Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The long and short of it all

Getting a drastically new haircut has got me thinking this week about hairstyles and the office. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on my new hair from my coworkers, especially those in management levels above me.  Several of my coworkers have said that the haircut makes me look more mature, or more professional, or just older.

Now, I'm definitely not in the "long hair = young/shorter hair = older" camp but I can't help but get the feeling that a lot of people are, whether it's intentional or not.  Age is often a touchy subject in the workplace, and as disappointing as it is, can work either for you or against you.  

I'm interesting in seeing how this perceived maturity plays out in the long term (or if it does at all).  I've definitely gotten some slack at work for my age--some jokingly, some not (no one really know how young I was until I turned 26 last year and since then I've had to work just that much harder to prove myself), so I wonder if this will change things.  But that's a topic to revisit later on when there are some results.

I'm all for changing my hair frequently, but there are certain folks that have found their style and stick to it (hey, when it works, it works).  To each their own.  Here is a sampling of the hair styles I've worn to work just in the past eight months since I've had this blog (the ones I got pics of, at least).

Early 2010: shoulder length angled cut

Same cut curled with bangs pulled back

Low ponytail with hair wrapped around the elastic.

Grown out angled cut

Low bun, bangs pulled back (btw, I did not wear this dress to work, but I have worn this hairstyle to work)

Longer hair, bangs


Looking back, I definitely liked my early-2010 angled cut the best--in fact, I nearly went back to that this time, but thought I'd try something different.  Although I'm liking my hair now (it's only been four days), I just don't really see myself as a long-term short-hair girl.

Do you feel your age (or perceived age) has worked for or against you in your career? What do you think fuels these perceptions?


  1. Everybody always thinks I'm older than I am. They are shocked whenever they find out how young I really am. I am constantly hearing that I carry myself and act more mature than most my age. After the cat is out of the bag it has never affected my work situation. If anything I usually get more respect for pulling everything off so well.
    No Guilt Fashion

  2. @noguiltfashion - That's awesome! I think that's how it started for me the first day they found out ( she's done so much but she's so young) but there have been a few times since then where it's like "well, she's done x, y, and z and done them all exceptionally, but she's only 26." I think some people find it a little intimidating that I'm so young, have a master's degree, am a manager, and am good at what I do.

  3. i think your bang-less styles make you appear more mature. although all look great!

    digging your current cut, since it's very similar to mine. :) i like the versatility of the length, to style or not.

    i feel like colleagues and acquaintances prefer me with long hair, but strangers are attracted to shorter hair. it's a strange situation to be in. friends say length implies immaturity (young girls with long locks), and strangers perceive a short chop as very mature.

  4. i love your new haircut.

    I have natural hair (african american) which some people often view as unprofessional....but thats a whole different story. anyway i don't buy into the long/short old/young thing. It's all in how they present themselves.

    My latest post: Print mixing

  5. my perceived age has worked against me. a coworker my age but balding, says his perceived hair works for him. People feel he is a lot older and trust his judgement a lot more.

    I think it's more perceived years of experience because there are unwritten rules that you have to have x years of experience before a promotion and y years before another promotion.

  6. @ annie - Step says her cut is similar too--apparently we are of one mind even when we are far apart.

    @ L - I agree with you. I think your natural hair is gorgeous! Way to flaunt it.

    @ colleen - Yeah, those unwritten rules. If only they were applied with consistency. There are several directors at my work that were hired when they were my age or younger (no MA but instead 1-2 more years of exp at the time). Unfortunately sometimes it's who you know, not what you know or what you've done.

  7. I like your new hair style, I've been thinking of cutting mine short too. Honestly, I was thinking of cutting my admittedly long (middle of my back) hair because people say it makes me look so young! But I'm also short and very petite, so there isn't much I can do to make people not think I'm a high school student, not a college grad.

  8. my perceived age has usually worked against me (someone guessed i was 21 even after i warned them that i looked way younger [i'm 27]). looking so young means people don't think i have the experience or maturity level to handle big projects. it's not a big deal tho, just do your job well and eventually people will learn to trust you.

    angel - i like your first cut too. slightly longer hair provides versatility that short hair can't afford, but only if you're willing to style it. that's why i like either short hair or long hair on me, i'm too lazy to dress up medium length hair.

  9. @ ksbooks - Yeah, it's hard to say what it is and how much hair plays a part. I wouldn't cut your hair unless you really want to. My hair stylist said usually she advises her clients to think long and hard about it before a cut (but she's my friend and knew I'd be okay even though I just got the yearning for short hair the night before).

    @ neurp - It's definitely possible to break out of the perception early--I flew under the radar for two years as just another hardworking employee before people figured out my age, so there was a good foundation of trust there already. I think it still threw some people for a loop, though, but they're in the minority.

  10. I love the new cut! But I also agree that the mid-length choppy cut was really nice on you. My hair tends to be more "young" looking and honestly probably the number 1 reason that people remember that I'm only 28. I say ONLY 28 because I work in academia and so there's a LOT of older people, and generally in academia older = more wise. I don't want to look too old, however, and am actually enjoying this age because people expect me to be a lot less skilled than I am! I suppose I try to look older with my clothing, more so than my age (other people my age dress much more casual to the office).

  11. Thanks Sara! I think your perspective is a good way to look at it--the younger they think you are the more opportunities you have to wow them!

  12. Great post! I DO feel my age (and possibly my atypical, very long hair) have affected my career. I've lost management jobs to older women (with short hair) a couple of times, despite the fact that I knew the hiring managers, I have an excellent reputation in my field and a Master's degree, and some experience managing a team of writers. I think because I'm a creative in a corporate environment, it does work against me to some degree. But I have to be me, and there's no way in hell I'm cutting my hair. So I'll get there when the time...and manager...are right.

    ♥ V
    twitter: @gritandglamour

  13. @ V - Yes! That is exactly how I feel! I didn't really think about perception when I decided to cut my hair (it was a pretty spur of the moment decision), but I do plan on growing it back out--I'm just more of a long-hair or medium-length hair kind of gal. I think your hair is beautiful!

  14. I feel much more comfortable in short or shoulder-lenght hair but I am trying to keep my hair long for a while, I am already going crazy over how ofter my hair falls in my face!

  15. Hi Sofie - How funny--I feel the same about short hair! With long hair I often pull it back. :)

  16. You look great in all your hair cuts. But yeah, I see you in the mid-length hair. I love short hair because I am lazy and cheap. I cut it myself, and the 'grrl crew" is the only cut I can do. But I like the versatility of medium length hair; there is so much more you can do with it. But you mixed it up, cut it short and you look real sassy.

  17. PS: totally impressed you're only 26 and already have your masters.

  18. Oh, you have beautiful hair, and look so chic! I have really long hair, which is often commented on (not in a negative way) in my office. I'm thinking of taking the plunge and going quite short at the moment though. There's something about the working world that causes short, sharp hair to have a strange siren call for me... My long, slightly hippy hair, seems so studenty!

  19. People were always very surprised to find out my age, but I don't think it ever impacted my job. I was a section editor of a daily newspaper at age 22 and would still be doing that if the paper hadn't closed. Since then I've been in and out of newsrooms trying to find myself... which is fine, because i'm only 25 and I have time :)
    Also, how is your stylist, she sounds wonderful and I'm looking for someone.

  20. @ citizen rosebud - I love your hair! I can't believe you cut it yourself.

    @ cassiopeia - Thank you! Try it--you never know until you try, and hair always grows out :)

    @ forevermelody - I'm surprised at your age! It's funny because I feel so young at work, but then outside of work I know so many people that are younger than me and just rocking the world! I love my stylist (disclaimer: she was my friend before she was my stylist)...I'll DM you her info on FB.

  21. I desperately need help figuring out what to do with my hair. It's knee-length but I'm wanting to cut some new bangs. My current ones are past my shoulders... Stylists keep messing up and giving me the wrong bangs though even when I bring in a photo so I'm not sure what to do there either.

    I'll be graduating in May with a masters to become a digital librarian. So, I'm dying to get out of the stereotypical librarian mold but I don't want to chop all my hair off either. So right now I usually wear it in a basic bun and when I have time, I go for a chignon.

    Blargh! I just want bangs that make me look professional, mature, and cover up this high forehead!

  22. @ amanda - Bangs are tough! I'm not quite sure I've found the best ones for my face yet either. Maybe some face-framing layers or long side bangs?

  23. I was told when I got a haircut last year that I looked "more professional." I think because I have curly hair, there's a perception of looking younger and less polished anyway.

  24. @ ms. ten - I think curly hair is so pretty--I wish I had some curl to my hair. It seems length is a big determinant of "professionalism."

  25. You look great in the top two photos! Also, besides the hair style changes... in some of the photos you look 10 pounds lighter...This might have something to do with your age-image too...

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