Work & Money

Job Interviews in the Age of Gray Hair

One tiresome tale I hear all the time about gray hair is that it will ruin your career. Last week I interviewed for two jobs, and the only person who thought about my hair was me.

The jobs are with the company I currently work for, so it’s not anything I need to keep secret. Another advantage of interviewing with your current employer is that they already know you. They know your work, your reputation. And they know what you look like. In my case, they were not expecting Career Barbie. It’s always good to meet expectations.

I did worry a bit about whether I should wear my hair up or down. There are people out there who don’t like long hair on middle-aged women, and theyreally don’t like long gray hair on anyone walking upright. I played around with it some and decided to wear it down. My french twist looks good from the back, but I haven’t quite mastered the full frontal updo. It can look severe, and hair down made me feel approachable.

What to wear? I was flying for both interviews with no stop home in between, so that made it trickier. I only bought two new items — an ivory silk blouse to go under my jacket and some black 50 denier tights. I hate pantyhose, so I felt my only choices were tights or pants. Since I was traveling, I wore wrinkle-free St. John Knits. They are expensive, but they are figure flattering and last forever. I buy mine on eBay for a fraction of what you’d pay in a store.

Mid-Life Job InterviewMy choice was black skirt, black tights and black flats. I wore the tweedy knit jacket zipped up with a contrasting tank peeking out for interview #1, and I wore the same outfit with the silk blouse under it and the jacket open for interview #2. I felt professional, comfortable and confident, and I can only hope that was reflected during the interviews. I did not break out in hives or sweat profusely — which is always a plus.

As I look back on the week, I’m glad I put myself out there. I’m not a braggy person, but a job interview is no time to be modest. I wanted to come across as confident but not arrogant, and I believe I accomplished that. It was self-affirming to focus on what I bring to the table and present myself as a serious and competitive candidate. We may be mid-life, but to borrow from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, there’s no need to leave before we leave.

I gave it my best. I may or may not get an offer, but it was still a great experience no matter what. If you’ve been afraid to go out and interview for jobs because you think you’re too old or too gray or too anything, I encourage you to reconsider. Packaging your experiences for an audience will help you see yourself in a new light.

 

Donna Pekar’s blog Rock the Silver is a writer’s personal perspective about life, aging and cool gray hair. A cancer survivor and Army veteran, Donna works as a communications professional for a Fortune 100 company. 

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