What to (Not) Do As a Young Woman Networking and Job-Hunting: Obsess Over Hair, Makeup, and Clothes

Happy Commencement to everyone who graduated last weekend. It’s Naomi Ahsan, back with the final post in my series about networking and job-hunting for young women. Feel free to comment with your insight and experiences. You can visit my expository post to learn more about me and my motivation to write this series. My task in this blog is to list some things young women like myself often do—and shouldn’t—on their track to career success.

3. (Don’t) obsess over your hair, makeup, and clothes.

The intensity of media coverage of Hillary Clinton making a public appearance with no makeup should make this point self-explanatory, but be critical of how much your appearance has to do with your competence for your career because there are a lot of people who try to connect the dots here and coincidentally have nothing to do with whether you get the jobs you want.

Attractiveness has very subjective standards across all the people you meet and its evaluation in a professional context is difficult to divorce from sexism, racism, ageism, and sizeism. There are entire industries built on how women look and how they feel about how they look. Have some integrity about how much time, money, and energy will go to looking a certain way, and keep in mind also that some colleagues and employers actually don’t take people they think are “attractive” as seriously. “Be attractive” just isn’t good advice. Your appearance matters, but don’t overestimate it for a career context over your other potential qualifications.

I’ve made a list here of things not to do, but what should we be doing instead? I would take the advice of Taylor Jo Isenberg, National Director of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network: “Challenge what you want to do with your life by trying something that never occurred to you, search out nontraditional mentors, and give your daughters Legos.”

My thanks to Joy Lawson, Taylor Jo Isenberg, Lendsey Achudi, Lydia Austin, Rosie Lawrence, and Erin Gamoran for engaging me on this blog’s topic.

About Kaitlin Legg

Former Program Assistant at the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester.
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