Interviewers and internship candidates have been bickering with each other over “professionalism” for generations. Whether centered on haircuts, visible tattoos or piercings, or appropriate dress in the workplace, it’s been an evolving, but continuous, discussion. Today’s most prominent professional attire-related dispute seems to focus on a more core concept – whether anyone should really be “dressed up” to go to work at all.
It’s true. A growing number of large corporations and small businesses are doing away with the old professional dress standards in favor of something that falls even below “business casual.” Emerging companies on the West Coast have led the way, and images of young billionaires at work in jeans have made it tough to convince internship candidates that professional dress is truly still the standard. Here’s the bad news: it is.
Standards across industries
Certainly the type of internship you land will affect the style of clothing you wear to work. Interning in an accounting or law firm, for example, will require conservative suiting, while an intern at a weightlifting gym will likely wear gym clothes. But for interview purposes, none of that matters. Always err on the side of more professional.
Dress it up, not down, for just one day
One great tip: step it up at least one level from what you know you’ll need to wear to work every day should you land the job. If you’ll be in an office where the staff are largely in business casual attire – a public school is a great example – you should anticipate wearing a suit to your interview. Your interviewer won’t expect you to dress similarly for work, but she’ll be impressed that you’ve taken the time to step it up. Interning at a restaurant or brewery? A suit may not be necessary, but business casual for the interview is a bare minimum.
Part of earning that internship experience is gritting your teeth and being uncomfortable, knowing that it’s only for a few hours, and that in the end it’ll be well worth it. Let’s face it – nobody likes putting on heels or a tie for a meeting. Do it anyway, and you’ll be glad you did.