How to impress on your summer internship

We spoke to the experts


Congrats on landing the summer internship you’ve been dreaming about: welcome to the world of photocopying, stale coffee and sweaty commutes. 

Now it’s right around the corner, you’re going to need to know how to dress and how to perfect your power poses.

We spoke to body language experts and office pundits to make the ultimate guide for impressing on your summer internship. You can thank us later.

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How to dress smart (picture courtesy of Hawes and Curtis tailors)

How to get dressed

For girls

First impressions are key and you only get one chance. Sophie Goddard, Features Editor at Cosmopolitan says you should “never be afraid to ask [about how to dress] when your internship is confirmed” or check your welcome pack.

She told The Tab: “If you still don’t know, a clever idea could be to stand outside the office one lunchtime, discreetly – don’t hang around gawping, to get a feel for what most employees wear.

“After just a few minutes you’ll quickly see whether trainers and jeans is an acceptable combo or not. And whether that fedora hat is a good idea, which it’s probably not. Otherwise, use your initiative. A bit of light stalking via Google will probably unearth a few clues, and most large companies have HR departments you could check in with too.

“Do your research and whatever your employers say, err on the side of formal. It’s easier to take off your blazer at the last minute than it is to smarten up.

“If you’re still unsure, find an outfit that works both ways – a smart pair of cropped trousers, ballet pumps and blouse would be appropriate for most working environments.”

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If you’re still unsure, find an outfit that works both ways (pic courtesy of Hawkes & Curtis)

Sophie adds comfortable shoes could be a better shout than six inch heels.

“If it’s likely you’ll be racing up and down the street, grabbing coffees and running errands, then wear something comfortable, so not your highest heels.

“If your role is client-facing or more sedentary, something smarter or more formal might be better. Use your common sense, and don’t panic. After one day in the office, you’ll soon know what’s what.”

Girl

Sarah says dress smart

Stylish city professional Sarah, 29, said: “Dress very smart: a nice suit or dress. I would look for someone with enthusiasm, willing to start early and if need be stay later.”

For boys

Wearing a nice suit in the office is a go-to outfit for your first day.

The five o’clock shadow may work for you at the bar, but for your first day at work a clean-shaven look is the best way to make a good first impression.

Celebrity tailor Edward Smith, who works at Hawes and Curtis menswear, says it all depends on where you’re working.

He told The Tab: “Your attire for Goldman Sachs would be completely different from that of a creative agency, but your approach should be the same.

“Lesson one is to let your personality stand out rather than your clothing. Bold and bright outfits may reflect your personality in day-to-day life but you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. Much better to be effortlessly stylish and rely on your charm and wit to help you get noticed.

“Lesson two is to find out clues from a company’s website or their literature to see what you’re expected to wear. Taking the Goldman example, it has a careers page on its website and offers the chance to meet its people. There are plenty of pictures of men and women in smart suits so chinos and open-neck shirt wouldn’t work when it comes to an intern’s attire.”

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Rely on your charm and wit to help you get noticed (pic Hawes and Curtis)

He adds: “Lesson three is to have one key piece in your intern wardrobe that says something about your style. Whether it’s a pocket square, a lapel pin, a great pair of cufflinks or a colourful pair of socks, have something up your sleeve that isn’t loud but won’t go unnoticed either.

“Lastly, lesson four is be prepared. If you’re not sure you need a tie, take one in your bag just in case and arrive five minutes early. That way you see everyone else walking in to the office and you’ll have a good idea of whether to wear it or not.”

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Chris says turn up smart

City worker Chris, 32, said: “I think you should always turn up in a suit, because looking smart will help you make a great first impression.”

How to prepare before day one

Remember Will Bower? The Sussex grad who made the David Brent hire me video? We chatted to him about how to get ready before your big day.

He said: “Do research on the company, stalk LinkedIn’s. And try to be the best that you can be on the first day because first impressions really matter.”

Body language expert Judi James says you should be ready for anything, so take a notepad with you.

She said: “It’s a good idea, when people are teaching or telling you how to do something, to write it down in a little notebook so that they know you are not going to keep coming back and asking them again.”

And if you’re paranoid about coworkers finding cringe pics of you online, there are services like SocialSweepsters which can help clean up your social media act for you.

Here’s what they do:

How to introduce yourself

Punctuality and politeness is everything. If you turn up late you’ll have immediately created a rubbish impression of yourself and ruined your chance of exhibiting how great a person you are.

Judi says: “Number one, remember that you might be being judged even when you arrive so what you present at reception is important. Whether you are polite, whether you look positive, be friendly.”

She stresses you should also master your handshaking technique.

“In terms of the handshake, the etiquette rules say the host should initiate the handshake, so if you go into the boss’ office don’t walk up with your hand out, you wait for them to offer to shake hands.

“Make sure you have eye contact as you do it, hold your hand out for a few paces so that they can see what is coming, and then make sure you do a nice, non-sweaty, reasonably firm handshake, and the hand should go up and down around three times.”

Handshake

Offer a firm handshake

How to act on your first day

When you first arrive, Judi says it’s a good idea to do what’s called the “eye connect” where you look around the office with a friendly expression and glance in everybody’s direction.

“When you are listening or people are giving you instructions about the job, you need to use almost 100 per cent eye contact and you also need to do nodding and things like that. Never look distracted on your mobile or anything like that.”

Will Bower recommends: “Get to know the people and open up the relationship initially because you are going to be stuck with these people for a long time, well hopefully, so you need to make friends with them as quick as you can.”

Will Bower

Will Bower is an expert at making friends in the office

Judi James adds the best way to enter a new work environment is to not try too hard.

“Sometimes it’s easy to go around trying to be friendly with everyone, chatting with everybody, joking and things like that but you need to remember that these people have probably been working there for quite some time and they are probably quite busy.

“So the thing to do is show positive body language but don’t be disruptive. You need to be quietly confident, polite with your body language, never acting arrogant, don’t dominate the conversation too much, don’t be too noisy.”

How to fit in: the secrets

Body language pro Amy Cuddy says standing in a “high power pose” for just two minutes can immensely affect your state of mind.

Keep your arms out like Usain Bolt, strike a macho pose and hold it: that’s high power.

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How to power pose

Research shows this pose can affect testosterone (the power hormone) and cortisone (the stress hormone) flowing through your body, which can have a significant impact on how you handle pressure.

Simply performing this pose has been shown to increase your testosterone by 20 per cent and decrease your cortisone levels by 25 per cent, enabling you to show your employers why they should quit and promote you to be the boss right there and then.