My friend Joe gave me a great idea after reading his post on interns and interning himself. After having received my Bachelors and Masters in Social Work (brushing my shoulders off real quick), I’ve done quite my share of interning. While for Social Work, it is a complete necessity—to get out there, get into the field so to speak, get into those real life interactions with people who need your help to begin hopefully, helping themselves. My stints of internships include:
1. Emergency and Transitional Services After school Program Coordinator (running after school program for kids in transitional/emergency housing)-6 months
2. Senior Center (led a “Reminiscing” Group with seniors in assisted living)- 6 months
3. Case Manager at a Homeless Shelter (Mental Health, Substance Abuse, et. al case management)- 1 year
4. Alternative High School –School Social Worker – 1 year
All of those settings required Semi-Casual, Modest dress (don’t want any overly loose clothes or overly tight clothes with kids, seniors, homeless folks or high school boys…you get the idea).
So what to wear became pretty easy, even if it was somewhat NOT-MY-STYLE, per se. I left all my flashy/costumey jewelry at home…because well, it wasn’t going to improve my relationship building skills with anyone. If my internships had been with Vogue or Elle, than this would be a whole different story. But they weren’t, so let’s move on.
When you’re interning, forget about your personal style FOR THE MOST PART. I’m not saying, “lose who you really are” or “act bland”, but I’m just saying, don’t wear your leopard print pants with your polka dot sweater and call it a day. It’s a little much. Is this only a problem for me? Maybe. But in case I’m not the only one who wears “busy” things sometimes, I’ll continue.
Your employer doesn’t care about what you wear, and probably won’t notice, unless it’s offensive or attention-seeking, and then they will. And if you’re an intern, they’ll be distracted by you as opposed to seeing you fit in as a potential hire. And they won’t appreciate it. A good rule of thumb: dress like everyone else. Sure, you can add a cute little necklace or ring or a bright shoe to make it your own, but really, don’t dress like you’re going to the club in stripper heels when you’re sitting down to do some counseling or lead a group with seniors. (I’m not talking from experience–I’d never wear my stripper heels to work).
You can be fashionable and trendy without being over the top, interns. Let’s see if we can put a little something together for you all. It’s a little thing I like to call,
Okay, Black pants: we all need a good pair, or two. I like to have cropped and long. Don’t wear leather to work. Or to your internship. Ever. Even to the holiday party.
Shoes: you can add your personality with shoes for sure. A cute flat with a little silver detail is a good way to do it. Don’t wear stilettos and don’t wear stripper heels. Also, wear something comfortable for what you’re doing.
Skirts: Again, make it closer to the knee, and if its shorter, wear tights. Don’t make it too tight or too short.
Dresses: I love dresses, especially for work. They look nicer–like you tried harder–yet every woman’s secret— they’re easier! One thing to put on instead of two or three. But a “bandage dress” is never appropriate. Even if it seems modest to some college-aged interns…”like, omg, it has sleeves!I feel so covered!”—get a grip! It is too tight and too skanky. (Pardon my french, but I’ve seen it happen. And worse.)
Tops: Should have sleeves. (A tank would be okay with a sweater over it so you can’t tell its a tank top. A top should also never show your stomach. A top should also never be an undershirt worn as a real shirt. A good work top is like this grey one– good fit, a little embellishment but nothing over the top.
Tip: Fabric matters. A cotton shirt versus a more silky one makes a difference. Sweaters that are pilled and holey should be saved for Saturdays at home. Not for work.
Another tip: think about what you’ll be doing! If you are answering phones in a cubicle, you can probably be more casual and more comfortable. If you’ll be doing a lot of sitting, you probably don’t want to wear that dress of yours that you know you can only stand in. We all have one. Don’t lie.
If you’ll be at the Capitol or State House, you’ll probably need to be more dressy and more conservative. If you’re student teaching, you probably have to squat and bend and make messes and whatever…you don’t want to be Mrs. Frizzle distracting…you just want to dress for what you’re doing. If you are working at a high end fashion designers showroom or something, you’d probably have a little more room to be trendy and whatnot. Although to be honest, that’d be hard to keep up, and I’d probably just wear black everyday.
If you’ve been my intern, I’m not talking to you. You all were great and stylish, but still appropriate.
Okay y’all–does this help? What is the worst outfit you’ve seen in a professional setting. Oh yeah, and don’t wear jeans unless you’re office colleagues wear jeans. Even then, don’t be the first to do it. You’re an intern and you want a job, right? Make them like you and most importantly, make them like your work! Make them need you so that without you, they are wondering what they’ll do.