Photo courtesy of U Career Success

The University of Utah’s Career Closet redesigns professional attire for students

Photo courtesy of U Career Success
Photo courtesy of U Career Success

Under the leadership of Katie Abby, VP of U Career Success at the University of Utah, the Career Closet helps all students dress confidently for upcoming interviews. After completing a degree, the job interview is all that separates graduates from long-awaited careers — it is vital students look and feel the part. 

“From the beginning, we noticed that the field wasn’t level for everybody, and one of the issues that many students tend to have is a lack of confidence,” Abby says.  

This observation was made early in Abby’s career at the David Eccles School of Business, working alongside, then Dean Taylor Randall. By 2015, the project received approval, and developers were tasked with incorporating a dedicated space for the Career Closet in the new Robert H. and Katharine B. Garff Building.

Modern trends for modern times

“Clothing is confusing now. When I was a university student, it was pretty universal that you’d get a suit, white shirt, tie and dress shoes. … That is just not the case anymore,” Abby says. “It’s dependent on industry. I’ve had tech companies tell me that if students come in dressed in the traditional suit, they’re probably not going to be considered because it’s not the culture.” 

Since opening, the Career Closet has seen a steady increase in usage, necessitating an expansion to accommodate the growing demand and diversity of the student body. 

“During my freshman year, I completely blanked out that the career fair was [happening]. I couldn’t go back to my house because it was [too far], so I decided to visit the Career Closet,” says Valery Castillo Ramos, a marketing major at the University of Utah.

Ramos secured an interview with U Career Success at that career fair and now works at the Career Closet as a student stylist, helping students find the perfect outfit as they prepare to interview. 

“Students from any major or school at the University of Utah can come into the Career Closet and use that as a resource. We have lots of options,” Ramos says. 

“Confidence — in the professional world — is everything.”

Funding a fashionable future

When students come to the Career Closet, they can work directly with a student stylist to find the perfect pieces. If a student needs something that isn’t already in the closet, Abby says financial donations fill the gaps.

“If someone comes in and they’re a specific size or have a specific need, …  we use extra funds to find things for that student,” Abby says.

Constant shifts in fashion and the complicated rules of professional attire have turned dress codes into a challenging labyrinth. Stylists like Ramos offer advice and equip students with what is in stock or use donations to find the right fit. 

The Career Closet’s continued success relies on the generosity of the university community. Clothing and financial donations are vital to sustaining and growing this invaluable resource. To donate, contact [email protected]

“I can recall so many times when a student has walked out wearing clothing they picked out in the closet. You just look at them and say, ‘Wow, incredible.’ It shows in their confidence, and confidence — in the professional world — is everything,” Abby says.

Joshua Heath is a graduate of the University of Utah's Department of Communications, where he studied public relations and photojournalism. His photography has been featured in renowned publications such as the Deseret News magazine and The Los Angeles Times. Joshua is a skilled writer whose ghostwriting has supported organizations and businesses across the United States. Locally, he has contributed to Utah Business Magazine and Silicon Slopes Magazine.