MU Career Closet helps prepare students for employment

Alaniz+first+pitched+the+idea+in+the+707+Hub%E2%80%99s+Brewed+Ideas+Challenge

Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Alaniz first pitched the idea in the 707 Hub’s Brewed Ideas Challenge

Some job interviews, internships and career fairs require professional clothing, but for Mayra Alaniz, a graduate student in the College of Business Administration, buying them was not easy.

When she arrived at Marquette, Alaniz searched for a program that addressed the lack of resources for students that struggle with purchasing career attire, but she said she didn’t find much. So, she created the Marquette Career Closet.

Marquette Career Closet is a nonprofit organization that collects professional clothing through donations for students.

As a first-generation student, Alaniz said she understands the challenges and worries of starting a career without a professional wardrobe or the means to purchase clothes.

“The summer of my freshman year I landed an internship in the Mayor’s Office here in Milwaukee and although I was excited to have my first professional experience, I quickly grew worried about what I would wear to work,” Alaniz said in an email.

Alaniz received assistance from her university, Georgetown University, and from her mother to purchase her first suit and clothing items.

“My mom helped me get a few pieces of clothes from her closet and from our local thrift shop, but I knew every dollar she spent was hard-earned and one dollar less for our large family,” Alaniz said in an email.

Alaniz said she first pitched the idea in the 707 Hub’s Brewed Ideas Challenge, and she won the challenge. With the help of Kelsey Otero, director of innovation at the 707 Hub, and Courtney Hanson, director of the Career Services Center, Alaniz launched Marquette Career Closet in the 2022 spring semester.

“Professional attire is our way of showing up as our best selves to work, but in this modern workforce it is also a way for us to show up as our authentic selves,” Alaniz said in an email. “Professional clothes also arm us with the confidence that we are moving one step closer to our goal.”

When Alaniz got her first suit, she said it gave her the ability to show up to her internship with confidence and the right attitude. Alaniz said that without professional attire, students might feel out of place and hinder their job opportunities.

“It is important to have this service on campus so that students have quick access to formal clothes for career fairs, interviews, internships, and more,” Alaniz said in an email. “We place an emphasis on making sure graduates are thinking about what their next step after college is and it’s important, we give them the education through the career center they need as well as the tools they need to be successful.”

This program is not only about giving students professional attire, but also career development. There will be workshops leading up to the spring pop-up event that will get students thinking about using their wardrobes to showcase their personalities.

“We are also anticipating incorporating a career education aspect to the event, so students will not only receive clothing but have the opportunity to gain information about career-related topics,” Hanson said in an email.

Otero said that Marquette Career Closet is a great resource that was not previously in place on Marquette’s campus.

“It is great that this initiative is student-led. Mayra had a personal experience with this as an undergraduate and it informed the work that she has spearheaded at Marquette to help make professional attire more accessible and affordable, especially for first-generation and low-income students,” Otero said in an email.

Hanson said the program will make professional clothing more accessible to students because it removes the burden of purchasing the clothing.

“There are many expenses to consider when in college and removing the burden of purchasing clothes to wear for an interview or at an internship or job helps alleviate stress,” Hanson said in an email.

To further assist students, the Career Services Center offers the JC Penney Suit-Up event two times a year, which gives students 30% off career attire purchases, and students also have the option to apply for funding to cover the cost of this purchase.

Alaniz said she hopes students are able to save money on professional clothing through this program because college comes with other expenses.

For Alaniz, Marquette Career Closet is also a way of practicing sustainability.

“Our work of recycling professional clothes is also a way for us to keep clothes out of landfills and do our part in giving clothes a new purpose and new life,” Alaniz said in an email.

Marquette Career Closet will have a pop-up in the spring, and Alaniz said they have already received many donations. 

This story was written by Hannah Hernandez. She can be reached at [email protected].