Nikki’s Inbox: The Office Intern

I just started an internship but nobody takes me seriously because of the way I dress. I tried complete neutrals but I looked too old. What are you supposed to wear to make yourself more professional, but still show that you have a fun personality?

Megan, 19 / Colorado, USA

The thing you have to realize, Megan dear, is that people aren’t taking you seriously not because of what you wear but because you’re an intern – it’s just one of the realities of the working world, darling. Trust me, everybody started from the bottom (except for maybe a few CEOs or COOs aka ‘Child Of Owner’). While appearance and style are important in the workplace, only a good work ethic will earn you the respect you want, so be sure to make that shines through no matter what you’re wearing. Being an intern already puts one foot in the door so this is your chance to show them what you’ve got!

It’s always difficult to find that right balance between being a youthful teenager and a professional. I get emails throughout the year from students asking what they should wear for internships, summer jobs or work-placements – you can take a look at some previous articles here. The first mistake you’ll probably make is trying to look like the stereotypical corporate woman: a straight-leg pantsuit with a crisp, white button-down shirt. You’re not 25, 35 or 45 years old, so don’t try and dress like you’re one! Instead, use this as a base look then transform your outfit into something youthful and more age-appropriate. Pay attention to the details and don’t forget to use accessories!

What Your Colleagues Wear: Classic button-downs.
What You Would Wear: A ruffled or chiffon blouse.
Buttoned shirts can be either boring or serious, neither of which fits a young intern like you. Swap them for detailed blouses that emphasize your youthful spirit. A soft sleeveless number tucked into pants looks elegant while ruffles exude femininity. A blouse with a front-tie tucked into a pencil skirt is classic and timeless. Contrast cuffs and short sleeves on a structured buttoned shirt add a perky punch to your corporate look.

What Your Colleagues Wear: Standard straight-leg pants or pantsuits.
What You Would Wear: Tailored pants that show off your figure.
If you insist on wearing pants, a pair with a bit of pizzazz keeps your look fresh. Try pants in different styles: tapered to an almost skinny cut, pleated at the front for extra room, cropped at the ankles for vogue or wide-legged for classic style.

What Your Colleagues Wear: Old-school boxy cardigans in gray, navy or neutrals, possibly with A-line skirts.
What You Would Wear: A statement knit piece.
A cardigan-over-blouse is a stereotypical office combo (think old-fashioned librarians). Update this look by choosing knitwear that’s fun: a bright colored or patterned knit jacket over a shirt; or a classic cardigan over one of the pretty blouses mentioned above. Take note: either the cardigan or blouse should be fancy, but not both.

What Your Colleagues Wear: A pencil-cut sheath dress.
What You Would Wear: A pencil-cut sheath dress!
Pencil dresses are a timeless office staple – they work at anytime, at any age (except if you’re only 8). But you can keep your version youthful with the right accessories like a long necklace or gold bangle. Other dress options: a mock-two piece offers no-fuss glam while an A-line dress is sweet and girly.

Knock ’em dead, kiddo!


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