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When can a youthful appearance work against you? Other threads have mentioned weight and hair coloring...but what about the reverse.

When I interviewed once for an executive position in a large IT operation the room was filled with hoary headed men and women...who looked at me and my resume and seemed shocked. (Full head of hair and virtually no gray)

The very tenor of the interview left me feeling they could not believe the person with the years of experience was the same person sitting in the room.

dhkramer's picture

A youthful appearance is definitely a disadvantage, at least until your 40s.

Grey hair means wisdom in most eyes.

That's one reason women hit a glass ceiling; they tend to color their hair, get facials, etc.

jhack's picture

[quote="dhkramer"]That's one reason women hit a glass ceiling; they tend to color their hair, get facials, etc.[/quote]
Huh?

John

Dani Martin's picture

Hausmann -- Like you, I have a youthful appearance (I am almost 35 and was recently asked what college I attend!). I'm also woman who highlights my hair and gets an occasional facial. And yet I've managed to get promoted to my current level as a senior exec... no glass ceiling in sight yet. (Sorry, Kramer, I couldn't resist! :twisted: )

My advice is to focus on what you have control over. You can't control that some folks are going to base their opinions/decisions on such things. However, recognizing that this might be a liability in some cases, you can be sure all your other ducks are in a row. For example, knowing that I look younger than my years, I make sure that I dress professionally, especially when I'm around more senior folks. For me, that means wearing a suit and a higher heel than usual, since I'm also slightly on the short side. I also try to use a bit more formal speaking tone than I do when I'm around my peers or those who know my age. And I avoid bringing up pop culture subjects in conversation. Instead I have a few more "serious" topics I can speak to. For example: "How about that article in last week's WSJ about..." vs. "Did you see Britney Spears on the VMA's last night? Oh my gosh..."

And when you get turned down for a job because you look younger, you can come work for me! I don't care how old you are as long as you get results! :D

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="Dani ACS"] "How about that article in last week's WSJ about..." vs. "Did you see Britney Spears on the VMA's last night? Oh my gosh..."

And when you get turned down for a job because you look younger, you can come work for me! I don't care how old you are as long as you get results! :D[/quote]

Thanks! I am far more likely to make a Nixon/Ford/Carter reference than I am a Britney comment! :-) The nature of my position is such that a sport coat and no tie is about as casual as I can dress in the workplace.

I have started asking to have my hair cut shorter and thinned out. There are other forum posts related to grooming and clothing. Dani, you are right: pay attention to attire and tone.

tlhausmann

dhkramer's picture

[quote="Dani ACS"]... And yet I've managed to get promoted to my current level as a senior exec... no glass ceiling in sight yet. (Sorry, Kramer, I couldn't resist! :twisted: )
[/quote]

Glad to hear it!

You may not be a large enough sample to be statistically valid, however.

Mark's picture

I originally wasn't going to post to this one, because the main point had been made: stop worrying about this.

But dhkramer, you're just completely and utterly dead wrong. Women don't reach a glass ceiling because of " insert those silly things you said which I won't repeat here". They reach a glass ceiling because the men in power fail to realize their value, in part due to bias and in part due to cultural norms that favor men, whether those norms are intentional or not.

If you said that in a staff meeting of mine, and you worked for me, you'd get some pretty quick feedback.

Mark

dhkramer's picture

I'm surprised by your strong reaction.

I agree, the main problem is essentially narcissism; people tend to unconsciously favor those like themselves. If we can admit that, then we can start to move beyond it.

That said, a youthful appearance is, in my opinion, a disadvantage in your mid-career. One of the cultural norms that favors men is that men are traditionally accepted with gray hair and a few extra pounds, which helps them appear distinguished and experienced. I'm not a woman, but I suspect they have different experiences.

Until we recognize a problem, we can't fix it.

And I probably would not bring this up in a staff meeting. A business meeting is not a message board,

That said, it is your message board. If you consider my opinions on this issue to be offensive, I will apologize and go back to lurking.

d

Mark's picture

DHKramer-

Thanks for your reply. I'm glad you're here.

I do feel your comment was offensive, though unintentionally. I base this on three female members having pm'd me in the past 24 hours saying they would never want to work for someone who held that belief. It says something that one of the comments asked me to say something, because they're not sure that you could hear it coming from a woman.

I think the core issue is that discrimination against women is a well established fact, as is discrimination against non-white minorities. The idea that the glass ceiling exists because of women's personal grooming habits is akin to saying African Americans make it harder on themselves because they wear hair styled as an afro.

The elephant probably didn't die from a hangnail, even if an autopsy showed that he had one when he died.

I can't imagine that you expected the response I heard, so I'll leave it to you. I hope you'll stay - I have said some things here that I've regretted, and I'm still around. When we misstep, others are generally forgiving.

Mark

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]But dhkramer, you're just completely and utterly dead wrong. Women don't reach a glass ceiling because of " insert those silly things you said which I won't repeat here". They reach a glass ceiling because the men in power fail to realize their value, in part due to bias and in part due to cultural norms that favor men, whether those norms are intentional or not.[/quote]

There's an article in the current issue of Harvard Business Review on the barriers women face getting access to leadership roles: [url=http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/hbsp/hbr/articles/article.... and the Labyrinth of Leadership[/url]. The authors indicate that the concept of the glass ceiling is outdated and inaccurate, it's more like a series of many barriers that need to be overcome at throughout a woman's career rather than just one at the higher levels.

Stephen
[/url]

wendii's picture

DHKramer,

I'm going to go against the grain here. I didn't reply to your original message because I thought.. that's silly and doesn't merit a response.

But. As a woman who wants more than she has in terms of career, I'm glad you said what my male colleagues may be thinking. I'm regularly taken for 10 years younger than I am, and though it may be offensive to me, I'm glad I now know that that might be what people (men) are thinking when I present, or am in a meeting with them.

Knowledge is power, and I'm grateful for the knowledge.

thanks
Wendii

James Gutherson's picture

I took what DHKramer said as - *one* reason women find difficulty in career progression is the dichotomy between the desirable image of women pushed by media and advertising (young and pretty) and as tlhausmann alluded to at the start, the idea that senior positions require someone with 'life experience' (i.e. an older person). So women try to look younger to fit societies expectations (witness the cosmetic industry), while to fit a perceived image of an executive they need to look older.

So if tlhaussman's proposal is true that a youthfull appearance is a disadvantage, then women would feel it more as there is greater pressure on them to maintain a youthfull appearance than men.

Of course I am coming from a male POV and I have been accused on these boards of lacking sensitivity before :oops:

asteriskrntt1's picture

I am male and I too get the younger than you look thing.

I think being a white educated male with shock orange hair and a portly build, I am discriminated against too. Almost everyone seems to be discriminated against in some way.

I also think that when a recruiter looks at my resume and see serious experience and education, then looks at me... they start to go HUH? How does this younger person have this stuff. And once they can't reconcile the two, they don't trust me anymore and I am toast.

dhkramer's picture

Thank you, Mark, for the feedback.

I am very sorry to have offended. I need to spend some time thinking about my communications; whatever I meant to say, it turned out to be hurtful.

I'll just say that I was not endorsing the behavior, just trying to point it out.

Thanks, Wendii and Jim for trying to translate my raving.

I'll shut up now.

d

asteriskrntt1's picture

DH,

I wouldn't shut up now. We like diverse viewpoints on here. You may have hit a bump. Big deal. It was dealt with and you now have a new experience to draw upon. I am pretty sure I have said some "galactically stupid" things on here and no one called me on them. (and to clarify, I am not saying what you said is galactically stupid, I am just empathizing)

I would rather have some learning experiences on this forum than in a staff meeting or in a presentation to an executive committee. It is all about the learning and growing and becoming more professional. Unfortunately, that often comes from a negative experience like this, so it is time for you to take your lemons and make some lemonade.

Personally, if what you said offended me or I was not clear about what you said, I would have messaged you directly and asked for clarification. If after the clarification, I still had a problem, I would try to implement one of the valuable tools I have learned via Manager Tools - in this case, trying to follow the rules of the feedback model, peer version.

*RNTT

ccleveland's picture

Behavior 1: People make choices about their appearance. It could be hair, clothes, make-up, or pastic surgery.

Behavior 2: People make employment and advancement decisions based on someone else's appearance. It happens! Mark talks about it in the Interview podcasts with a whole podcast dedicated to it.

Two parallel approaches to these behaviors:

Women or men can choose to change their behaviors related to their appearance if they feel it is an important and effective means of helping their career. Whether it’s wearing a nice suit or “going gray”, those choices are individual choices. This is not about blame. An individual can choose to wear a suit, loose weight, change their hair, etc. and increase their chances during an interview. They cannot change their race, their gender, or their age, etc. The problem is that all types of discrimination still exist…

Second, and more importantly, “Behavior 2” is a social problem that we need to bring forward and solve. Discrimination based on individual relationships (or lack thereof) is a bigger problem than the more “blatant” discrimination referred to by DHKramer. People tend to socialize with others that are like them—either racially, by age group, etc.

Mark and other career advisors stress the importance of relationships and one’s network is critical to finding a job and filling roles in one’s organizations. When one’s family and social network are of the same social group, the employment opportunities are filled by those in the same group. As I am of mixed race (black/white) and look like a third (hispanic), I have seen the tendency of individuals in these social groups to self-isolate.

I can certainly see how age based discrimination of this type would occur as well. Most people of my social network are married with children because that’s who I see at kid's sports, cub scouts, school open houses, etc. I expect this can be another form of isolationism.

If a hiring manager's network contains 80% of people that are just like him, then he will have a higher chance of finding a the best candidate in the group that is like him. Look at your organization's org charts, and you'll see. Appearance and age are an extension of this.

The point of this LONG post is that people do discriminate based on appearance. I am making an assumption that this type of discrimination generally bad. Instead of going on for quite a while about the value of diversity, I’ll end with a point Mark has said several times, “The only way to change a culture is change behavior.”

CC

dhkramer's picture

< I'm shutting up on this issue only, not leaving the forum. I've got to work on being clearer >