Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Dressing for work experience on a budget

Last year, I was lucky enough to apply for work experience at a newspaper and get a response saying: “Sure, we’ve just had a cancellation. Can you start tomorrow?” Whilst being over the moon, I couldn’t help but panic. I’d never done any work experience before and it had been three years since Sixth Form – when I’d last had to dress ‘smart casual’.

This was nearing the end of Term 3, I’d spent a lot of my student loan on tea during long hours in the library and the last thing I wanted to do was blow my summer budget on a whole new wardrobe for work experience. However, looking at my wardrobe, none of my clothes were suitable for the work place – most were far too casual, too faded or too short.

Buying cheap clothing is not the best, and you should try to be sustainable where possible

Firstly, make sure you check what the dress code is for where you will be working – if you’re required to wear trousers, don’t buy skirts and if they’re asking you to wear a suit, wear a suit. For me, they said the dress code was “very relaxed”, but I still wanted to make sure I was appropriately dressed to make a good impression. The worst thing would be taking “very relaxed” too far and showing up in jeans when that’s not what they meant. I decided to opt for smarter clothes for this reason and also because I knew that I’d be able to wear them to any other placements and to an eventual job.

Obviously when shopping on a budget it is important to remain mindful of the environment. Buying cheap clothing is not the best, and you should try to be sustainable where possible. If you can, investing in some high quality and environmentally friendly clothes to wear for all your work experience placements will ensure you only have to buy one set of clothes which you can wear for any placements you have. They won’t go to waste either – one day you will get a job where you’ll be required to dress like that every single day.

The cheapest way to dress for work experience is to buy one pair of trousers and a range of blouses (or shirts). However, for me, this was too boring and I’m far too clumsy to not drop my lunch on the trousers.

As long as you look smart and are comfortable, that’s all that matters

With my work experience placement was in June, I bought one summer dress, two skirts and two pairs of trousers, with accompanying tops – all from either Primark or New Look. Whilst it was not the most sustainable way of buying clothing, I made sure that I didn’t wear them for anything other than work experience, meaning that these clothes have seen me through various placements and I haven’t had to buy any more.

I made sure that my outfit on the first day was the smartest as this would be the one to make the impression – it was a pair of black trousers with a navy and yellow striped blouse. For the Tuesday, I wore a stone-coloured suede-feel skirt with a yellow flowery top and Wednesday was the blue and pink flowered summer dress. For Thursday, there was a green floral skirt and a white top and Friday a pair of red flowered culottes and a black top.

The most important thing about dressing for work experience on a budget is ensuring that it is something you can wear for multiple placements. From my experience of journalism placements, they don’t expect you to wear a full-suit or anything too expensive and you can get away with dressing on a budget. As long as you look smart and are comfortable, that’s all that matters.


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