Business Casual – What does it mean?

Posted on July 17, 2012. Filed under: Career, Confidence, Internship, Jobs, Professionalism | Tags: , , , |

business-casual%20WomenIn Dr. Joel Clark’s book, Intern to Success, he advises that, “Punctuality and appearance are crucial to making good first impressions.”  We all know that those first 10 seconds make a lasting impression – good or bad.  What you may not realize is that you will have plenty of opportunity to impress people outside of the office setting  before you even arrive at your internship.

Networking possibilities present themselves at your program orientation sessions, intern workshops, class seminars and welcome receptions, and even at your parent’s house! You are being evaluated at these events.  It may not be an official or formal interview, but connected people are gathering crucial information about who you are, initially based on your appearance. The impression you leave has the potential to impact your career options.

“Business Casual” is a good starting point for interns.  Unfortunately, there are many opinions regarding what fits into this category.  To prepare you for your internship experience, I recommend that you follow these basic guidelines.

Business Casual for MEN:

  • Business or Sports jacket is suggested
  • Styled, solid-colored pants
  • Long-sleeved, solid or striped shirt
  • Tie is not necessary, but suggested
  • Dark socks
  • Matching belt and shoes

Business Casual for WOMEN:

  • Business skirt or pants
  • Conservative blouse or sweater
  • Blazer or cardigan is suggested
  • Closed-toed heels
  • Neutral hosiery
  • Understated accessories

Business Casual is NOT:

  • Jeans, cargo pants, shorts, or low rise pants exposing bare skin
  • Tight or short skirts
  • T-shirts, sweatshirts, revealing or low cut tops
  • Tennis shoes, flip-flops or shower shoes
  • Baseball caps worn indoors
  • Anything too trendy or flashy
  • Large pieces of jewelry
  • Facial piercings
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2 Responses to “Business Casual – What does it mean?”

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You’ve done a great service here – the whole topic of business casual is highly confusing, even for experienced people.

We do find different professions have different definitions, just to add to the confusion. In engineering and IT circles, khaki pants and polo shirts are almost a uniform. Still, they must be neat and pressed. The shirt collars should not be faded or snagged.

In some overseas circles ‘business casual’ is referred to as ‘smart casual’ and that’s a good way to look at it. You’d better be looking ‘smart’ and like you’re worth a sizable salary.

Thanks for a great post. We’re going to share this one around.

Yes, this is a tricky area and very dependent on the industry. However, for most interns, this should apply. “Smart casual’ is really a better term because it is descriptive. I like it!


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