In the corporate world, there is the old saying of “Dress for the job you want and not the job you have.” In my world, I like to rephrase the saying and say “If you look like an intern, you will always be thought of as the intern.”
For some reason, over the years I have noticed interns tend to dress more casual in the corporate setting and I don’t understand why. Maybe there is the mentality that as an intern, they are not not held to the same standards are they are technically “not official employees.” Even if you are an intern, assistant, or any other entry level position, you should not dress like you are in those positions. Remember, even though you may be an intern, the goal of the internship is to land a job post-graduation or if you’re in an entry-level position, to move up within the company. If you want to be CEO of the company someday, look at how your CEO dresses for some inspiration (even if they are a man). Is the CEO wearing a suit, business casual, etc.?
Now I know every industry and company is different. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, tends to wear hoodies and jeans to work. Some companies are just as relaxed or suits and jackets may not be required. So use your discretion. However, for most formal corporate positions, the rules are the same. Here are some tips to dress for the job you want in the corporate world:
- Invest in a nice pair of black pumps (closed toe and not peep toe). This should be a staple item in your wardrobe!
- Have several tailored suits and/or jackets in your wardrobe. At a minimum, have one black and one light colored suit. You can always add a jacket to a nice pair of slacks to change up your look.
- Make sure your makeup is clean, fresh, and natural. Blue, purple, and green eyeshadow looks like you’re about to hit the club or going to a costume party. Same goes with lipstick – wearing bold color on your lips is inappropriate.
- Same rule applies to nail polish – don’t wear bright orange, yellow, green, etc. Stick to natural or nude tones. Red is also an acceptable color – just be careful with the red tones.
- With regards to hair, your hair should be neatly styled.
- You can never go wrong with a bun.
- Careful with the curls. While curling your hair can work in a corporate setting (soft curls), it cannot be the type of va-voom curls you like to have when go out on a Saturday night.
- Never go with the messy, just got out of bed look. Your man may love it, but your bosses probably won’t.
And my Number One rule:
Always wear heels to work!
Ladies, I know it may not be comfortable at times, but please do not wear flats or ballet shoes. Flats scream “INTERN” to your bosses and execs. Amy Smilovic, owner of the fashion line Tibi, said it best in a 2011 Forbes article: “When women are in flats, they say, ‘I’m comfortable,’ I say they need to man up and put on a pair of 4-inch heels, nothing gives you more respect.” (Check out the full Forbes article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/leahbourne/2011/11/29/work-style-with-tibis-amy-smilovic/) I wholeheartedly agree! Though you don’t have to wear 4 inch heels. 2-3 inches is appropriate for a corporate setting. Remember, if you want to be a CEO, dress like a CEO…not like the CEO’s intern.
So there you go ladies! Again, these rules apply to the formal corporate world. Each industry and company is different. For instance, I currently work in an entertainment company where I can get away with adding more pizazz to my clothes than I did when I worked for a law firm. Just do your research, observe, and see what works best for you. I’m going to write another blog post later about how to add a bit more flair and style to your work wardrobe in the coming weeks.