Early last year, my mom suggested that I wear a wig to job interviews because she thought my short haircut might hinder my chances of being employed in this tough economy.
Her rationale was simple. In her era, it’s a known fact that African-American women with short, natural haircuts turn hiring managers off because their appearance is threatening and less feminine. Regardless of the woman’s skills or personality, long, straight hair usually equates to beauty, intelligence, and success.
My initial response was:
Now mother, let’s not walk down that road again!
As I pondered her well intentioned recommendation, I thought to myself, we should discuss it. After all, your skills and personality are not the only attributes you’re judged on during an interview. In fact, your outward appearance may trump your skills at some companies.
From the soulful words of Stevie Wonder, thinking back on when I, was a little nappy headed girl, I reminded her of how she and my dad raised me in one of the most eclectic and nonconforming cities in the world, San Francisco. The city by the Bay exposed me to a wide swath of nationalities, lifestyles, and people of all economic statuses who expressed themselves in a variety of ways. While some of those ways in some societies today would turn a potential employer off, or worse, land them in jail, I’ve met too many people in my life who’ve not conformed for the sake of fitting in.
On the other hand, when confronted with competition from more than 9 million unemployed boomers, millennials, and my own Gen X comrades, perhaps now was the time to conform.
Ultimately, I decided not to wear a wig to the interview of my most recent position and was hired for what was in my head, not on top of it.
Have you ever conformed to fit into an organization’s culture, or, to be excepted by someone you thought wouldn’t find you desirable? If so, did it make you feel true to yourself or dishonest?