A Look Into The Current Workplace – How First Impressions Still Count For Older Workers

By | March 19, 2008

Last month we looked at how younger people can get it right or wrong in the workplace through their appearance and (non) verbal dexterity. This month we swing the tractor beam onto the older worker. I guess we should define our terms first. We’re classifying the older worker as anybody over the age of 50, older only in the literal sense of having had more birthdays than people in their 20s. And that’s the point, the cliché holds true as all good ones do, that age is a state of mind, not a classification index of qualities or abilities. The problem is older people are there own worst enemy.

With hair the die is usually cast, with people living with hair decisions made years previously. Women usually do dye their hair these days which is not even noticed, and those that don’t are seen as OK too. Men have to be more careful with their hair strategy. Comb-overs are seen as a joke, but a hard core still persist and dyeing is seen as dodgy at best. Usually the less hair, the shorter the better and wigs shouldn’t even be mentioned.

Clothes choices should fit the purpose, older people can get away with more idiosyncratic styles in the name of individuality, but the reality is often the opposite, with the majority going for more a regulation ‘conservative’ look.

Everyone should avoid anything that shows off ‘beach flesh’;  avoiding anything that draws attention to any bulges, weight related or otherwise.

Women should not increase the amount of make-up in proportion to their years and men should never wear a bow tie unless involved in end of the pier shows, neck ties always reaching the top of the trousers otherwise they look like Laurel or Hardy

Older people have the advantage over younger people through the ability of being able to speak properly; they mustn’t waste this asset though by drawing attention to their age by constantly referring to it, or using the dreadful phrase ‘I’m having a senior moment’. Only use ‘in my day’ examples in a self deprecating way, never in a ‘good old days’ way.

Talk shouldn’t be about how much experience they have, but about how they can make a positive, relevant contribution today. Experience is only valuable if it can be effectively applied.

In summary, older people who dress and behave as themselves and don’t wear the label of being ‘older’ have got it right, making their workplace credibility higher in the process.

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