to-face meetings. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from roughly 9 million people to 27.6 million people, according to the American Community Survey. Companies that require employees to arrive to an office at least some days are also more casual than they were in terms of attire.

Still, the Career Closet continues to be filled with appointments. A recent afternoon saw Skobel assisting several students at the same time. She was in constant motion pulling garments from hangers in several brimming closets. These closets could hold the keys to helping land that first job or internship.

Kristin Dill, Center for Career Opportunities office manager, said the Career Closet has served hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students over the years.

“One of the first things people notice is someone’s clothes,” she added. “By dressing professionally for an interview, you can make a good first impression and demonstrate your professionalism.” 

The students have 30 minutes to look in the closets and try on any items they find. If they find something, it is theirs to keep free of charge.

Kiana Skobel helps a student select his suit jacket.

Skobel assists mechanical engineering sophomore Noah Brinker with selecting a suit jacket at Career Closet.Tim Brouk

Stephanie Farlow, HHS director of career development, recommends HHS students still think about business attire in 2022 as well. In her experience, students do not bring such clothes with them to West Lafayette, which makes the Career Closet even more vital.

“Having the right clothes for the event, whether an interview or a networking reception, helps boost a student’s confidence and self-esteem,” Farlow said. “Students can visit the Career Closet to receive an entire outfit or just the additional pieces to supplement the clothes they already have. Or, the Career Closet can give advice to students on how to put together an appropriate outfit.”

Giving out that advice is Skobel’s favorite part of the internship. While she certainly obtained her steps for the day while running from Career Closet client to Career Closet client while putting away dozens of garments, the one-on-one consultations could be key to potential career opportunities for her.

“A lot of people just need help putting the outfits together. They like to know what looks good and what doesn’t,” said Skobel, who credits her mother and her years of thrift shopping for her fashionable eye. “I think a really big part of this is just making sure that they feel confident in it and making sure that they know that the outfit looks good and that they look good and professional. “I think it makes them a lot more confident going into their interview, and I think that will really help them out in the long run.”