As many IBC-goers know, externships are a great way to learn more about a career and network with established individuals in the field. Shorter than internships, externships provide just a snapshot of a career—no more and no less. Depending on the length of an externship, an extern can spend from an hour to a few weeks at a company. Of course, many of the career-related benefits associated with these learning and networking sessions are clear.
But there’s another reason to look into externships: shoes. Figuring out what shoes to wear in a given office setting isn’t always easy, as I discovered during a week-long externship this past winter. IBC 2012 had a session dedicated to what defines appropriate clothes for the work-place, and after my experience this winter I could not agree more as to the importance of attire education for young women in business.
Without Giselle-esque legs, at 5’2 for me heels are a must. As we all know given traditional corporate culture, it’s tough to go wrong with the not-too-high black pumps. Day 1, I wore exactly those. The classic black heel is a critical staple to any wardrobe, and the pair I wore has got me through many events.
But those black heels aren’t equipped for keeping up on a derivatives trading floor. The shoes that are great for any interview, lunch meeting, or information session failed me when it came to bustling around on the trade floor, touring other parts of the building, and most embarrassingly simply keeping up in terms of walking pace.
Despite the blistered heels I chose to soldier through, I just could not keep up with those around me. My host was male, as was most of his team. No matter how great one can walk in heels, it’s tough to keep up with guys in flat shoes. And in a setting where willingness-to-work and professionalism are key, teetering behind while someone is trying to make an introduction or show you a segment of the office is not ideal.
So while my heels failed me, I knew I couldn’t go to flats. At my height, there’s a confidence associated with heels that I couldn’t give up. The solution: professional, conservative wedges. In wedges I was able to move as comfortably as anyone on the trading floor, without sacrificing the visual and psychological “lift” a snappy pair of shoes can bring.
This post wasn’t intended to retell an isolated incident of wardrobe woes. It’s to highlight that especially as a young woman in the work world, there can be little tips that often go unmentioned, especially with limited access to female corporate leaders. The shoes are just one example; you could find yourself figuring out all too late that the pencil skirt that felt great on in the store translates to discomfort and itchiness throughout the work-day. And the only way to learn what works for you is by trial and error—better now than a twisted ankle on day one of an internship or job.
Learning about what works for you allows you to confidently go into an externship. And especially when the time frame is short, you want to make a great impression early, and explore as much as possible while you’re there. What you wear matters, especially when it affects how you interact with those around you—confidence is key, and it’s hard to be confident when your feet are screaming. If your shoes are keeping you from keeping up in the office, time to look into a new pair!
Here’s a link to a pair of wedges I absolutely love for business settings. They’re comfortable, classic, and serve the same function as the classic black heel without the blisters!