Your public relations or communications internship may be the first time you’ve worked in a professional setting. The rules are different among firms, so you must figure out the appropriate code of conduct—from dress, to culture, to formal company policies and reporting.

Public relations, advertising, and marketing, is all about perception. What you wear determines how others see you and help others determine how you see yourself. And believe it or not, your attire will help determine your career success.

93 percent of public relations managers polled said a person’s style of dress at work influences his or her chances of earning a promotion; among them, 33 percent said on-the-job attire “significantly” affects an employee’s advancement prospects.

This is important for public relations or communications interns hoping to move into a full time job with the internship provider.

There are three levels of business attire: Traditional Business Attire; Business Formal; and Business Casual. First and foremost, ask what the dress expectation is and then look to your mentors and supervisors to set the standard.

A good guideline: follow what your peers wear. Never be the least casual dresser and always dress better at the beginning of your internship until you get an idea of the office climate.

Most firms from Boston to Portsmouth NH to Portland Maine have moved to Business Casual. So what is Business Casual?

The definition varies significantly across companies. The word “business” is still the primary focus. Casual as it relates to apparel merely means “informal”. Being too casual in business can sabotage your career.

While ties are usually not required for men, the range for business casual includes suits worn with dressy sport shirts or dressy collared sport shirts that do not require a tie to khakis, chinos, and knit golf shirts. To command respect, wear all-leather belts and shoes; sandals and sneakers do meet a true business casual standard. It.

Business casual is harder to define for women–tailored separates, such as skirts, slacks, blouses, sweaters, sweater sets, and jackets. A complete accessorized look is encouraged, including closed-toe/closed heel shoes or slingbacks to maximize the businesslike aspect.

Other considerations:

• Think comfort. While you want to look professional, those high heels might have you limping by the end of the day.
• Think about the jewelry you wear –both traditional and non-traditional (body piercings, etc.).
• Tattoos should also be covered up whenever possible.
• Keep in mind hair styles and facial hair in the work place.

So when you start your internship, be sure to inquire about proper dress code.

by Angela Carter