Dress to Impress the Boss: Wearing an Appropriate Outfit for the First Day

by cindybrugge

So, you’ve found an internship for spring. With your first day looming ahead, how do you plan to make a strong first impression?

A developed wardrobe can separate a college student intern from an asset to the company who demands a place as a future employee. Create a power look with these 5 steps to success:

It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

  • Wear nice clothing: slacks, simple dresses, collared shirts.
  • Avoid jeans, T-Shirts, sundresses, and tennis shoes.
  • If you find after a few days that everyone in your office dresses a little more casual than you, then you can tone it down accordingly.

Be classy.

  • Clothing should be properly laundered and pressed. (You would be surprised how often people don’t do this!)
  • Don’t be a skank. Nobody wants to see your low cut tops and miniskirts in the office. It isn’t cute, and it’s definitely not appropriate for an intern to prance around the office in scandalous attire. You want people to think “tasteful” not “Hello, Miss Tastey!”

Accessories can make or break your outfit.

  • Accessories are an area where you can afford to take a few small risks to show your personality. A colorful neon belt can add a little flare without overpowering your outfit and chic shoes might boost your outfit if chosen correctly.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. I cannot stress this enough. Many interns run errands and do random chores that keep them on their feet all day long. Those heels may be cute, but you will regret that choice by the end of the day.
  • Men forget that nice shoes, a cool belt and some awesome sunglasses can take them up a notch immediately. Guys, you look so much hotter, when you learn how to properly accessorize your outfit.

Go Shopping!

  • With these tips in mind, it might be a good idea to shop for a few basics.
  • I’d recommend these staples.
    • Ladies: A pair of slacks, a simple black dress (that doesn’t show cleavage and falls at least to just above the knee), a classic white collared shirt and a cardigan.
    • Men: A pair of khakis, a pair of black/navy slacks, an assortment of collared shirts and ties. Please spend a little money on some nice versatile accessories. You need a nice belt and shoes to match brown and black hues.
    • Don’t go overboard. I wouldn’t go on a shopping spree until you get an idea of what your company’s overall style and dress code looks like. Buy a couple of standard pieces, and re-evaluate your wardrobe after the first week.

After you have picked an outfit, pack a bag.

  • All interns should bring a pen and small notepad for their first day. You WILL have a million questions and will learn numerous details throughout the day. It will seem overwhelming. My best advice is to constantly take notes. Write your questions down in one place, and when you get a chance, ask someone. I usually ask mine via email. It’s an effective way to get the answer in writing so that you can see it later. A pen and notepad will help you survive the first week.
  • If needed, bring your laptop in a work appropriate case.
  • Make sure to bring any paperwork needed for you first day, including your driver’s license and social security card or a valid passport.

If you can follow these few tips, you are sure to wow your boss on your first day. Just remember that you already got the job. They’ve already seen something worthwhile in your personality and background. Wardrobe is made to help your talent stand out. Don’t let fashion malfunctions distract your co-workers from what you have to offer. Pick the right outfit to make YOU stand out!


This is a piece from my monthly column in the Campus Pages, called Intern-al Affairs.