Now that the semester is over, a lot of us are transitioning from collegiate life into the professional world of internships. While in the college setting casual clothing is not only acceptable but the norm, even the unpaid professional world has certain dress code expectations. From experience figuring out what to wear as an intern to working in store specializing in women’s professional clothing, I have learned a few tips on how to dress professionally even in the sweltering summer heat.
Dress code for internships can vary from extremely laid back to very rigid, so it’s important to ask about the company’s culture before starting. Technology fields and media production companies are well known for having a very relaxed dress code and casual wear is the norm in the office. Last summer, I interned at a technology startup company that had no set dress code and my supervisors would often wear very relaxed clothing. While the company’s culture was very laid back, I still dressed professionally to show that I was taking the internship seriously.
Here are some key pieces and suggestions to enhance your wardrobe an intern:
The Classic Blazer
A great blazer can make you seem like an experienced professional, even if you are still a novice intern. It can take a simple top and jeans and transform them into to a business casual outfit. You don’t have to stick to basic black either. A blazer with a pop of color can make for a chic and fun look. Personally, I know wearing a blazer almost instantly makes me feel more confident and that’s definitely a feeling you want to have on your first few days as an intern.
Cropped Dress Pants
In the summer weather, cropped dress pants are one of the best ways to stay cool and professional. Unlike shorts, crops are professional but less bulky and quite frankly less sweaty than full length pants.
Sleek Laptop Bag
Today, almost all internships will require you to bring your own laptop. At school most students tote around their laptop in a backpack, but for an internship consider upgrading to an inexpensive laptop bag.
This is a piece or accessory that makes you feel great when you are wearing it. It’s your secret weapon because it’s an instant confidence boost, which is needed when starting out in an unfamiliar environment. For me, it’s “Blackberry Sorbet” lip stain that always does the trick.
Just like there are some pieces to incorporate into your internship outfit rotation, there are also some you want to save for campus life.
While I’m all for body positivity and bashing the patriarchy with bold fashion choices, internships are not the place for challenging the societal constructs of modesty. Crop tops are great in your free time to beat the summer heat, but in the office it’s best to avoid clothing that’s too revealing period (and that includes showing your midriff.)
In most companies, graphic tees are too casual for the work culture, and even in those with a very casual work culture, they can still come across as juvenile. Already being at the bottom of the food chain in the company and probably the youngest person in the office, a graphic tee is just going to make you seem even younger. Plus, you want your boss to remember you for your hard work not for the funny saying on your graphic t-shirt.
Jeans are perfectly acceptable at companies with a casual or business casual dress code, but they should be hole free. Torn jeans just aren’t appropriate and can potentially send the message to your supervisors that you do not care.
This is especially true if you are commuting into a major city or simply doing a lot of errands on your internship. Last summer, I was leaving my internship, which was located in downtown Boston, when my flip-flop broke. Rather than taking the Orange Line with one shoe, I walked from the financial district to Faneuil Hall to replace my busted flip-flop. Even though summer can be brutally hot, from then on, I opted for more sturdy and sensible footwear.
Ultimately, as long you maintain a neat and professional appearance don’t be afraid to be a little creative and show your personality with your clothes.