First impressions count, especially at job interviews, so I decided to teach students and graduates how to impress employers with a snappy, sophisticated dress sense.
Designed to generate more interest in employability, Dress for Success was a fashion show demonstrating how to dress for job interviews and for work on a budget and was the signature event of Enterprise and Employability Week 2010.
The event was a huge success attracting almost 400 attendees with a mixture of students, employers and university staff. Aiming to show a fun, lighthearted yet important aspect of employability, the tickets included drinks on arrival, celebrity compere Mark Heyes, professional venue, buffet and gift bag.
I took the lead on the daring project and managed to secure an £8000 budget through my central pot and also via external sponsors. Local suppliers, Cross Keys Caterers, sponsored the buffet and a mixture of local and High Street shops such as Primark and New Look sponsored the gift bags with free items for guests.
There was a huge amount of pressure on me as I worked hard to convince my superiors that Dress for Success would attract a large audience and I was responsible for pulling together not only a range of internal departments but also external companies.
Using my communications skills, I managed to market the event very well and made sure Enterprise@Lincoln also got maximum exposure from both a range of radio and online student media outlets as well as local news websites and printed media.
One aspect I am most proud of is the amount of participation I encouraged in the event from other university departments and also external companies. ASDA, Primark and New Look provided clothes for the event, a range of local businesses added items to the gift bag, students and lecturers from the university Fashion Department handled the wardrobe and Lincoln College students did the hair and make-up for models.
Feedback from employers indicated students were getting job interviews but turning up inappropriately dressed, which sounds trivial but was making them unfavourable as recruiters struggled to see how the students would fit into their businesses.
Talking to students, they indicated it was difficult to know how to dress for interviews as they wanted to stand out and show their individuality but also wanted to appear professional. Budget also appeared as an issue for students who were used to shopping at value clothes shops and could not afford to spend several hundred pounds on a new work wardrobe.
After pitching my idea to careers advisers and the rest of the department at a weekly meeting, we decided it could be useful to convince students to swap chequered cloth for pinstriped cotton for interviews and the event could also be a good way of promoting the department.
Andrew Stevenson Director, Enterprise@Lincoln
I just wanted to say thanks to you all for last night. I thought it was a fantastic event to kick off E&E week, a number of you had clearly put in a huge amount of effort to make it work and run so smoothly. It was great to see the whole department supporting it in one way or another.
I must admit to being a little bit nervous on what the attendance from students would be like, but this seems to have really caught their imagination and engaged them with a good mix of fun and the serious background support about how to make sure they get best advantage at interview and work through what they choose to wear. I certainly didn’t realise you could get a suit for under £30 and still look so good!
You might be interested to know that the number of students at the event, most of whom paid for tickets, was 309 and this didn’t include those students involved in the production and the student press that were along (I make this about an additional 30-40). To see LPAC looking full both upstairs and downstairs was fantastic.
We need to take risks and put on more of these events, trying out different ways of engaging and working with students. Not all of them will be so successful, but that shouldn’t stop us experimenting so I’d encourage anyone who’s got the beginning of an idea to let us know.