Clarksville, TN – A T-shirt and jeans just won’t cut it. When a student from the Austin Peay State University (APSU) College of Business walks into an interview or starts a new job, Crystal Hambrock makes sure they’re dressed appropriately.
As the College of Business career readiness coach, she is providing professional clothes to students in need for interviews, internships or other business-related activities.
“The overwhelming feedback I receive from employers is about students’ lack of professional dress at events like career fairs,” Hambrock said. “I thought, sure, I can make Pinterest boards with outfit inspiration photos, but there is a larger issue to address here. It’s not that our students don’t know how to dress professionally, it could be their barriers to professional clothing.”
Last fall, Hambrock partnered the college with JCPenney for its popular “Suit Up” event, which provided large discounts on professional clothing for APSU business students.
“I didn’t want the momentum to end there, since that event is once a year,” she said. “Even then, some students may not have access to discretionary income for clothing. ”
Hambrock soon learned about Bella’s Closet, a local nonprofit that provides women with free clothing, accessories and resources. She quickly reached out to Cynthia Pitts and Carolyn Watson, who oversee the nonprofit.
“I was so excited to help facilitate their partnership with campus,” Hambrock said. “They’ve been able to host several pop-up shops this semester already, reaching students and staff all over campus with free professional clothing and accessories.
“Since then, I’ve felt called to bring a resource specifically to our College of Business students, right here in our academic building,” she added. “I wanted something that is available throughout the semester if they’re in a pinch and need something quickly. It’s a small selection for now, but opens the conversation to our students’ barriers to being career ready. My hope is to connect them with additional campus and community resources even if I can’t get them a blazer or slacks right in the moment.”
Along with the clothing garments provided by Bella’s Closet and other donors, Hambrock added a mirror with colorful affirmations to boost students’ confidence.
“A mirror with affirmations seemed like a fitting addition as I know students’ confidence can be shaken when they feel like their lack of resources defines them,” she said. “To me, career development is about so much more than just helping students land a job – it’s about providing holistic support as they prepare for the ‘real world’ and listening to their needs.”