Appearances and age discrimination

My full-time job has its financial/cash flow struggles, always. As the keeper of the books and watcher of all things financial, I see a steady downward trend that is not sustainable forever. This has been progressively worse the last several years, and each year I think this may be it, when I am finally going to have to seek out new full-time employment. While it has not happened yet, our dwindling project base and the truly dumb financial decisions being made by the owners make me feel itchy to be ready for something to happen. My resume is updated. I’m taking some additional courses to freshen and sharpen my unused skills. I am exploring other areas where I could increase my marketability as a candidate. I am not yet ready to start looking for something else, but I am ready if it happens more suddenly than I anticipate.

To this end I am also evaluating my appearance and trying to be realistic in what I can or should do to present myself better in a competitive job market.

Being 53, I am starting to be concerned about age discrimination. I know it is illegal, yet I know it still happens. It makes me a uncomfortable to contemplate, and I am trying to think objectively about what steps I might take to overcome that unspoken hurdle. First on my agenda: coloring my hair.

*sigh*

I actually hate dealing with hair and hair-related issues. I like my simple style and the minimal amount of products, blow drying, and flat ironing involved. Probably 15 years ago I sheared my hair off into a cute cropped look. With that cut I got rid of all the dry, damaged, colored hair strands and resolved to cease coloring and let it just naturally go gray. While I only lasted about 6 months of short hair before I began growing it back out again, I stuck to the not removing my gray. For the most part it has suited me and my lifestyle.

Now that I am thinking about job hunting again, I am thinking about covering some of the gray. I kind of hate the idea, yet I think it is necessary. Conversations with friends in and around my age range bring out an unwavering opinion that cover the gray is in my best interests. So while getting my hair trimmed yesterday, I consulted with my stylist and have made an appointment to have a partial gray-covering highlight coloring session done. She assures me it will be subtle. I am afraid it will be so subtle I do not even notice that anything has been done.

That’s my first major step. I am keeping fingers and toes crossed it works out well.

Next I am going to work with her on some SIMPLE and SUBTLE makeup techniques. Currently I wear nothing other than moisturizer and sunscreen. No make-up, period. It has probably been 30+ years since I last experimented and I have been fine since then. Cosmetics being something that washes off, I feel only a little apprehensive about this baby step into experimentation. I fear walking out of her salon looking like I’ve been to clown school.

Then there is the issue of healthy body weight. I am not morbidly obese, but losing several pounds would benefit me in so many ways. I have some classic business clothes in my closet, holdovers from prior purges, simply because I love them so much I cannot bear to part with them. However, I am minimum of 10 lbs. away from fitting into the skirts comfortably. If I had to present myself for an interview at a professional organization tomorrow, I would be at the mall frantically trying to find something suitable. My present firm is absolutely casual – jeans and t-shirts are pretty standard – and while I have many dresses, skirts and blouses that I wear throughout the year, none of it is interview-worthy unless they told me it was a business casual event.

So it feels as if my vanity is surging to the forefront as I contemplate my future employment prospects. While I would love for my full-time job to not feel endangered and stay in my jeans-and-t-shirt/granola kid environment, it’s unwise and unrealistic. I am the one who prepares the monthly financials and can see the downward trajectory of our business. I had better get myself organized and prepared, because I am feeling more confident that the time to be searching for another full-time gig will happen sometime in the next year. If something dramatic happens and things change, I will have acquired some new skills and a different look just for the adventure of it. If we continue, I will be happier I have thought ahead and prepared.

Unless it’s a disaster. Then I will be happy I had time to fix it. *sigh* Kind of sucks getting older and trying to minimize the appearance of getting older.

7 thoughts on “Appearances and age discrimination

  1. I don’t think you are being vain. You are being pragmatic and pro-active. I read somewhere that people tend to form an opinion about you in the first seconds that they are introduced to you, and you definitely want to be projecting “dynamic and professional”. Good luck!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Joan, and I appreciate the vote of support. I am trying to think ahead and be as prepared as I can be for when the time for reentry into the job search market.

  2. I think you are wise to do this. Age and appearance discrimination is real. My husband is 55 and was looking for a change in career and I wondered about these very things you wrote about. He is in a technical field and it took him 4.5 months to find a new job. But to encourage you, he did find one, and actually had 2 offers and had to choose. Both were very good offers. Good luck.

  3. This could have been a post i wrote! I have all the same issues that the fifties bring. Its no fun and I fear discrimination as well. The whole workforce seems to be aging though!

    • So true! We are all getting older, yet our culture seems to worship and chase youth. I will need to find another job at some point, so I need to prepare myself for the inevitable.

  4. In a job market that is difficult to say the least, appearing one step above your competition is crucial. Sometimes it’s credentials, sometimes it’s humor, sometimes it’s the physical, etc. I think you are simply viewing this from that perspective. You want to be one step ahead of the rest

    • I know! It’s at least 6 months away before I will be dealing with this issue, but I’m a planner. The resume is pretty much detailed, up-to-date, ready, my networking never seems to stop. The final step it to get back to the polished, professional appearance that has been allowed to go to sleep after almost 10 years toiling in a “granola kid” type environment. One Gentleman (OG for short going forward), I actually kind of look forward to returning to the female equivalent of your closet for work clothes.

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