Professional Style: How to Dress for your summer internship

Employers hire their interns based on intelligence and talent, but appearance plays a role as well. In any industry, interns should dress like they mean business, with an emphasis on sophistication and style.

“I think it is important to go into it as if it were a full-time position,” said Carol Ann DeSimine, adjunct journalism professor in the communications department at Rowan University. “As far as dress goes, you do not want to overdo it. Certainly, a business suit is not required, but I would go at least one step above what you would wear in the classroom.”

Rowan University professors  all agreed that an interview is where the student is trying to impress the potential employer and should dress their absolute best. This makes those 15 minutes the most definitive and intrinsic to the candidate’s future.

“In order to make a good first impression and get the internship, students should appear neat and professional. A new suit or business outfit is not necessary, but all clothes should be clean, wrinkle-free and well fitting,” said Lisa Samalonis, adjunct journalism professor in the communications department at Rowan University.

For any internship, carefully study the industry you will be representing.

“Some companies allow business-casual, while others allow casual,” said Lizziel Sullivan-Williams, director of the Career and Academic Planning Center at Rowan University. “It really depends on the organization.

In the field of geography, there are business meetings and more professional events, but it is mostly field work and casual situations.

“You’re not going to have to be dressed up in formal attire,” said Zachary Moore, an assistant geography professor at Rowan University. “You can be very casual if you’re in the office with a city planning organization or if you’re with National Geographic or any of the other academic institutions. It tends to be a more laid back environment.”

Computer Sciences
Computer sciences also fall under the category of a more relaxed field. More importantly, Spencer said that it is company policy that will ultimately decide what will be appropriate.

“It’s less dress than others. They tolerate a larger or more variety of dress than if you’re in marketing or business,” said Jerome Spencer, a computer sciences lab coordinator at Rowan University.

“If you’re going to do odd jobs within the company, then you have to follow whatever the company’s policy is and that can be all over the place,” he said.

One of the less conventional field is history. Internships for history could be in a political office or a historical museum.

“It varies for internships in history,” said William D. Carrigan, an associate history professor at Rowan University. “For example, some interns will be doing work in historical archaeology, where some people will be working with artifacts, and might get dirty.”

For an editorial internship, carefully study the publication you will be representing. A local newspaper is a fast-paced professional environment where you will be gaining experience as a real-world reporter. A stylish magazine is going to be just as hectic; a more fashion-forward, trendy approach is essential.

It is important to remember that flip-flops are a huge no-no. Exposing your bare feet to the harsh city elements and corporate office is unsanitary and uncouth. Publications want to see an intern with personal style that manages to exclude any vulgarities.

“No belly tops or cleavage,” DeSimine said. “For men, jeans are usually more acceptable, but pair them with a button-down shirt and casual shoes; no sandals.”

Please keep your undergarments hidden. Banish all distressed denim (even if they are Citizens), cutoff shorts and miniskirts from your work wardrobe. No employer wants to see jeans with holes in them or a behind hanging out of homemade Daisy Dukes. Interns who exude their signature style and abide by rules of decency are often commended for their efforts.

Staple wardrobe pieces for girls include crew-neck cardigan sweaters, cap-sleeve shirt dresses, chic, office-worthy pencil skirts and flawlessly-cut cropped and full-length dress pants. Stylish options for guys include lightweight cotton blazers, crisp button-down shirts and slim khaki pants. Stores like Express, Gap and H&M carry the essentials at price points every broke-but-fashionable intern can afford.

Beautiful leather stiletto pumps always look fierce, but running through the city from one office building to the next up and down flights of stairs in museum buildings is barely tolerable in four-inch heels. Louboutins (or very pretty wannabes from Aldo) are perfect for special events in the office, but pack a pair of stylish ballerina flats in your bag for running errands. For men,  expensive-looking casual shoes are an attractive option. Invest in a pair by John Varvatos, or stick with stylish city sneakers from Diesel.

Jewelry should never be a distraction. Classic diamond or crystal studs and a simple gold cuff bracelet are glam enough. Stay away from anything too metallic or cheaply-constructed.

“Every office has its own culture. So once you feel comfortable in the environment and see what the employees wear on a regular basis, you might be able to loosen up a bit,” Samalonis said. “But don’t overdo it in personal style just to make a statement. Remember, you want your supervisor to look at you as a potential employee, someone who will represent the company with professionalism.”

Remember that good grooming goes a long way. Weekly manicures (short, perfectly-polished fingernails in pale or dark shades are the  way to go), groomed brows and beautiful hair and skin are vital. Above all, remember your place. You are an intern and you have a long way to make it to the top. Attitude is the key to success and, good or bad, will outshine any beautiful outfit.

For a complete listing of top stores in the area for the perfect summer internship wardrobe, please visit The Whit’s blog on style and culture, Collegiate Chic, at
-Contributions by Lauren Wainwright

, , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.