Work experience wardrobe: jeans and t-shirt or suited and booted?
The weekend before my student work experience placement usually involves me frantically washing and ironing my work clothes to make sure I make the best possible impression. But, sometimes it can be difficult to know what to wear on work experience, especially if it is your first placement. Usually your employers will give you a brief beforehand, saying how you can prepare and what you should wear (if they don't, email or phone them the week before you start, asking them for further information). Typically, you will be told to follow a dress code of 'smart casual', but I can clearly remember thinking 'what is smart casual at work?'. So after experience, I thought a 'what to wear' guide for guys and girls would be useful.
Unless you have been told in advance, the best policy is to get a handle of the kind of attire in the office from when you go for your interview, and go along those lines. If you didn’t get the chance to pick up on this, then look at what industry you are working in, and on day one, go in just a little smarter than you think you should. It’s always easy to then dress down. You’ll feel far less awkward turning up in trousers and a shirt when everyone is jeans and shirts, rather than vice-versa.
So these are generally ‘day one’ tips, but adjust according to the kind of industry you are in.
And before we get started, if you haven't got yourself some summer work experience yet, now is the time - recent research has shown that university student's with work experience are up to three times more likely to secure a job on graduating.
- Make sure you have no nail polish, no piercings (except studs) and have your hair is ‘neat’
- Shoes - smart, plain, black pumps or black shoes with a small heel (1/2 inch). Remember you will be on your feet for a very long time, the last thing you want is sore feet for the week
- Skirts - knee length, black or blue, but make sure they are plain and simple. This is not a social event and you need to give the best possible impression.
- Trousers - not too tight, not too loose. Make sure they are the right length and the trouser heel isn't dragging on the ground. If you wear trousers and pumps, you can wear socks if you want too.
- Shirts and blouses - make sure they fit you and are ironed! You don't want to be uncomfortable during the week and you don't want any buttons popping undone! Be comfortable and tidy and try not to wear shirts or blouses with 'busy' or vibrant patterns. Also make sure your skirt or trousers look appropriate with your blouse/skirt.
- Cardigan - plain black/blue
- Jackets - sometimes you might be expected to wear a smart jacket. Usually on my first day, I take my cardigan and jacket with me, just to see if other members of staff wear a jacket too. Particularly if you shadow a meeting, it can look more professional if you wear a jacket.
- Make sure you have a shave and a haircut before your placement. It's best to look smart and professional than looking like you woke up late for your first day! Sometimes you may be expected to wear a tie. Perhaps take one just in case on your first day to see if the other male members of staff wear one.
- Trousers - again, not too tight, not too loose. Make sure they are the right length and the heel isn't dragging on the ground. Don't wear jeans unless you have seen prior to working there or been told that this is the norm.
- Shirts - make sure they fit you and are ironed. You don't want to be uncomfortable and you don't want to look scruffy. Long sleeved shirts are preferable, as if you do get hot, you can roll the sleeves up.
- Jacket - smart, black jacket that fits you well. Make sure that there are no tears in the lining or on the pockets.
It really is a matter of common sense. I always think it is best to prepare beforehand so you aren't rushed in the mornings. The last thing you want is to turn up to your work experience feeling self conscious and uncomfortable. If you can spend a bit of money on your clothes (only if you think you need some new garments) then go out and make the effort, because first impressions really do count.