A coaching client recently mentioned that she had been approached by her daughter-in-law for help in preparing her for a new internship with a highly sought-after employer. The company had requested that the intern be fully prepared to take on the role permanently, as they were generally seen as a potential hire. What an opportunity!

With extensive corporate expertise, my client was able to help her daughter -in-law polish her professional image so that she could make the best possible impression on the first day of work.

The following pointers can serve as a guide for any young person entering the job market in an internship or at a new job.

Getting ready for your first day:

  • Shop for clothes with someone you respect who works in a similar environment to your new job.
  • Shop with someone who is tuned into what young people are wearing in your industry this summer. If your placement or new summer job is in academia you might dress quite differently than if it is a corporate job, or a job in retail, hospitality or health care.
  • Shop consignment, Value Village or Goodwill to find some basic clothing pieces that you can mix and match. This goes for both men and women. Select a couple of blazers or suit jackets, a couple pair of slacks, dark and light, and mix and match tops.
  • Iron your clothes.
  • Do not wear T-shirts with writing on the front.
  • Familiarize yourself with the history of the company on the internet, check out LinkedIn profiles of company executives.


Fashion tips for women:

  • Go easy on the makeup, ladies.
  • Do the booby test: when you bend over ensure there is no excessive cleavage and nothing is going to draw undue attention to your chest.
  • Leave the disco shoes at home initially and wear closed-toe shoes. Never wear flip flops, and if you wear sandals make sure your pedicure is impeccable. (Sling backs and open toes are fine but choose a shoe, not beach wear.)
  • Check the length of your skirt by sitting down to see how far up it rides on your thighs. Wear hose as long as you can stand it. Shave your legs.
  • Ladies, keep a suit jacket handy. In some environments, bare arms may only be appropriate at your desk.


Fashion tips for men:

  • Wear a collared shirt at least until you are familiar with the office dress code.
  • Shave, preen, pluck and be spotlessly clean.
  • Eliminate after shave or cologne, as many businesses have a scent free environment.
  • You should probably leave your piercings at home.
  • Hide your tattoos until you are loved for who you are, or until you find out that your boss has them too.


Survive and thrive at your new gig:

  • Learn basic conversational skills. Learn how to ask open ended questions, how to initiate a conversation with a colleague, superior and senior management.
  • Keep abreast of the news and the competition to the company you are working with.
  • Read a business magazine from the front reception room.
  • Begin your first week more conservatively than you might prefer – just to test the waters and get the lay of the land. Ascertain what the work culture is.
  • Plan to go out for lunch the first day so bring lunch money. If you are in a remote location bring some nutrition bars, some fruit or the like in case you are left on your own or you have to work late.
  • Refrain from displaying pictures of your dog, love interest or your car on the first week.
  • This can be a tough one, but turn your personal cell phone off during office hours. Make your calls at breaks or lunch time.
  • Listen carefully, and keep your opinions to yourself until you know the environment well.
  • Find someone in the office you are drawn to who can explain the office politics to you.
  • Get to know peoples’ names and their place on the org chart ASAP. You are going to be introduced to a lot of people on the first day. Focus on remembering who you will be reporting to, their boss and the people with whom you will be working directly.
  • There are no stupid questions, so be intelligently inquisitive.
  • And ‘like’ watch your posture, ‘like’ stand and sit up straight, and ‘like’ monitor your attitude.
  • Oh yeah, get rid of the word “LIKE” when it doesn’t belong in the sentence.
  • Arrive 10 minutes early and plan to leave later than the official quitting time. No one likes a 5PM gate crasher.
  • Make yourself useful. If you find yourself with nothing to do, ask around for something else you can pitch in on. Be strategic, look around and see where you could be useful.
  • Volunteer to help out with planning social activities. This is a great way to get to know people quickly.
  • Don’t waste work time doing personal Internet surfing, social media updating or email checking on the company computer.
  • Never talk about your ‘antics’ of the night before or weekend. Share your interests, not your hangovers.
  • This isn’t college; don’t show up to work hung-over.
  • Smile!

You only have one chance to make a lasting and positive first impression, so make the most of it by being the very best you can be. Good luck out there!


Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate


Author of Networking How to
Build Relationships That Count
, How to Get a Job and Keep

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind