If you’re reading this post, you may be one of the many people who have an upcoming internship or externship and no idea what to wear. Therefore, you’re probably wondering whether your wardrobe warrants an upgrade. Will you need to push your bank account to the edge and grab a couple of suits or can you sneak by with more casual attire considering the relaxed and edgier atmosphere most organizations tend to be shifting to? Well if you’re having these concerns, you’ve come to the right place. How you present yourself will be extremely important to the reputation you’re building and, as you know, reputation is everything. Therefore, doing your research and planning your wardrobe ahead of time is a step in the right direction.
Typically, the appropriate dress style will be based on the type of organization you’re working for. Will you be at a big law firm or government agency? Then there is a chance that you may need to dress business formal. Will you be at a smaller firm or at a nonprofit? Then chances are that you may be able to dress business casual if you won’t be going to court. However, don’t make these assumptions without asking someone, as many big firms have started shifting to a more casual dress code and a nonprofit may require business formal if you are frequently interfacing with clients. Still unsure of where to begin? You can follow the below tips for some guidance.
1. Just Ask Someone or Review Your Employer’s Dress Code
A great place to begin your research on what to wear is by simply using the resources available to you from your employer. A great resource would be the person who gave you the job offer or any of your contacts at the organization. Simply ask them what the dress code is and make sure that you completely understand their response. If for example they respond business casual, this can mean two completely different things based on how you’ve seen other students dress for business casual events and based on how a firm that recently switched to this style, is slowly working their way to making this a part of its culture. Try to see if you can scope out pictures of employees at the firm online to get a better idea or be extremely vigilant in studying the dress code if you have an opportunity to go to the office for onboarding before your start date.
Alternatively, you could ask to review a copy of your employer’s dress code. Although this may not provide a visual of what to wear, it will hopefully provide clear guidelines for you to follow or examples of what is appropriate.
2. Err on the Side of Formal
Too scared to ask someone or did you ask someone who didn’t seem very forthcoming? I would recommend erring on the side of business formal. You may not need to wear a stuffy suit for the whole internship/externship, but I recommend this at least for the first few days until you can properly scope things out. I would also suggest erring towards more of a business formal style for at least your first day regardless of what the dress code is. Presenting yourself in this way on the first day shows that you take this role very seriously, and it makes it clear that you’ve prioritized making a good first impression.
3. Dress Seriously but Don’t Sacrifice Personal Style
Yes, taking your wardrobe seriously is imperative but there’s no need to sacrifice personal style. If you have to dress business formal, don’t hesitate to dash a sprinkle of color into an undershirt or even your socks. If you’re lucky enough to dress business casual, colorful blazers and patterned cardigans are absolutely an option paired with jeans. As long as these items are tailored appropriately, you have nothing to worry about. This may especially ring true for the women reading this post. I can attest to oftentimes feeling a pressure to wear oversized items in a business setting in an effort to be taken seriously and not cause a “distraction.” If you have these concerns, don’t succumb to this. Put your best personal style forward and just ensure that it is tailored to an appropriate fit and you’ll be in the clear. Not sure what’s appropriate? Your employer’s dress code may provide some guidance on this.
4. Dress in Layers
Finally, I would recommend dressing in layers to feel comfortable throughout the numerous places you may need to be that day. Oftentimes, internships/externships may fall right in between your class schedule, or maybe it’s what you do for the first half of the day before rushing back to school for meetings etc. In an effort to feel comfortable, it may be helpful to wear a plain colored dress, blouse or slacks etc. which you can then interchange with a denim jacket or blazer depending on where you need to be. You could even start the day out with a tank to attend classes, then layer on a cardigan or a buttoned down shirt to dash to work. Be sure to plan your day ahead of time so that you can efficiently work your way between styles.
Now the only question remaining is where can you get it all? Check out this post on where to grab essential clothing for your internship/externship on a budget.
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