Numerous studies on variables related to getting, keeping and advancing on the job revealed that appearance and looking young gives workers the competitive advantage in the job market and workplace.
Noted economist, Daniel S. Hamermesh in his book, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, shows that the attractive are more likely to be employed, work more productively and profitably, receive more substantial pay, obtain loan approvals, negotiate loans with better terms, and have more handsome and highly educated spouses than their less attractive cohorts.
Hamermesh demonstrates how society favors the beautiful and how better-looking people experience startling but undeniable benefits in all aspects of life. Hamermesh illustrates how attractive workers make more money, how these amounts differ by gender, and how looks are valued differently based on profession.
Hamermesh also investigates the commodification of beauty in dating and how this influences the search for intelligent or high-earning mates.
Studies by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Society of Human Resource Management report numerous examples of discrimination in the work place related to looking old. For example, AARP report two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work, and job seekers over age 35 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired. If you happen to work in the high-tech or entertainment industries, your chances of experiencing age discrimination are even higher.
In a study commissioned by Just for Men Hair Color, nearly 65 percent of career advisors surveyed reported male clients lost job opportunities because they looked too old. Over 60 percent reported clients missed opportunities because they didn’t look well-groomed.
This is not good news for baby boomers. Interviewers are increasingly younger than many job applicants, and they typically hire younger people.
In our fast paced, competitive, youth-obsessed workplace, image is vital. People often judge and categorize others subconsciously, by appearance. Where stellar job performances are the norm, the differentiating factor is image.
It remains uncertain whether the handsomest people translate their good looks into higher productivity, but students do consistently give better-looking professors higher evaluations than they give their less comely teachers, according to research by Hamermesh and Amy Parker at the
Still, many experts warn against assigning too much value to beauty in the workplace, arguing that even if your good looks do get you in the door, they may not get you much farther.
"A person can be breathtaking in person and destroy that within the first five minutes by acting in a way that seems superior or behaving in a way that is lewd or provocative," said an executive career coach. Although looks are the first thing most people notice, qualities like competencies, interpersonal skills, confidence and other factors prevail.
Fortunately, there's more to attractiveness than meets the eye. Researchers Markus Mobius and Tanya Rosenblat found that confidence makes up 20 percent of perceived attractiveness.
Your image, the perception people have of you, consists of such personal effectiveness skills as poise, confidence, resilience, optimism, social grace, effective communication, and an air of competence, authority and integrity. These skills enable you to interact comfortably, and engender a sense of professionalism and credibility.
Make a great first impression
Having a well-groomed, confident, energetic, professional appearance is critical for getting a job and advancing in your career.
- Look savvy and contemporary. Stay current on fashion trends. Dress with authority. Authority speaks with a hint of formality. The dark suit, navy or medium to dark gray, with a crisp shirt and contrasting tie, and dark socks is appropriate for men. A conservative navy, gray or tan business suit is suitable for women. Blue tones – navy, dark and royal inspire trust on an subconscious level.
If casual dress is the norm in the organization, wear the team uniform. If you’re attending a meeting in a new company, research the norm for the area, industry and company. Dress one notch above customers to communicate professionalism without intimidation.
Coordinate pieces. Wear colors and styles flattering to your skin tone and body type. Clothes should be spotless, pressed and well-tailored with good quality fabric. Wear well-maintained shoes and simple jewelery.
Have hair professionally cut and styled. Consider coloring gray hair. Gray hair may convey negative perceptions about effectiveness, adaptability and energy level. Gray haired men are perceived to be less effective at their jobs and at least four years older than men without gray hair. Part hair to the side. A middle part elicits distrust.
Cleanliness, with well-kept nails, is a must. So is a fresh shave for men and natural-looking makeup for women. Men with beards should check the norm for their desired organization. Avoid bulging pockets, battered briefcases or purses, and strong fragrances.
- Be genuine, authentic. Real people say and do what they think. They're driven to action by their inner beliefs rather than external triggers. Their outside actions reflect their thoughts. Authenticity requires knowing who you are and being comfortable with yourself. It necessitates taking time to develop informed ideas about things you care about, and not blindly adopting them from others. Genuine people are self-guided, make choices in harmony with their authentic selves.
- Radiate energy, enthusiasm, friendliness, confidence and competence. Be genuine. Smile, when appropriate. Listen attentively to what others are saying. Show interest in the person or project. Ask questions when you’re not sure about something. Answer questions promptly offering concrete examples.
Keep hands out of pockets to communicate trust and approachability. Make eye contact with everyone you meet and speak with.
Speak in a level, modulated voice. Speak briskly, but pronounce words clearly. Develop a powerful handshake.
Sit erect or stand tall, with shoulders back. Slumping posture projects exhaustion and age. Relax arms and legs.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly to develop a lean, well-toned body. Eat well, get at least seven hours sleep, take time for fun and friends, and develop your spiritual self.
- Think positively. See yourself as a seasoned professional who has much insight and knowledge to offer. Use age to your advantage. Counter stereotypes. If over 40, stress experience, wisdom, reliability, judgment, loyalty, accomplishments and work ethic.
Value yourself. Believe you'll attain desired goals. List personal and professional strengths. Review list daily.
Carole Kanchier's ongoing research on lifelong job satisfaction and career change, described in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, presents additional skills needed for successful job search and career advancement: https://www.amazon.com/Questers-Dare-Change-Your-Life/dp/1508408963