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January 21, 2009


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Interesting theory. I have sometimes wondered about my own situation. I am in my late 40s, but look like I am in my early 30s. Sometimes I wonder if that has held me back in my career.

Oddly enough, I think they may be right. My situation is a bit different, but I think the logic still fits.

I started losing my hair when I was 23 (when I joined the workforce out of college). I thought about getting the bosley stuff done, but I noticed that people were treating me a lot differently once the top of my head became nearly bald. My thought is that it's because I look older, so they assume I'm more competent (lol... I am competent!) even though I'm only 25. Sucks with the ladies, but good for the career.

Although, it is beneficial to me right now, my understanding is that bald men typically don't make it too far up the ladder because they don't fit that high-level management "look".

It is ABSOLUTELY a factor! I'm a young CPA (mid-twenties) and the first mental image of CPAs that people think of is a middle to late aged male with tons of experience and perhaps a bowtie and/or green visor. People/clients are always commenting on my age relative to my career and I cannot help but wonder if it would help to have a little gray... and the green visor.

"Gray hair is a crown of glory, It is gained in a righteous life."


I had this problem in my mid 20s dealing with know it all 50+ year old execs. One guy actually said I wasn't experienced enough to give him advice. So a little gray definitely helps in the boardroom.

Of course, two days later we won the same guy's confidence after he checked out our references. After a while, you get calloused to such behavior and learn to thrive upon other people underestimating you.

I'm in the same field as Colin and get some of the same looks/comments. However, once they ask questions of me and realize I know my stuff any preconceptions about me being too young quickly subside. I'm 33 now and still get some of those looks, even though I've being doing this 10+ years. I'm not sure any grey hair would help.

I started going prematurely gray at 16 (it runs in my family) and I can say it definitely has an effect on the perception of competency and experience. I have been in positions where people older than me deferred to my opinion because they assumed I was more experienced. In some cases, when they found out my actual age, they appeared to have a lower opinion of me than before. I have learned not to volunteer my age unless necessary.

I know that looking too young affects how clients and co-workers affects your career (I'm 28 and people think I'm a teenager), but the other half of the question is looking too old. The most successful and respected men in my office of salespeople are the ones that are all grey. The grey women aren't.

My boyfriend is 29 and has a little bit of grey in his hair. He's talked about how much he hates it, but I keep telling him to keep it. He's known in his company as the guy who "knows everything about everything." He's extremely competent, and I think it does nothing but help him to project that image even more, especially because he is young and dealing with higher ups that are quite a bit older than him.

Besides, I think it's sexy ;)

I've always looked older than my age. When I was 17 and a freshman in college I was buying booze (without a fake ID) for my 20 year old friends because I looked old enough to not get carded. I'm tall, South Asian so that makes it tough to guess my age. I've got a litte grey on the sides now but you have to look for it, my hair is thinning but not bald.

I think that appearance helped me get ahead in my career. That and delivering results without copping an attitude! I started working as an Engineer at age 23, moved on to be a Manager at a new company at 25. Then I was a director at 27 at a start up. At Age 29 I was a Director in a multi-national company. Then a Managing Director for a business overseas at age 33. At age 35 (my current age) I'm CEO of a medium sized company, have been in this role for 3 months. Now I don't want to look any older but people assume I'm anywhere from late 30's up to 50! I'd love to look 29 now but maybe I wouldn't get the respect needed to be effective in this role.

Strangely enough my Chairman and CTO are both 50 but look much younger (by 5-10 years). Go figure!


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