As with other forms of prejudice, people of certain racial backgrounds may be at greater risk. It has been suggested that part of the reason Asians seem stereotypically young for their age might be because baby’s facial features are more common in this group.
However, there are several things young people who look like they can do to adjust the way they are viewed in the workplace.
The most obvious option is to change your appearance. Research has shown that 20-year-old women look older when they wear makeup – but surprisingly that’s not true for older age groups – and the addition of makeup, pants, and jewelry can increase the competence of a woman as a leader. On the other hand, people see men with beards are older and of higher status than those who are clean shaven. They are also usually considered more capable.
The question is, do you want to change your appearance, to overcome the irrational biases of others?
In this case, there is an alternative. London-based executive career coach Nicola Simpson says she regularly encounters this problem – but she’s not always convinced that her clients’ looks are in fact the underlying problem. “It happens quite often when clients come to a coaching session without self-confidence and feeling a sense of impostor syndrome,” she says.
In Simpson’s experience, people can find it difficult to get a feel for their youth in any profession, although this is slightly more common among management consultants and those in leadership positions. . “Maybe they’re at a point in their careers where they want to show leadership and seriousness, and they feel like they look young for their years – and they are blamed for it,” said Simpson, “but they often feel ‘maybe I a m too young to occupy a managerial position ”.”
To overcome this, Simpson tries to help his clients with what is in their control. Rather than dwelling on how the outside world perceives them, she tends to focus on helping them understand where their anxieties are coming from. “Our conversations are more about what they could do to feel more confident – providing tools to reframe their thinking into something much more positive and supportive.”
Simpson suggests trying to be aware of when you were triggered by fears about how you are being viewed and consciously shift your thoughts to a more positive outlook. If you project confidence, you will automatically appear more competent – no matter what prejudices are really at work in the minds of your coworkers.