How far would you go to seem younger on the job?

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Question: “Someone in my office is considering having a little minor cosmetic surgery done—solely because, she says, she thinks there’s a little age discrimination always going on among co-workers, not just in hiring. She made such good points that I’m at least thinking of dressing ‘younger’ and getting my hair dyed. Am I going too far to fight ageism? (And would I actually be part of the problem at that point?)” – Penny, Facilities Planner

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara April 18, 2013 at 7:39 pm

The most important thing for you to do is to look professional. I’m still working at 70-plus. I look considerably younger because I’m not grossly overweight, I wear updated classic clothes, I wear makeup, my hair is highlighted. I deal with the public every day and I have to look good.

I think that you should get hair and makeup consult at some upscale salon – you don’t have to buy much and you will get an idea of what you can duplicate less expensively. Ditto for clothes – many stores have personal shoppers. Dress attractively – not like the 20-year-olds.

I wouldn’t go for cosmetic surgery – face lift – but you might consider having minor stuff – Botox, restylane- however, they can be expensive and not permanent.

If you have a positive attitude you will automatically look and feel younger.

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g April 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Do want you need to do for you! I’m in my 30s and dye my hair because I don’t want to see gray yet. I’ve always been up on fashion but I don’t have a degree so I think that’s what hurts me currently in my job.
As for age issues it’s out there along with favortism. I’ve seen people get jobs that require degrees and they don’t have one. I’ve seen people get jobs because they are younger but don’t have enough experience.
I really think it depends on the company and who is hiring.
Good Luck!

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Lisa Atzmon March 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm

It is very hard, specialy in NY City

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Laurie March 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm

JoAnn:
Lawsuits? How do you sue a company if you do not get the job and you think it has something to do with age? How do you proof that?

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Michelle March 25, 2013 at 5:11 pm

When I was first hired at my current position (6 yrs ago) as an executive assistant, part of my responsibilities were to involve our company in area events. Within 9 months, a former employee in her 20′s was re-hired and not long after was given this part of my job in order to have “a youthful appearance” of our company within the community. I had just turned 40. Talk about deflated and confidence-BUSTER. I dressed polished, conservative, kept my hair colored with a natural-looking color and this is what I faced. To this day, the “20-something” dresses unprofessional & provocatively showing way-too-much cleavage and wearing short skirts among other things. What I realized is that I am the one that has to look in my mirror each day and feel good about who is looking back. Ageism (among other things) exists in the work place; you cannot dress up or down or dye your birthdate. If a boss wants a “youthful appearance”, he/she will find a way. Do what feels right for you. Good Luck.

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JoAnn Paules March 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

I’ve seen the same thing. I stopped hiding my gray hair and had trouble getting hired. I dyed it and got the next job I interviewed for. Coincidence or results? Don’t know. I do think it can make a difference on an interview but you already have a job.

My advice is dye your hair if you really want to. Dress appropriately. Knock their socks off with your skills. If they don’t want someone because of their age, they will have to come up with another reason if they want to avoid lawsuits.

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DeeCee March 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Don’t be afraid to dye your hair. People of every age dye their hair. It is such a non-issue, and you don’t owe anyone any explanations. But it would have to be your choice, and should be something that looks nice on you. I have been coloring my hair for a long time. Gray is just not me. But I use a color compatible to my natural (pre-gray) color. The bigger issue here is – not looking “old”! You can look old and tired even when you are not old. You can look young and vibrant, even when you are not young. Just try to look sharp, professional, and the best you can. If you combine 1) looking sharp/professional, 2) great attitude, and 3) doing good work, age shouldn’t be an issue.

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Carol March 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I think appearance is very important, but I try to look nice and younger for myself, and I believe that is how it should be. I am 56 but have been told that I look like I am in my late 30′s to early 40′s. I take care of my skin, my hair, my nails and my body and buy clothing that is age appropriate for me, but match my personality, and I try everything on before I buy it. Since I have an outgoing personality I buy vibrant colors that compliment my skin tone. I have been told more than once that a person remembered me because of what I was wearing at the time, of course these items were suits. I guess my point is that if you are willing to make some changes to your appearance make sure they are for you and not because you are trying to fit in or are afraid of lossing your job, or course that is an incentive. Also, alway, always look for professional help for your hair, skin and makeup, try on everything before you buy anything and consider a tailor if something doesn’t fit quite right. If you are still unsure of what type of clothing to buy, then watch the TV program “What Not To Wear” on TLC. You can get great advice from professional stylists.

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Jayne March 22, 2013 at 10:44 am

Tracy is right, they know your age so if they make decisions based on that, there is nothing you can do. But the others are correct as well. Age is an attitude. There is much you can do to make others not see your age other than cosmetic surgery. Look in the mirror. If you see an old person, others will also. If you don’t already, start exercising and eating right. It helps your attitude as well as your figure. Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and exude confidence in your walk and talk. Smile and be friendly. Be indispensible by keeping your skills up to date. There is also nothing wrong with changing your hair and clothes. But don’t start dressing like a 20-year old. That would make you look pathetic. No thigh high skirts, skin tight pants or plunging necklines. Skirts cut at the knee, tailored jackets, nice slacks and nice shoes. Nothing clumpy or dumpy. Find a salon that will take time and give you a recommendation on what you can do with your hair and makeup. You might not need to dye your hair. Maybe a new haircut will do the trick. Or maybe some subtle highlights. Maybe some new makeup to play up your features, not cover them up. Never wear so much makeup that it looks like the Avon lady blew up in your face. Be the best you that you can be. You can’t change your age, but you can change the perception of your age.

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Mark March 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I don’t think you are going too far at all. Age discrimination, whether overt or sub-conscious, is usually based more on what someone’s age appears to be, rather than someone looking up your age for the actual date. I have pictures of my dad, taken when he was a few years younger than I am now, in which he looks 15 years older than I am now. I’m sure raising 8 kids was a part of it, but his head of 100% gray hair is the primary reason why he looked 65 when he wasn’t even yet 50. When I had relatively few gray hairs, I started plucking them. When they were too numerous, I started using Just For Men. It’s been at least a decade that I’ve been using hair dye, and I have no regrets. Not many people guess me for being the age that I am, largely because my hair is still dark brown (or so they think!)

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Julie March 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I think there are two issues to look at here; someone looking for a NEW job and someone in a current job.

As someone pushing 60 possibly havint to look for a new job I’m going to do everything I can to look as young as I can. My resume speaks for my skills & experience.

For someone remaining on an existing job, staying current with your wardrobe and skills certainly can’t hurt but I wouldn’t be as concerned as I would looking for a new job.

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Lynea March 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

There is much to be desired at a work place that is putting value on age vs. performance (personally I would consider looking for another job). With that said, getting back to the question, Updating your wardrobe is a necessity when you are in a service or client driven work environment. There are simple ways to do this. One. Purchase (from here on out) pieces that will all go together, black, whites, greys, red, not too trendy stick with slacks, skirts, capri slacks, woven shirts, and cardigans. A busy tank under a solid cardigan (unbuttoned) with a skirt is very simple and will look great for any age. (Remeber not to wear tights/nylons with open toed shoes!!!) Professional will never go out of style especially in basic colors. Two. Get jazzed by the accessories you wear, a funky/colorful necklace with a black top and grey slacks will look like you tried when you really didn’t. Be careful not to outdo yourself. Your accessories should look like distant cousins to one another, not so matchy-matchy and not so unrelated, which can also ruin a perfectly great outfit. I always check the clearance table at any store I go to, because buying at regular price can get spendy Three. DYE YOR HAIR! This is a definite yes, you will also appreciate the self confidence you gain:) Unless you have a edgy hair style then grey looks great.

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Lisa March 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm

@Evelyn/Mona, who would wear pajama jeans to work, much less buy them?!

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Mona March 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Penny, as being a facilities planner, I’m sure that you have to be meeting with clients and/or people in your company on a daily basis. You should be worrying about looking old, you should be concentrating on looking professional. Getting back to your question… Dyeing your hair and dressing younger seems appropriate, no one wants to see a gray-haired lady with polyester pants walking around. As for clothes, throw away the pajama jeans and put on a pair of lined black pants.

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Carole March 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Penny,

Professionalism is what you want to focus on. Try to have your wardrobe to current styles. I agree with the other statements, if you try to dress too young it’s going to make you look rediculous. Hair color is a give and take. Depending on the style you can leave it gray. Again huge changes might make others not take you seriously.

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Marie March 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I don’t think there is anything wrong with coloring your hair – if you want to, or updating your wardrobe – if you want to. Classic professional appearance is the way to go – always. Don’t try to be something/someone that you are not.

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Lisa Atzmon April 1, 2013 at 9:24 am

Love what you said, And you are very right.

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Patti March 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

There’s nothing wrong with updating your wardrobe to be more in style, but you’re only going to look ridiculous if you dress in the styles the “20-somethings” are wearing. You can look sharp and professional in age appropriate clothing without looking “dowdy”. As for dying your hair, there’s nothing wrong with dying it because you want it a different color or to color the grey, but someone who is gray and suddenly shows up with dark hair, well it’s going to be obvious to those who knew you “before” that you’ve changed it. You can only fight aging so far without looking fake or obviously surgically enhanced. Your life experience can be very valuable – don’t make it all about looks!

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Joyce March 21, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I think that, in certain administrative positions, being a bit more “mature” can actually benefit. If you keep your skills up to date, the level of experience that you bring to supporting a senior executive is highly valued.

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Evelyn March 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Penny, as being a facilities planner, I’m sure that you have to be meeting with clients and/or people in your company on a daily basis. You should be worrying about looking old, you should be concentrating on looking professional. Getting back to your question… Dyeing your hair and dressing younger seems appropriate, no one wants to see a gray-haired lady with polyester pants walking around. As for clothes, throw away the pajama jeans and put on a pair of lined black pants.

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Tracy March 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

If someone really wants to fire you based on your age, they’re not going to look at YOU… they’re going to look at the date of birth in your records. I really don’t think dyeing your hair and dressing differently would keep someone from getting rid of a person based on their age.

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