This summer, I took my first foray into the professional world by getting my first technical internship. I was so excited to be learning more about my intended field, networking with a variety of software engineers and executives, and working on a project that helped out my team. But while I was getting ready to start, there was always a lingering question in my mind: what should I wear?
The past few summers, I had been working at restaurants, where the dress code was fairly simple: as long as I was appropriately covered, and wearing the correct colors, I could wear whatever I wanted – representing my style and my personality was never a part of the picture.
After several days of wondering and worrying, I was able to come up with the perfect plan: wearing a “uniform”. With just a handful of work-appropriate tops and bottoms (I decided on dressier black t-shirts and dark-wash jeans), I would be able to take all the stress out of dressing for my internship, and be able to focus on doing my best work.
Now that the summer is over, I’ve compiled a list of reasons why the uniform life worked well for me. If you’re also worrying about how to dress for the workplace, keep reading to see if wearing a uniform might work for you!
I didn’t have to buy a whole wardrobe just for work.
As a college student, I found it difficult to commit to buying a lot of clothes just for this internship. While I would undoubtedly wear whatever I bought once the summer was over, whether for job interviews, or after graduation, both my money and my storage space are at a premium – especially because I had to drive myself and all my belongings to the location of my internship and back. And while I could certainly get use out of a work wardrobe in May, what if my size or my style changed before then?
Instead, I bought a few shirts, one pair of pants, and cycled those in with a bunch of clothes I already owned. Not only was it cheap, it meant I didn’t have to worry about where to store all my clothes in my apartment (which didn’t have a dresser), and I don’t have tons of fussy clothes taking up space in my dorm room.
My morning routine was guesswork-free.
Not only did I not have to worry about buying, storing, or maintaining a work wardrobe before and after my internship, I also did not have to worry about my work wardrobe during my internship.
This streamlined my morning routine, because I was no longer thinking about what I needed to wear to look appropriate for my activities in the day, whether the clothes I wanted to wear were clean, or whether I could put together a good outfit. If I slept through my alarm and was rushing to get to my carpool, I could always count on the clothes I needed for work being clean and ready to wear.
I never had to worry about what to wear.
One of the best reasons to wear a uniform is the reliability. When first entering the professional world, and STEM fields in particular, you have to be able to navigate a variety of new situations – meeting new people, visiting a variety of places, and working in several different environments.
I was able to come up with a uniform that was appropriate for a huge variety of contexts, from getting coffee with an executive to walking around campus looking for the surplus area, with minimal tweaking: I could be fairly dressy by switching in dress pants and wearing flats, or I could be fairly casual by wearing medium-wash jeans and black running sneakers.
Either way, I was comfortable and prepared, and didn’t have to think about whether or not my clothes were going to set me apart in an unfamiliar situation.
What do you think?
How did you navigate the challenges of dressing professionally while still being a student? Would you consider wearing a “uniform” at your next job or internship? What types of environments do you have to dress for in your workplace?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!