Intern tip sheet: What to wear and how to act

Amy Hunter,

WASHINGTON – For the sake of D.C.’s estimated 40,000 interns this summer, WTOP has compiled a tip sheet on what to wear and how to act during professional summer employment.


  • Dress not where you are, but where you want to be, says Sue Rushkowski, human resources director at WTOP. Pick the person you want to be in that organization and follow their style and behavior.
  • Don’t wear shorts or sandals unless your superior does. Look at what other people in the office wear, not what other interns wear. If your superiors wear pantyhose, you should too.
  • When in doubt, ask.
  • As a general rule, cover up. For men, this means pants – not shorts – and closed-toe shoes. No flip-flops or sandals, ever. For women, this means conservative neck lines, closed-toe shoes and skirts that go at least to the knee.
  • If you’re not sure about your skirt length, go with this rule: The higher the skirt, the lower the heel (but no mini-skirts, please.)
  • Get rid of your backpack. Invest in a briefcase.
  • Get rid of all evidence of the night before. No bar stamps on your hand, no ratty hair. If you don’t wash your hair, pull it back.
  • A low ponytail is always acceptable. It should never be higher than the top of your ear.
  • Don’t carry expensive accessories – such as extremely high-end bags. That gives the impression that “daddy” is buying you expensive things and can turn people off, says, a business etiquette website for women.

How to act:

  • Learn everyone’s name, from the president to the security guard. Everyone loves to hear his or her name and it shows you’re engaged and interested, says Patricia Rossi, business etiquette expert.
  • Arrive early and leave late – even if you have nothing to do. Rossi says down time at the office is often the most important time because that’s when you have conversations with colleagues and begin building relationships.
  • Never, ever gossip. Having a reputation as a gossip can tarnish your chances at landing a job, Rossi says. There are three ways to avoid the situation when someone starts gossiping to you. One, change the subject by asking a question. For example, “That’s a beautiful bag, where did you get it?” Two, say directly that you don’t feel comfortable gossiping. Or three, say with a smile that you have enough wrong with yourself to say anything bad about someone else – that’s Rossi’s go-to move.
  • Make eye contact and have a firm handshake.
  • Don’t answer your phone in the office and don’t check it during meetings.
  • Don’t take your shoes off under a meeting desk.

For more business etiquette advice, check out and

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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