I look young for my age. It seems I always have. Or at least I’ve never managed to look older, no matter how old I actually get. While it’s nice to see that my parent’s advice to respect the sun has paid off (so far), it’s often been difficult for my career.
It’s telling perhaps, that as I sit with new work acquaintances and they ask when I graduated, I have to tell them that not only did I graduate once, but three times from post-secondary institutions. I also had a 7-year career in a corporate environment; I spent two years as an archaeologist (after I graduated with a degree); and a further two years as a teacher (after I graduated with a degree). There were also a couple years in there when I wasn’t working at all, but enjoyed travelling full time. They look at me in amazement, the same comment on all their lips, “But you don’t look that old!” To which I always reply, ‘Thank you!” It’s about all I can do.
For those who have as long as history of experience as I do and still look young, or for those who are genuinely young and a novice at their jobs, here are some tips to help you can combat this ‘problem.’
Play up your youthfulness
It’s possible you got hired because you offer fresh ideas and insights to your position, so play on that. Express new ideas with the preface, ‘From my perspective,’ or, ‘Speaking for my generation.’ It might make your team sit up and listen to your thoughts if they’re incongruent with their own, in a good way.
Address it head on
Speak up early about your experience, but not your age, and then let it go. Explain your history in such a manner that it appears you’ve lived a long time already, even if you haven’t. Don’t say how long you were at every position, but overwhelm them a bit with the list of positions you held and the education you have. The insinuation that, while you might look young, you have a long life behind you.
Dress and behave appropriately
While I’m not an advocate of telling people to dress outside of their comfort zone, if you dress too ‘young’ for your position you’re setting yourself up for scrutiny. If your style is to dress in bright colours, keep with that, but update your look to be appropriate for the job you’re doing. This is especially true if you work in a corporate environment.
Carve out a style, both in dress and attitude, that is uniquely yours, without compromising your position. I often think of Drew Barrymore in this respect. She dresses in pretty clothes, rarely reveals cleavage or too much leg, and always looks very youthful, despite the fact that she’s nearly 40. Yet she speaks eloquently and chooses parts that fit her actual age, never younger.