Q. It’s been too hot to wear a lot of clothing to work, but my internship supervisor said I’m not dressing professionally. What should I do?

A. You’re right about the weather. This summer is the hottest one in recorded US weather history. However, you’re wrong about your wardrobe. You might want to under dress to survive the heat, but you won’t win any points at your internship, according to a recent article: “From booty shorts to belly shirts, some intern fashions make companies cringe,” in The Baltimore Sun newspaper. The article made the following points: 

  1. In Washington, DC, the term “skinterns” has evolved for the scantily-clad summer staff.  Remember Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton’s compromised intern?  Your own reputation may suffer or staffers may start calling you “Monica” if you refuse to wear an accepted intern uniform, such as a white blouse and dark slacks or skirt and closed shoes.
  2. Other unprofessional clothing includes booty shorts, thigh-grazing dresses, flip-flops, ripped jeans, cleavage-baring tops, see-through skirts…If necessary, you could wear such items on the way to work, but make sure that you take proper clothing with you and change into your professional outfit before you enter the office.
  3. The Sun article reminds interns that students may incorrectly think that being “dressed up” for work means being in their best, night-on-the-town outfits. But leave your bar clothes at home because employers first judge you by your appearance. You may meet clients and customers, and your appearance reflects the company’s image. Career experts urge you to err on the conservative side.
  4. Thank your internship supervisor for taking the time to discuss your appearance. Then, ask for some tips on the dress code, so you can conform to company standards. Your gracious acceptance of constructive criticism may earn you some points with your supervisor. And make sure to follow through immediately. Also, check with your school’s career center to see if they offer a course in business etiquette, so you’re better prepared for the next internship.
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