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UMKC students 'Suit Up' for success with help from J.C. Penney

Posted at 10:54 PM, Mar 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 00:10:08-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Having the right skills isn't always enough to land your dream job. Looking the part is important, too.

But dressing up didn't come naturally to Steven Pinkerton, a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

"I'm not really the suit guy, you know," he said.

Pinkerton — a continuing education student, who donned jeans and a T-shirt — poked through a rack of suit jackets Sunday at the J.C. Penney inside Oak Park Mall. He brought along his wife and two kids for the "Suit Up" event, at which students received an extra 40-percent discount on business attire.

"I wanted to have an example for my kids to let them know (that) if they want to do something, they can go out and do it, even if it's tough," Pinkerton said of his decision to go back to school.

With just 70 days until graduation, Pinkerton and other students are busy with job and internship interviews.

"I think to get any job for law you need to have a suit," UMKC School of Law student Avery Jensen said with a laugh.

"Our students are making a first impression in their application materials, but when they walk in the room we want them to feel confident," said Molly Wilensky, Director of the UMKC School of Law Professional and Career Development Center. "We want them to project their professionalism in a visual capacity as well."

That's why UMKC teamed up with J.C. Penney for the "Suit Up" event. The store also offered mini makeovers at Sephora plus a deal on business headshots.

"This is a perfect opportunity for them to come in and just get a full week's wardrobe for such a discounted price," J.C. Penney Store General Manager Rob Hawkins said.

The "Suit Up" event was the second career clothing initiative this school year. UMKC also launched a professional wardrobe program, where students can pick out up to five donated items for free.

"I think every student faces some sort of economic struggle, whether that's a suit or maybe you don't need a suit, maybe you need a textbook," UMKC junior Salem Habte said. "Partnerships like this are useful, because they are making something required actually accessible."

Pinketon agreed: "It's great. It gives us an opportunity to actually get suited and booted, looking nice."

UMKC hopes to conduct another "Suit Up" event soon.