Does Looking Young Hurt or Help Your Career Success?

Age, Appearances, and Career Success: What’s the Correlation?

When you’re young, you just want to look a little older so that people take you seriously. When you’re older, you would give anything to look a little younger. In the workplace, looking too young or too old can actually hurt your chances of being successful – at least, that’s the perception.

But just how much does your age impact your ability to be successful at work? And what does workplace success really mean anyway?

How Your Appearance Impacts Your Success

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that your appearance impacts your success. Being tall, being conventionally attractive, and dressing well are all factors that correlate with traditional workplace success factors, such as making more money or earning higher positions.

So does the age you look have an impact on your ability to succeed?

The answer is yes, but the effects are much more nuanced than you might expect.

Looking too young can be a problem. If you have a “babyface” (in other words, characteristics resembling those of a baby, like a flat, round face, or a small jaw), people may not take you as seriously; you may be seen to be too young or inexperienced to be an authority on a given topic, even if people are gathering this information and forming these conclusions subconsciously. Youthful mannerisms may also be considered unprofessional, putting you in a weaker position when negotiating or making it harder to form connections with others. Note that looking too young can be a problem no matter how old you are; it’s a matter of appearance, rather than a matter of age, specifically.

That said, looking too old can also be a problem. Age discrimination is an increasing phenomenon, as employers feel that older adults are less adaptable, less familiar with technology, less willing to change, and at the same time, are more expensive to hire. If you look too old, people may implicitly assume that you’re out of touch or that you’re not capable of engaging with the younger generation.

Age and appearance can also affect your personal confidence. If you feel like you look too young or too old, regardless of how others perceive you, you might feel self-conscious – and you might do a poor job presenting yourself to other people. Low confidence tends to be correlated with worse career success for a variety of reasons.

The bottom line? Age and appearance can impact your career success. Looking too old or too young can be problematic, so it’s ideal to look like you’re in your 30s or 40s – the middle of the road.

Strategies to Look Younger

How can you look younger?

  •       Regrow your hair. Thinning hair can instantly add years to your age appearance. There’s no easy way to reliably grow all your hair back, but there are some strategies that can help you regrow at least some of your lost hair – including low-level laser hair therapy, which you can practice in just 30 minutes per day.
  •       Use skin treatments. Oftentimes, your age shows in your skin, but the right skin treatment products can support healthier, younger looking skin. Even a basic moisturizer can make you seem more youthful.
  •       Practice healthy lifestyle habits. Stay hydrated, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and get lots of sleep. It’s also a good idea to avoid unhealthy substances like alcohol and tobacco. Once you rearrange your lifestyle habits and pursue a healthier life, you’ll start looking younger almost immediately.

Strategies to Look Older

There are also some easy ways to look older:

  •       Grow your facial hair (if applicable). If you can, grow out your facial hair and keep it neatly trimmed. Men with facial hair almost always look older than their clean-shaven counterparts.
  •       Dress well. The way you dress speaks volumes about your age. Older people tend to dress well more reliably; they have perfectly-fitted clothes, they prioritize their professional image, and they don’t rely too heavily on accessories.
  •       Work on your posture. The way you carry yourself can also influence how people perceive you. Maintaining a better posture, whether you’re sitting or standing, can make you seem older and more dignified. Keep your shoulders back, your chest out, and while you’re at it, maintain eye contact with others.
  •       Drop your voice. This is a harder strategy to pull off, but it might work in your favor. Try dropping your voice and speaking in a slow, deliberate manner, while avoiding filler words.

It’s trivially easy to add or subtract a few years from your age. You may not be able to give yourself a total makeover or pass for someone decades older or younger than you, but you should at least be able to boost your chances of career success in a noticeable way. 

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