This blog was written as part of my internship with Indiana INTERNnet and was originally published here.
You got the summer internship. It’s relevant to your skill set, works with your schedule, and (BONUS!) it’s paid. It is an excellent opportunity for your professional development, and you’re super excited for the first day. The only problem? You don’t know what to wear. Outside, the humidity will turn you to an exasperated blob of moisture and inside, the office air conditioner will freeze you solid. Here’s what you do:
1. Ask your supervisor
If you haven’t already, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the company’s dress code. Every office has its own idea of what’s appropriate, and business casual can mean a lot of different things. If you haven’t started the position yet, send your new boss a polite email asking them to clarify what the appearance expectations are. For example:
Good morning [Name],
I am looking forward to my first day with [Company]. So that I am fully prepared, what is the dress code in the office? I know that every company has their own expectations of proper attire.
If you’ve already started the job, approach them in person. If there’s a specific item of apparel that you would like to run by your boss, take a picture of it at home and show it to them at the office. For example, if you’re not sure whether those cute new summer sandals are office-appropriate, bring in a photo rather than risking wearing them until you’re clear on the protocol.
Don’t be afraid to ask! It is better to know and be completely clear on what to wear than to be unsure when you’re getting ready in the morning. This might feel awkward, but your supervisor will likely appreciate the distance you’re going to maintain your professionalism.
2. Keep a Jacket or Sweater Handy
Layers are not just winter essentials – they can be useful in the summer, too! Carry some lightweight outerwear so that you always have a cover up. It’s possible that your desk will be right under the air-conditioning vent, and spending the afternoon shivering will decrease your productivity. If possible, keep the cardigan or jacket at your desk so that it’s not a hassle to remember it every day when you leave home.
This item can also add an extra layer of formality that is easily removable. If your direct supervisor keeps a casual dress code, then it may not be necessary to wear a blazer all the time. It is nice to have on hand though, especially if you are scheduled for a meeting with someone you don’t know yet. The layer can help you make a great first impression.
Though it may seem counterproductive, layering clothes in the summer is often necessary depending on what’s trending in the fashion world. Many clothes that are sold in the summer, especially for women, are sheer and typically not professional. Invest in a neutral-colored blazer or suit jacket so that you always look pulled together.
3. Keep it Lightweight
Keep your professional attire stylish and breathable by checking the tags before you wear clothes to the office. Lightweight fabrics that do not cling your skin are key to beat the heat.
Try to find apparel made of cotton, rayon or linen – these materials are great for summer! Cotton, which is common in most clothes in some quantity or another, is made of natural fibers that allow air to move through the clothing. Similarly, linen is a natural, woven fabric, the pattern of which allows for maximum breath-ability. Rayon is a bit different because it is man-made. It tends to come in thinner threads and thus is lighter weight than natural fabrics.
However, keep in mind that these fabrics do wrinkle easily. Either make sure to hang your clothes immediately after they finish drying or invest in an iron. Wrinkled outfits come across as unprofessional.
In addition to checking what clothing items are made of, do not forget to seek out clothes that will minimize the amount of fabric you have on. Look for shirts, jackets and blazers that are unlined. The synthetic silky material often used to line formal-wear can cling to your skin.
4. Buy Some Baby Wipes
The fourth tip is not directly related to clothing, but it is a good thing to keep in mind as you prepare to face the summer sun. For many students, an internship is the closest thing to an ‘adult’ job that they’ve had. Therefore, it might sound counter-intuitive to stock up on products for toddlers, but wet wipes do come in handy.
Use a towelette to pat down your face and neck after the trek from the parking lot to the office. The dampness of the wipe will cool you off and cleanse your skin in the process, keeping you fresh for those morning meetings. There are products available that are designed specifically for cooling you off, such as a post-workout wipe. However, baby wipes are a much more affordable option that discreetly slip into any bag or briefcase.