Dress to Impress outfits students for success

What could be better than a fashion show? How about a personal stylist trained to make you look professional and polished whatever your body type? For freshman students at University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business, this service is part of the curriculum.

The thought of pitching their burgeoning skills and talents to potential employers in hopes of securing internships can be intimidating to young business majors preparing to attend their first career fair. Could be they need a little assistance with interviewing skills or just a quick review on how to tie that pesky necktie.

The staff of Lindner’s Career Services Center knows these students can use all the help they can get and they have it more than covered with Dress to Impress.

In the fall of 2015 when Carly Trimboli, associate director of Lindner’s Career Services Center, came on board, Dress to Impress was little more than a fashion show for students. However, the event has evolved and changed scope dramatically over the past several years with Trimboli and her team at the helm. They have worked to transform it into something much more useful to students than a simple tutorial on selecting appropriate business attire.

“We’ve brought in more employers to talk to students about first impressions as related to the job search and career development as a whole,” says Trimboli.

Business-run booths at the event now feature topics such as dining etiquette, how to care for garments, and building a professional wardrobe inexpensively by thrift shopping.

“How do you get your suits tailored? How do you care for your clothes? We keep expanding every year as far as what we’re bringing in,” says Trimboli.

More than 30 businesses will take part in the presentations this year, each offering some quick coaching on different aspects of professionalism. This helps students not only to prepare for the following week’s career fair, but ultimately for their careers.

“The employers’ side is really great because they’re employers that hire our students, but they’re not really hiring for this event. They’re trying to provide advice,” says Trimboli.

She says this is beneficial for students because it gives them the opportunity to meet prospective employers in a more informal environment and begin making connections with them early on. Conversely, it benefits the businesses by introducing them to future candidates for employment.

“It’s a great time for employers to build relationships with younger students, even if they don’t hire interns until they’re juniors,” she says. “They might be super impressed with a student that’s a freshman and they can build those relationships.”

One skill many students like to get some practice with is the “elevator pitch.” With the clock ticking down the minutes to the annual career fair, students need to be able set themselves apart with an appealing yet brief description of their best skills and attributes.

“We have over 250 companies that are coming,” says Trimboli in reference to the career fair. “When students approach a company they have to introduce themselves and sort of provide the sales pitch as to why they would be a good candidate. So they get to practice that with a company for about 30 seconds and they get some feedback.”

And while it’s no longer a fashion show, the change in format hasn’t put a damper on the fun atmosphere of the event.

“Some of (the Dress to Impress employers and community members) will play games with students. Like, Fischer homes brought shoes and they had students pick out which ones would be work appropriate. Sometimes they’ll do stuff like that just to engage the students,” says Trimboli. “The whole point is to help them be comfortable talking to employers but it’s not as intimidating as a career fair,” she says.

The efforts made by Trimboli and her associates have not gone unnoticed. In April, they will be presented with the 2019 CEIA Cooperative Education Best Practice Award at the Cooperative Education and Internship Association’s national conference in Chicago.

Dress to Impress takes place on February 5th from 4–6 p.m. in University of Cincinnati’s Great Hall. The more than 600 students in attendance will receive coaching from employers and community partners, as well as 20 or so alumni of the program. Interested parties with valuable advice to offer Lindner’s blossoming business professionals can still apply to participate in Dress to Impress, or get information on taking part next year by calling Lindner’s Career Services Center at 513-556-5586.

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Read more articles by Eliza Bobonick.

Eliza Bobonick is a Cincinnati-based writer and a mother of three. Her work has been featured in such local and regional publications as Cincinnati CityBeat and Kentucky Homes and Gardens Magazine. She is a former musician whose interests include photography and interior design.