Posted on April 20, 2015 by Deb Freeman
Mary Crane (www.marycrane.com), who conducts our 1L Etiquette Dinners, recently posted this in her April 2015 enewsletter.
Becoming a Professional: Look the Part
Virtually every employer reports they have little difficulty finding smart, technically competent students for their summer intern and associate programs. However, many of those same businesses report that too many students lack so-called “professional” skills. To convey that you are a professional, focus on looking the part, sounding the part, and developing a professional attitude.
Look the Part
This is one area in which earlier generations had an easier time of it. When previous generations entered the workforce, new professionals donned the “uniform,” which for both men and women consisted of structured suits, crisp shirts/blouses, and well-polished conservative shoes. Today’s rules regarding appropriate attire are less formal, making it easier for a new professional to make a serious mistake.
Before you head to work, if your employer has not specified appropriate attire, plan to dress as you would for an interview—not a bad idea given that a summer internship or associate program effectively is a multi-week interview. Then use your first week to observe key players in the workplace and take their lead. If junior professionals dress in suits, you should plan on doing the same. If instead “business casual” is the norm, you may forego a suit.
Here’s what’s absolutely critical: throughout the entirety of your summer employment, never confuse “business casual” attire with “casual” attire. If you’ve been told “business casual” is appropriate, khaki slacks or skirts and well-pressed cotton or linen shirts/blouses will almost always work. Store a “just in case” blazer or jacket in your office (“just in case” you’re unexpectedly invited out to a nice business meal or to an important client event.)
And please avoid these mistakes:
- Ladies, sundresses with or without a sweater, are not appropriate in most business offices.
- Gentlemen, if you don’t need to wear a tie, cover up your chest hair, which no one wants to see.
- Torn jeans and shorts are never appropriate in an office setting.
- Any footwear that draws attention is probably a bad idea. If you wear sandals during your commute, change into business shoes before you reach the office.