The PR Intern Papers: What do you wear to an internship in a world of business casual, casual casual, sled dog race casual?

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No, not me – this is from “What to Wear to an Internship Interview” on About.com: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewattire/ss/What-To-Wear-To-An-Internship-Interview-Internship-Attire_7.htm, but still a good business casual choice – and something I’d be comfortable wearing to the office.

A number of people have asked me what I’ve learned in the PR trenches about what to wear – or what NOT to wear – in an internship in a world of business casual, casual casual, and in rare cases, perhaps sled dog race casual. Every work event that I have ever attended has caused me anxiety, stressing over what to wear or what is considered appropriate attire. With the caveat that I’m lucky to be working for a boutique PR firm in the already dressed-down Rocky Mountain West, attending work events and going to the office in Jackson Hole, Vail, and Denver, here’s a list of my what-to-wear suggestions for an internship in a world of business casual (throughout the winter and spring months and strictly for ladies – guys, you’re on your own):

  • Dressing for the office:

In the past two weeks Denver has seen everything from high 70s and sunshine to a record (for this late in April) 19 degrees with snow, wind and ice – sometimes both in a single day. The ups and downs prove the wisdom of layering.  One of the worst things (that can possibly ruin your day) is to be uncomfortably hot or cold at work. Sometimes even on hot days air conditioning makes the office cold. By taking an extra sweater or coat with you, you can put it on or strip it off to keep you comfortable and more relaxed to focus on work. (Or slip it on to cover up a stain if you spill while eating lunch at your desk!)

  • Dressing to meet clients:

Of course, you need to look your best for meeting with clients. You want to give the impression that you take yourself seriously (which you do) as well as the company you are working for. A nice pair of pants with a cozy sweater and a cashmere scarf is a good go-to choice for fall through spring.

  • Dressing for a business formal work dinner:

As an undergraduate student with limited office experience, dressing for a business formal work event usually doesn’t come around too often – luckily. Since you will most likely be around clients and higher ups in your company, you should dress to impress. Make sure you don’t look disheveled by leaving your hair a mess (keep an extra comb in your purse) and if you don’t have it already, keep your eye out for that perfect “little black dress” in a classic cut whenever you’re shopping Nordstrom’s Rack.

  • Dressing to work at a sled dog race:

Working a sled dog race is probably a rare eventuality unless you, too, end up interning for WordenGroup, but it does raise the need for all interns to always be prepared, flexible and game for anything. When it comes specifically to a sled dog race in Wyoming in the middle of winter, the most important thing is to STAY WARM! You will be outside for long periods at a time and if you are cold and miserable, it’ll be hard to stay entirely focused on your task at hand. Stash some hand warmers in your pocket and don’t forget your hat. Even better, find a hat, scarf, or vest that sports the sponsor’s logo; that way you will stay nice and cozy while looking professional and representing your clients.

 

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Hardy types showing how it’s done at the Jackson, Wyo., start of the International Pedigree Stage Shop Sled Dog Race. And yes, that’s my boss, WordenGroup President Darla Worden far right in the white hat (photo: Chris Havener/IPSSSDR)

  • The summer internship:

With summer fast approaching, the best advice I have ever heard regarding attire at the office is, “don’t wear anything that you would be embarrassed to wear in front of your grandma.” But if your grandma’s particularly racy and that might not be safe, refer back to your high school dress code and don’t wear anything shorter than your fingertips with arms extended fully downward or with straps that are less than three fingers in width. And remember a sweater or light jacket in case of chilly air conditioning or an unexpected meeting.

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Finally, if that odd work event or situation comes up where you’re really not sure what’s appropriate (like the time we attended a Hawaiian luau in a tent in a snowstorm at the base of a Vail ski run with client and Antlers at Vail GM Rob LeVine. Hint: we brought leis with us from Denver), don’t be afraid to ask your boss or a coworker who always looks pulled together. They’ll be impressed by your desire to look professional. And in a pinch, remember that your energy, positive attitude and confidence are always more important than anything you’re wearing.

 

Sydney Smoot

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