Dressing Professionally as a Broke College Kid

The very first day of my summer internship I walked in sweating through my fresh-off-the-rack blazer, determined to network, improve my portfolio, and make my unforgettable introduction into the professional world. My reality check came pretty quickly.

The first day is all about introductions, and as my boss was showing me around, introducing me to everyone in the neighboring cubicles, we run into – who else – the resident office grouch. Without so much as a hello, he demands “so when do you graduate high school?” Being my pseudo-professional self I laugh way too loud and trip over my words in explaining that in fact I already have, while at the same time trying not to sound defensive and also attempting to be incredibly witty. Needless to say, I wasn’t so successful. He replied “you look fourteen” and walked away. For the rest of the day, that happens to be the anecdote my boss uses to introduce me to everyone. My first impression didn’t turn out to be just as memorable as I had hoped.
Now, armed with the knowledge that I am little more than an adolescent when it comes to the workplace, I’ve come up with a few ways to be taken seriously – even as the intern.


I know forever 21 does not bring to mind the epitome of  class, but it doesn’t mean you should rule it out for some cheap dresses that can look mighty professional with a quick blazer thrown over them. In fact- there have been days when my entire work outfit was basically a promotion for forever 21 office attire.


You don’t have to sacrifice your style when you work in an office. Come up with one or two outfit formulas and work from there- get some cute, playful blouses that will work with your one pair of business slacks, for example. Or find a blazer that works with everything that nobody will notice if you wear every day – as long as you don’t cover it with coffee stains (guilty).


A cute pair of shoes – not too high, mind you – will be your best friend in defining your style even as the youngest person in the office.

The most important component of any look is not anything you can buy off the rack. To make a good impression, the key is to be comfortable in your own skin, and to know that you have all that you need to be successful, with or without the proper wardrobe.

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