Are the terms “dress for success,” and “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” still applicable in a world where CEOs wear hoodies, and company dress codes are increasingly lax?
The work wardrobe topic isn’t written about much anymore, as my Google searches haven’t turned up anything more recent than 2016. But if you ask me, the old adages still apply…and behavioral science agrees.
A summer 2016 article from The Atlantic cites a 2015 paper from the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal which found evidence that individuals who dressed in a formal fashion performed better on cognitive tasks.
In the same year, the WSJ agreed. The paper cited a 2014 study showing that clothes with “high social status” can increase “job performance in ‘high-stakes’ competitive tasks.”
Let’s be clear: neither these paper authors nor I are suggesting you drive to Atlanta and blow your savings on designer clothes before your internship.
Focus on fit, not label. Use your internship to scope out “office style icons” as well as career mentors to set yourself up for serious success come your entrée to full-time work. If your office allows jeans, don’t wear anything that looks like it’s been rescued from the jaws of a grizzly bear (I don’t care how trendy it is). If it looks like something a Kardashian might wear to the club, it’s not appropriate for the office. And no, putting a blazer on does not make that too-short-skirt business professional.
Your internship (and arguably every day of your full-time job) is an interview for the next step. Dress in a way that makes you feel confident, and inspires others to have confidence in you.
Maybe you’ll even consider adopting a sort of “uniform.” There’s a slew of articles about the benefits of a minimalist wardrobe, and tips on how to get there (See NYT, and WSJ).
If you’re feeling ambitious, try to “dress for success” out of the office, too (you never know who you might run into). Think more Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, and less Duck Dynasty or Miley Cyrus.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t judge books by their covers, but we do. So, make your first impression (and every impression after that) the best it can be so your career is the best it can be!