University of Virginia Offers Career Advice to Students, Including Visit from TV Fashion Icon Tim Gunn

February 20, 2008 – For many in college, the second semester of their final year in school can be stressful, as the pressure to find a job before graduation casts an ominous shadow. In this anxious time, the University of Virginia's Fourth-Year Class Trustees sponsored two events this week designed to ease the transition.

On Tuesday night, fourth-year students attended a lecture by Tim Gunn, host of the Bravo TV reality shows "Project Runway" and "Guide to Style" who offered tips on how to make their wardrobes ready for the work force.

The soon-to-be grads packed Cabell Hall Auditorium for a presentation called "Project Real World," in which Gunn advised students on transitioning their college clothes into job-appropriate attire. He stressed that graduation may be the time to put away those sweatshirts and flip-flops, in favor of tailored suits and blazers.

"It is simply a fact that when you transition from college to the workplace, it's a change," Gunn said. He added that wardrobe helps determine whether or not employees are taken seriously at their new job, as "the clothes we wear send a message about how we want the world to perceive us."

The Class of 2008 Trustees organized the lecture as a fourth-year class event. Gunn said, while he visits colleges infrequently, he was motivated to come to U.Va. by his admiration for the school, as well as his family ties to the institution.

"My sister is an alum. My brother-in-law is vice president of the Darden Foundation. My niece is in the class of '08," Gunn said. "I love this university. I am a huge fan of Thomas Jefferson, and I love students. I am thrilled to be here, and I am honored."

Following the lecture, Gunn took questions from the audience about picking out business suits, shopping on a budget and how to dress sophisticated, yet in a manner that is age-appropriate. He told students that in order to avoid a fashion faux pas they should dress "up, up" for job interviews and the first few days of work, until they are able to deduce what is acceptable in their office.

Saskia Campbell, assistant director of career outreach services at University Career Services, echoed this advice.

"We cover fashion tips in our interviewing strategies," Campbell said. "Less is more. Less jewelry, less perfume, less skin. We encourage students to err on the side of more conservative, but really to take their cues from people in the profession and do research to find out what's appropriate in their field."

The night before Gunn's visit, Campbell highlighted some of the services available to students through UCS at a job search strategies forum, also sponsored by the Fourth-Year Trustees. In addition to interview advice, UCS offers one-on-one counseling, résumé critique and online resources like the University Career Assistance Network, which connects students to alumni in their field of interest. They also work with employers to organize career fairs and on-Grounds interviews.

Campbell said that while not all students are looking to move into the work force right after graduation, "overall, University students are very successful in finding employment."

According to Gunn, any success U.Va. students have in the job market does not stem solely from their academic pursuits, but may be the result of attending what he called "one of the more fashionable campuses in the nation."

"I think U.Va. students have traditionally been many steps ahead of students at other universities," Gunn said. "They are very fashion-aware. There is that preppiness that happens here, but it's authentic. I think that the transition for students from U.Va. into the working world will be less of a challenge than it will be for students at a lot of other campuses."

— By Catherine Conkle