Even if you have impeccable grades, work experience is what will ultimately set you apart from other candidates and score you your dream job after graduation. Because of the emphasis on experience in today’s job market, internships are so, so important for college students. But once you’ve secured one–that’s the difficult part. To show your manager that you know what you’re doing and that you’re worthy of a glowing recommendation after the summer ends, you need to demonstrate that you take your job seriously (even if it is just file organization and getting Starbucks for your boss every morning). The easiest way to demonstrate your dedication–besides, of course, actually completing your work efficiently and well–is to look the part. As such, keep these tips in mind when crafting your professional wardrobe this summer.
1. Different internships call for different attire, so make sure you know what’s expected of you before your first day. The most simple way to do this is to ask your manager what she wears to work every day. For most internships, you can safely assume business casual wear is appropriate. However, it can be pretty embarrassing to show up in a bright, patterned pencil skirt when everyone else is wearing jeans for Casual Friday. When it comes to your future career, it’s best to prepare instead of assume.
2. It’s summer, but it’s also not the beach. There’s nothing worse than wearing tight, stuffy pants and a heavy blazer when it’s over one-hundred degrees and your skin feels like it’s boiling. However, it’s important that you don’t bare too much skin, especially as a young woman with a body others tend to oversexualize. Finding clothing that is both professional and comfortable can be super difficult, but it’s possible. Just keep searching. For now, skip on wearing those cut-off jean shorts to work, though.
3. Remember that you can still be you. Just because an office has a rather conservative dress code, it doesn’t mean you have to look like a burnt piece of corporate toast for an entire three months.
Expressing your personality through how you dress is still entirely possible–and encouraged! Just make sure to ask yourself Is this appropriate? every morning before walking out the door. A good rule of thumb is to only have one clothing item or accessory per outfit. For example, if you want to wear a pair of trousers with a super awesome zebra pattern or something, pair them with a plain button down, sensible flats or pumps, and little to no jewelry.
Ultimately, when dressing for your summer internship, just remember to (1) prepare and (2) listen to your gut. Honestly, you probably have a nice handle on appropriate business casual workwear if you’ve ever binge-watched Sex and the City while munching popcorn at three in the morning one too many times. Just take inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw, and it’ll all work out. Good luck!
For more advice on how to rock your summer internship, check out Internships 101, Internship Etiquette: Science Research Lab Edition, Making Public Speaking Fun, and Say This, Not That: Professional Communication!