What to Wear at Your Internship

I  was at the post office today. An intern, a young woman, no more than twenty, was at the desk assisting a full-time postal worker. You may ask how I knew the young woman was an intern. I knew because she had a plastic name tag that said ‘Intern’ pinned to her sweater. I noticed it. Everyone waiting on the endless post office line noticed it. In fact, we were all talking about her name tag.

It wasn’t the generic moniker, “Intern,” that caught our eye. It was the placement of the name tag. Apparently, the Postmaster General or Deputy Postmaster or the Assistant to the Postmaster General or whoever runs the post office, made the intern clip her blouse shut with the name tag.

Clearly, an uncomfortable moment had transpired, and I imagined the intern was mortified that her clothing choice was rejected and then awkwardly modified. The tag was practically choking the poor girl. I’m guessing this fashion fix was hurriedly accomplished as the “I” was pointed down and the final “n” was titled up toward her shoulder. The man next to me shifted his head to get a better read and then blushed when he realized the purpose of the tag’s placement.

What can I say about dressing for your internship? Here goes. If you feel good about your outfit, change immediately. What you think looks good, probably looks too good. You’re there to represent the company and its products or services. Check out how your co-workers dress, and then dial it back about ten notches.

  • Robert

    It’s very important to dress accordingly at a work environment. After the age of 18, i’m pretty sure that you are pretty aware of your surroundings and can differentiate what is appropriate and what is not appropriate at the work place. I guess dress for success doesn’t ring a bell for some. Adaptation qualifies the survival of the individual. If you are not doing what is expected, corporate world will eat you up and chew you out!

  • Cayley

    As an intern, you should dress appropriately for the environment you are working in and err on the side of caution, however, I think you can still feel good about an outfit and look professional. I actually think it is important to feel good about the outfit you are wearing. It gives you confidence and allows for some self expression, allowing you to stand out (in a good way). In the beginning, you should dress more cautiously until you understand the environment and office culture. Look at how colleagues and other co-workers are dressing and get a sense of how to dress and where you can add your own flair. Internships and jobs don’t mean you only have to only wear neutral colors, suits and pencil skirts. Once you are comfortable, you can add a pop of color to an article of clothing, a statement necklace or tie. Even fun socks allow for some self-expression without coming across as inappropriate. Keeping a sweater or blazer at your desk is an easy way to add sophistication and style. As an intern you should be aware of how you dress and the message you are sending. You should double check yourself before you leave the house. Ask yourself if you are sending the right message with your outfit and if you were to represent your company outside of the office, would you be making the right impression. Look for tips on Google (http://www.teenvogue.com/gallery/internship-dressing-rules#1) or Pinterest and see it as an opportunity to expand your wardrobe and invest in a couple of key pieces. Now that you are in a professional, working environment, you should be dressing the part, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing looking and feeling good.

  • Brendan Duff O’Loughlin

    When applying for any job/internship it is better to be safe than sorry in the way we present ourselves. I think it is better to set the standard then to simply dress as everyone else does. Many times internships are possible future jobs and we want to set ourselves above the competition. That being said, we definitely don’t want our supervisor or boss to feel the need to correct our attire. We shouldn’t be dressing to make ourselves feel good but to impress our colleagues and bosses and make them feel good about us. People are quick to judge in today’s day and age and it is best to present ourselves in the best possible way. For me that means finding out if they want me to dress in either business professional or business casual attire, making sure I have a clean haircut and clean shaven and anything else corrected so that people can not think poorly of they way I present myself for work. For example, a couple months ago I went into Trader Joes to apply for a job, I knew I didn’t have to wear a suit and tie just to drop off my application but I did anyway. I wanted to set the bar and standout from other people who might have applied around the same time as me. I ended up getting the job and one of my coworkers actually thought I was applying for a management position. I set myself apart from the others and have been employed every since. Presentation is key when entering the corporate world and we need to be able to distinguish the difference between a poor presentation, and good presentation and a great presentation of ourselves.

  • Alfelix Martinez

    This is interesting because it’s a touchy subject. I personally feel like the way you dress sets a tone for your day, mood, and objective. When I leave my house, I need to feel good about the way I dress because that goes hand in hand with how I am going to look. In this case, I will quote the great Deion Sanders who said famously, “If you look good, you feel good, if you feel good, you play good”. I think this quote will ring true forever. If I do not like the way I am dressed I usually feel uncomfortable about the way I look. I know it sounds shallow, but I feel like it makes me self conscious, even though I may be doing it on purpose. It usually makes a difference in the way I interact with people on a daily basis. On the other hand, there is something to be said about dressing too “sexy”. And it’s not just women, because I too am guilty of showing a little too much chest. (I know, TMI) You don’t want your choice of clothing to be the subject of work, school, or church gossip. You also don’t want to upstage the higher ups. I mean, if your boss if wearing Cole Haan’s and you’re wearing Ferragamo loafers, you may look at that as a win, but he may be thinking, “who does he think he is?”, under his breath. The same can be true if your suit fits better than his. So I guess there is a fine line between dressing good, and dressing too good, The trick is to make it land right where your comfortable with yourself but right before your making others feel uncomfortable. I guess on a modern swag scale, it should never exceed 100 by any means. Save anything above 100 for the weekends…at least until you run the place 🙂

  • Jonathan Leonardo

    I think this is a funny subject because depending on who you ask, you can get many different answers. Some people truly believe if you look good, that is all that matters and others believe you should follow the company’s guidelines to the t. Honestly, I believe the correct answer is a combination of both. Obviously you should follow your company’s guidelines but it doesn’t mean you can’t stick out a little bit. For example if the company says you need to wear slacks, don’t just wear black because that’s what everyone else is doing, try coming in with khakis. Or if you want wear a pair of slacks with a bright color, like salmon, as long as you have the other pieces of the outfit to pull it off. It’s nice to stand out with a cool outfit, especially as an intern, as long as it’s in a professional way. Not to mention, when you feel you look good, your confidence is high for your day which will usually lead to quite a positive day. Now, like I said before, just looking good isn’t all that matters. If your idea of looking good is camouflage shorts, a shirt with profanity, and some sneakers, you probably shouldn’t wear that to your internship. Keep it professional and business or business casual and you should always be sending off the right message.

  • Jiovanni Ortiz

    This blog is kind of something people should read to understand what mind set to have when getting prepared for work or any occasion in which dressing accordantly and to the satisfaction of where ever you are is important. although i find that when you do get dressed you do need to put your personal style aside and really think about what would be expected of you. I’m not going to lie i had many times where my choice of clothing was wrong and i was kind of put in a similar situation and i found it to be very embarrassing, and i learned my lesson ever since then i always presented my self in a way that would be accepted and wanted. I think that this is just a lesson to learn that weather an internship, part-time, full-time, you must remember that you are representing who or what ever it is you work for and must keep in mind that appearance the way you present yourself is the first stepping stone to many opinions, decisions, and open possibilities. you can always feel free to express your self in some way but don’t take it over board and remember that you are representing something or someone and you must make that your priority, and i say all this because i learned the hard way when i stared working in the credit union that i am in now, now i look professional every day. lol

  • https://instagram.com/gsalwen/ Gregory Salwen

    This is so brilliant and such an important topic. I am really happy you decided to touch on apperance, because people, especially millenials do not consider how they are coming off to others. I am probably too self concious and self aware, which drives me a bit nuts. However, with that in mind, I always dress for success! I would never show up anywhere underdressed out of fear of coming off as an ammature, and unprofessional. My parents drilled this notion into my head since I was a small boy, and it stuck! It truly, truly stuck. I am lucky to have completed many internships, and now matter if I was 15 years old or 22, I would always be wearing at the least casual, a blazer with khaki pants. I am always shocked when fellow interns show up in jeans, because no matter how you style them, they are still jeans! Denim is unprofessional, and should never be worn in an office setting. I wish I could give my advice of professional dress to students my age, and stress to them how important it is due to your image being linked to how you are viewed. If you want that big fancy job, you must dress for it. No matter what your current job is, you can improve your chances by showing up dressed beautifully, and trust me it will make a positive impression!

  • Ronie Monje

    This topic is very interesting and a good thing to talk about especially if you are an intern or planning to be an intern for the certain company. First of all, you should know on what type of environment and company that you’re about to intern with, that way you can have at least an idea on how dress up or ask if there’s any dress code for this company; In that way you won’t be overdressed or underdressed on your first day of internship. Looking presentable and professional is a big part on your first day or your interview, the way you dress shows how confident you are, it also sets your credibility by just the way you dress in your job and it also shows if you can represent the company’s image. I feel like we should take this more seriously because the way you dress up and show yourself will give you a higher chances and future for the company you’re working, interning or applying for.

  • Thomas Weingarten

    I can really relate to this post! I have an internship that is super laid back. Before my first day, I emailed my boss asking if there was a dress code. He explained that there isn’t, and people where whatever is comfortable for them. We are working in the sports industry, so it isn’t super important what I wear. I still dressed really nice the next day and stuck out like a sore thumb! He wasn’t kidding when he told me it was laid back. The next day I went in, I didn’t want to dress to fancy. Instead, I decided I would try to dress really cool. Your post couldn’t be more true when you say,”What you think looks good, probably looks too good.” This continued to happen to me! Since then, I have toned it down and tried to really just blend in. It’s hard, because you think you are impressing the more experienced workers by dressing well and seeming mature. Deep down, they only care about how you are doing and how you can help the company. Don’t worry about how you look, but how you are looking. I think this is a valuable lesson everybody learns in their first experience in the field. I just hope my other workers didn’t notice!

  • Justin Ruiz

    Having worked with, and as an intern I can relate to this post. I work for a European company so as you can imagine, people dress really however they want with a few exceptions. If your boss tells you to dress business casual this is not an invitation to show up to work in a T-shirt and jeans regardless if other people in the office do it. Pressed slacks, a proper button up and a nice solid tie until someone tells you otherwise. Your there to make an impression, a positive one! You should want to dress nice and you should want to look good but not flashy! Oh, you saw a similar outfit in GQ? …dont care. If i see your ankles, I’m sending you home. Sale at H&M, Skinny jeans are in? still don’t care. Take a tip from mister 007, that guy has had the same outfits for over 30 years and still the best dressed guy in the room. Want to look good, but stick to the basics, make sure it fits properly, and make sure your outfit and yourself are clean! Your there to represent the interest of the business you work for not yourself regardless of how good the outfit looked like on Instagram.

    – Justin Ruiz

  • Kristen Nicholson

    This blog post is very important, and verifies how crucial personal image is. Your personal image plays a large role in first impressions. Only you are in charge of the message you are sending to others and how they perceive it. Although I personally have never been an intern, I would assume any intern should treat their role in the company just as important as the CEO. Being an intern you should have the mindset of potentially having a career with this company, or listing them as a source on future resumes. Therefore, being taken seriously and professionally comes down to minuscule details such as too much cleavage. As a matter of fact, there should be no cleavage. Whether you’re a janitor, manager or intern within a company, your work attire shouldn’t be remotely close to your weekend attire. I do think it’s unfair that this intern was humiliated with the placement of the pin, this just drew more attention to her wardrobe malfunction. I find it unprofessional that the company tried to uncomfortably resolve the problem this way. In my opinion the manager should’ve excused her for the day and gave her a wardrobe warning.

  • Joseph Riess

    Having worked two internship I can definitely relate to being over-dressed in some occasions. It is very important to understand the work environment before choosing your daily outfit. In my first internship I was not sure of what the dress code was so I went into work in a suit. To me, especially on my first day I make sure that I am dressed appropriately, sometimes too appropriately, but I will tweak my outfits once I understand what the dress code and work environment is. I also take into account what the internship is in the first place. For both my internships they were IT based, which I feel has its norms in regards to what you are wearing. Since I was basically at a desk for most of the day it is very different on how I dressed rather than someone that has to meet with people on a daily basis. I do try to dress to impress but sometimes you can go too far and stick out like a sore thumb which is why I found this article very interesting.

  • Tyler Stagg

    Here are my two cents:
    Management should always make it clear about the dress code for interns if they have one. Especially those companies that has uniforms.
    The manager/ supervisor should have just let the intern borrow or used an extra uniform(I would assume that post offices has uniforms provided to their employees, and interns should be included in those) that they are not using instead of using the pin which created more attention that it should have.
    For the intern, it does not hurt to ask what the dress code is if uniforms are not provided. It is also the interns responsibility to ask or wear something that is decent. You didn’t go there to look nice, you went there to work and learn. Because in the end it maybe both their faults why that event transpired.

  • Sabrine Darwish

    Its common sense really. One should never show too much cleavage at a work environment. I honestly feel bad for some male bosses or professors at times because some females like to show off their curves a little too much; men will be men and stare. I as a female stare at times and I’m straight. Theres really not much to say but COVER UP!

  • Gabrielle Lacchini

    I feel that first impressions are key. Internships are a huge part of your future career and you need to make a good impression for that company your are working for. I myself had an internship and in the morning I made sure I looked presentable by asking my mom what she thought. I always made sure to remained very classy and covered. One little outfit mess up can change how people look at you for the rest of ur internship. It could even stop you from receiving a job after your done with the internship. Who would want a future employee to dress like that? Maybe instead of doing the pin thing possibly going with the intern for a few minutes to get another outfit so the problem wasn’t as awkward and obvious. I do feel bad and sometimes maybe its early and you’re not thinking but maybe a second opinion on the outfit before you get there is a good choice. Just being an intern to begin with puts you in a inferior position because you aren’t an employee and you’re getting a lower salary if any. Look before you leave the house is my wise words.