By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor students flooded the Richland Mall J.C. Penney Sunday evening for BU Suit Up. The event, organized by Baylor’s Career Center, gave students the opportunity to get discounts on professional attire and advice from career success professionals.
Sunday was the fifth Suit Up event held by J.C. Penney and the Baylor Career Center. Held after normal business hours, Suit Up is exclusive to Baylor students and is one of many partnerships between J.C. Penney and colleges across the country to hold similar events.
Bakersfield, Calif., junior Michael Foy attended Suit Up was impressed by the extra help that was available for students seeking to look their best in the professional world.
“It’s really nice of [Baylor and J.C. Penney employees] to be so generous of their time,” Foy said. “There’s people out here… associates that want to make sure that we get the right fit and we’re ready for our interviews and stuff like that. It feels good.”
Suit Up is part of the Career Center’s Success September initiative. Throughout the month, events such as Café Resume on Wednesday and the Career Fair on Sept. 18. Terri Morris, one of the many career coaches present at Suit Up, said that lots of students like Foy are in need of professional attire, particularly for these upcoming events.
“Many of our students that we’ve already met with [at the Career Center] since the semester started have told us that they really don’t have items that are appropriate for Career Day,” Morris said.
Morris added that the career coaches can help students tailor their look to specific fields, as different work environments can carry different expectations.
“You have some that will definitely dress more corporate— you know going into the corporate world,” Morris said. “You’ll have some that are more in the sciences, whatever that looks like for them— they’re not going to dress quite as professional. Still professional, but just a little bit of a different look.”
Mike Lashombe has attended every Suit Up event so far as a career coach. He shared some of the most common advice he gives to students.
“Not matching colors well or maybe being a little over the top and not as conservative, as I feel most businesses would be looking, for [is a common mistake],” Lashombe said. “Some people come in and it’s like ‘I want to make an impression,’ but sometimes it’s the wrong impression.”
Lashombe also echoed Morris’ advice about dressing for a specific field, adding that a computer engineering job may allow for a more casual look, but an accountant may be expected to wear a suit and tie.
Another career coach, Laurie Ann Gentry, said one of the most important parts about picking out professional attire is to find something you feel confident in.
“Find the color that makes you feel great about yourself and find something that you feel fabulous in because when you feel great, you’re going to bring your best self to that table,” Gentry said.
J.C. Penney general manager Steven Valdez advised students to find a way to “stay real” when building their professional look, reminding them to think about every aspect of their outfit.
“We want to try to make sure that they get everything they need now with the discount, so one of the easiest things [students] forget is shoes,” Valdez said. “We want to always pop around and say, ‘Don’t forget your shoes’ or ‘Don’t forget the socks.’”
Two Suit Up events are held each year, one each in the fall and spring semesters. Because of the discounts offered, J.C. Penney doesn’t make a large profit off of the event, instead benefitting by cultivating loyalty among students. Valdez said J.C. Penney often sees students return throughout the year.
“We work with the students all year long, either helping them pick out different ties or how to tie a tie or exchange merchandise that they bought that doesn’t fit as well as they thought it did,” Valdez said.
Shelby Cefaratti, the marketing and communications coordinator for the Career Center, described the symbiotic relationship between Baylor and J.C. Penney that makes the event possible.
“There’s some items that are up to 60% off which is really, really nice,” Cefaratti said. “J.C. Penney benefits because they get a lot of fresh faces and younger clientele.”