What Should I Wear or Bring on My First Day?
Even if you’re super jazzed and well prepared for your internship, you probably have some first-day jitters. Don’t worry—it happens to everyone! Just as with an interview, a little groundwork in terms of what to wear and what to bring will help you make a great first impression. In fact, some studies have found that what you wear can affect your work performance. Follow the tips below to ensure you’re confident, prepared, and well groomed on day one.
How to dress
Until you already have a sense of the office dress code, err on the side of formality. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, and it’s better to fit in than stand out—at least when it comes to fashion. The night before your first day, lay out your outfit. Select clean, wrinkle-free clothing in neutral colors. Avoid anything that’s too baggy, tight, or revealing. That morning, lose any nose or tongue rings and cover up any tattoos. A good rule of thumb is to avoid extremes in terms of clothing, accessories, and perfume.
For the women:
Women should make sure that skirts aren’t too short, slacks aren’t too tight, and necklines aren’t too low. Wear natural make-up and avoid bold color choices. This may be a good time to treat yourself to a manicure. Wear heels you can walk in—you’ll be on your feet, doing a lot of meet-and-greets on your first day. Keep jewelry to a minimum, though a statement necklace is fine if you’re interviewing for a more creative role. And while you want to be professional, you also need to be true to yourself and feel comfortable. If you’re a woman (or women-identifying) and you hate wearing dresses, simply wear pants. The most important thing is to look put together.
For the men:
Men should wear a neutral shirt (white is always a safe bet) with a tie. If you wear a sports coat, go for navy or one with a subtle pattern. Keep your dress shoes in meticulous condition. Your socks should match your slacks and shoes. Be sure to leave your baseball cap and sneakers at home, along with any pinky rings, necklaces, or bracelets. If you don’t conform to traditional gender standards, wear whatever feels most comfortable for you—as long as it’s polished and professional.
Dressing for Different Workplace Environments
Different workplaces have varying expectations when it comes to attire. It’s essential to understand the culture of your specific internship before deciding on your outfit. If possible, try to find out the dress code ahead of time.
Corporate or Traditional Fields
If you’re interning in a corporate environment or a more traditional field like law or finance, opt for formal attire. For those comfortable in traditionally masculine attire, a suit or a smart combination of a neutral shirt and pants with a tie are generally expected. For those comfortable in traditionally feminine attire, a professional dress, skirt, or pants paired with a smart top are good options. If you prefer a gender-neutral look, a well-tailored suit or smart separates are suitable choices.
Startups or Tech Companies
Startups and tech companies often have a more relaxed dress code. However, it’s still crucial to maintain a neat and professional appearance. Well-fitted jeans or chinos, combined with a crisp shirt, blouse, or smart sweater, can work well.
If you’re interning in a creative field like advertising, fashion, or design, you might have more freedom with your outfit. This is an opportunity to let your personal style shine, while still keeping it professional. Unique accessories or clothing with interesting patterns or colors could be acceptable here.
Regardless of the environment, remember to dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident while also adhering to the workplace’s culture and standards.
Virtual Internship Tips
The global shift towards remote work has significantly increased the number of virtual internships. If your internship is virtual, here are some additional tips to help you prepare for your first day:
Dressing for Video Calls
Even though you’re working from home, it’s important to maintain a professional appearance, especially during video calls. Dress as you would for an in-person meeting. Also, remember to check your background to ensure it’s tidy and professional-looking.
Setting Up a Productive Workspace
Having a dedicated workspace can greatly increase your productivity. Try to find a quiet, well-lit space where you can work without distractions. Make sure your workspace is comfortable and has all the necessary equipment, such as a laptop, a good internet connection, and stationery.
Using Digital Tools Effectively
As a virtual intern, you’ll likely be using a variety of digital tools for communication, collaboration, and task management. Familiarize yourself with these tools before your first day. If possible, test them out to ensure you know how to use them effectively.
Virtual communication can be challenging, but it’s crucial for a successful virtual internship. Be proactive in communicating with your supervisor and team members. Also, remember to set and respect boundaries regarding your availability.
Without the structure of a physical office, staying organized can be challenging. Make a daily schedule, keep track of your tasks and deadlines, and make sure you’re clear on your role and responsibilities.
Remember, even though you’re not physically present in the office, you’re still part of the team and your actions contribute to your professional reputation. So, make sure to maintain a high degree of professionalism, even when working from home.
What to bring
Pack the night before to ensure you can sail out the door with confidence on the first day of your internship. You’ll want to bring the following:
- A neutral briefcase or computer case to carry your laptop and any other items.
- A notepad and pens to take notes and jot down the names and titles of everyone you meet.
- A healthy lunch, several snacks, and a bottle of water to keep up your energy.
- Any necessary documents or identification information. HR typically sends a list of required documents before your first day. If they don’t, play it safe by bringing your passport and/or driver’s license, social security number, and a voided blank check (if your internship is paid).
- Basic self-care items, including a hairbrush, mints, a sweater, and floss.
- Your phone charger and your phone, placed in “do not disturb” mode.
- Research the company culture, the people you’ll be working with, and your role. Being well-informed will boost your confidence.
- Set personal goals for your internship. What skills do you want to develop? What experiences do you want to have?
- Practice mindfulness and calming techniques to help manage any anxiety or nerves.
- Be ready to ask questions. Remember, it’s your first day and you’re not expected to know everything.
- Be open, friendly, and show your eagerness to learn and contribute. Your attitude is just as important as your skills and knowledge.
Preparing for your first day at an internship, whether in-person or virtual, is an essential step to making a positive first impression. From dressing appropriately to packing essential items, these tips aim to help you start your journey with confidence and professionalism. For those embarking on virtual internships, remember that even though you’re not physically present in an office, the way you present yourself, set up your workspace, and utilize digital tools can significantly impact your professional image.
Be proactive, stay organized, and maintain open communication to ensure a successful internship experience. Remember, every internship is a learning opportunity. So, embrace the jitters, prepare well, and step into this exciting new chapter of your career journey. Good luck!