The Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center has officially opened the Career Closet to help employees dress for success.
The Career Closet is a thrift store, on property, and the Omni has partnered with Dress for Success to acquire additional professional wear, seasonal items, and personal hygiene products available to all employees, free of charge.
Ramon Reyes, Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center general manager, and Omni Guest Relations Manager Jackie Duncan discussed the gap and great disadvantage some employees and others may have and the hotel’s commitment to building a culture that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Reyes said this program is designed to help people who are coming into the hospitality industry grow self-esteem and confidence.
“We have the good fortune of having an industry where people can start like I did as a doorman or GM (general manager) or in any capacity and grow,” Reyes said. “A part of that growth, I think sometimes, is stipend by people’s self-esteem and how they can present or are able to present themselves. So, this was about closing that gap and finding ways where people can dress where they feel confident and take on any role that they aspire to grow into.”
Another purpose of the Career Closet, Duncan said, is the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center wants to ensure associates who are working on the hotel floors are dressed appropriately.
“We’re having a lot of people that are coming in from other countries that when they come here as J-1 students, they might come with a bag and they don’t have anything, so we have to make sure they are dressed appropriately when they are on the floors and front desks so that was the need to make sure that we can offer things to people without them having to pay for it,” she said.
The J-1 classification, or exchange visitors, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.
The concept of the career closet, Duncan said, is if a staff member walked into the closet and grabbed an item, they would be able to fill a bag up for free and just walk out.
“Not only are we bringing work clothes, but we want to make sure even on the weekends they have things, ” Duncan said. “When you’re in hospitality, a lot of these roles don’t make a lot of money, so just imagine you’ve worked 40 hours and your check doesn’t allow you to shop, but you can come in and we have items that are gently used, but a lot of them are brand new.”
Duncan also said for their soft opening, it was emotional to witness staffers who filled their bags and said, ‘I don’t have to pay’.
“We want people to dress for success and look their best because when we’re out here having to cater to the people on the floor, sometimes it’s hard. Hospitality is a hard job, but I found that when people are looking their best, they get out and perform better,” she said.
Additionally, Duncan said she’s been collecting items for eight months since she got the word that the project would move forward.
“When I got the word to push forward with this, I just started stock piling stuff. We probably have given away maybe 500-600 pieces or more since we’ve had a soft opening, so we’re going to continue to take up donations. Soon as people take things out, we want to bring things back in,” she said.
Duncan also said people can donate appropriate items such as sweaters, coats, women’s blazers, and “a lot of black pants especially for the banquet staff, bartenders, wait staff, and guest service agents.”
To donate, Duncan said, to drop off the items to their security office in the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center.
“We have a security department that is taking our donations and we are also leaving them with our executive assistant and she’s taking those items and she goes through every item piece by piece,” she said.
If an item is no good or the hotel can’t use it, Duncan said, they will send it to Goodwill.
“We are giving those items to Goodwill and now Goodwill can turn them around and offer them to someone,” Duncan said.
The Career Closet is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center is located at 100 CNN Center NW, Atlanta.