Your Hair Has A Role In Your Career Success

7 comments
April 10, 2012 ‐ By C. Cleveland

Granted, not every workplace has caught on to the trend. But, they’ll catch on or get left behind. You’ve never seen a White woman afraid to wear her hair in its natural state, so why should you? Presenting a professional appearance is one thing, but altering who you are is another. If a company can’t accept your hair, they can’t accept you.

Conservative work settings aside, being adventurous with your hair can pay off. Hair can serve as the ultimate declaration of individuality. It can set you apart, grab attention, and give a sense of your personal brand before you open your mouth. It would be silly not to harness the power of the mane for professional gain.

The poster girl for savvy hairstyling in recent years has to be Rihanna. Before she chopped off her Beyonce weave in favor of a jet-black crop cut, she blended in with every other R&B singer. The risky move made her a fashion favorite, and she’s been leveraging her mane for success ever since, changing her a style with little abandon to coincide with her countless image makeovers. Now, every time she changes her hair color, she gets free publicity.

As always being adventurous comes with risk. The candy-colored bald head look worked for Amber Rose, for Willow Smith, not so much.

Appearance is important because you are the personification of who you work for. Employers have dress codes to ensure the staff maintains an appearance that promotes a positive image for their brand. Depending on your career, you may have to conform Monday through Friday, and save the mohawk for the weekend. But, a side part or a slick bun isn’t the only way to be conservative.

Even with restrictions, you can find small ways to express yourself and set yourself apart from the crowd.  If you’re an entrepreneur, you have even more freedom to allow your hair to make a statement about who you are and stand out from the competition. Hair is a powerful tool to project your personal brand. Don’t hide it in a bun, unless that bun is fierce.

Cortney Cleveland is a freelance writer and content strategist in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter @CleveInTheCity.

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  • R Design

    My (white) coworkers have been very supportive of my push to go natural, but I was very vocal about it. I warned them i may be crying when i cut my hair, but were all big jokers around here. When I did my big chop (after a yr of transitioning) most of my coworkers told me it was cute, and if anyone felt otherwise, they had the courtesy not to say so. I believe if more black people wear they’re hair naturally it will be more accepted, and then we can end this nonsense.
    Lauren

  • Pingback: Can Having Natural Hair Hurt a Black Woman's Career? - Black Enterprise

  • MixedUpInVegas

    How you wear your hair can have all kinds of perceptions attached to it.  Hairstyles, like clothing, are symbolic;  mourners wear black to a funeral, and perhaps for a time thereafter; an elaborate up-do hairstyle is usually for a formal evening occasion; black tie is strictly formal, regardless of the occasion; business casual means no tie is required; a prom usually means a gown and fancy hairdo; a backyard cookout means shorts, jeans and pigtails, if you like.

    In the professions, you will be appearing in front of a judge, other doctors, nurses, high-level management or executive peers.  If you want to be taken seriously, you dress the part.  While it is your right to wear your hair the way you’d like, what about the rest of your “professional costume?”  Whether you like it or not, the entire package is what people see.  To preserve your credibility, you need a good dark suit, conservative shoes and a hairdo that compliments the overall impression.  To put it another way, even if you went in with a relaxed conservative bob, if you were in jeans and flip flops, it would not complete the professional appearance.

    The plain fact is that people judge you on what is right in front of their eyes.  It is silly to assume that they will judge you on your good heart, good intentions or sincerity.  They can’t see that.  Be yourself, but be conservative.  If you become Steve Jobs, you can wear jeans and turtleneck everywhere you go–otherwise, be prepared to look the part you are trying to play.

  • L-Boogie

    This subject has been preached to me many times.  Unfortunately, my hair is in an awkward stage yet again; however, it is sad to hear people, especially Black people, tell me how “unkept” I look.  

  • http://www.rishona.net/ Shona

    This is a very volatile subject. I’ve worn my hair natural for about 1/2 of my working life. For several of those years, I had dreadlocks. I was fresh out of college, job hunting, and starting my locks (so they were short, furry & crazy). I did score a decent job eventually. Change in management placed a gorgeous, Black Haitian woman as my boss who sported a sharply styled relaxed short cut. She never said anything to me about my dreadlocks, but did voice dismay at another Black co-worker who went back and forth between wearing weaves and her own hair. This co-worker wasn’t fazed…but if it were me, I would have been upset by it.

    I went back to relaxing my hair and landed two positions since then. Last year, I stopped perming my hair, so now it is a mix of natural and permed hair. For simplicity sake, I’ve been wearing weaves and wigs. A month ago, and two months after being on the job, I opted to get braid extensions put in. The place where I work is full of White men, and I walked up to one to start a conversation and he looked at me blankly. It took about 2-3 minutes before he realized who I was. He didn’t hesitate to say that he had no idea who I was because I had changed my hair so drastically.

    My mother and sisters are a bit more adventurous when it comes to their hair…but I’ve learned from them never to apologize for wearing my hair whatever way. A Japanese co-worker asked me why I need to “do so much” to my hair. I explained that due to damage and the general nature of Black hair, it takes a lot of work to get it looking the way it does.

    So I don’t have any first-hand proof, but I do feel that how Black women wear their hair is still an issue in many workplaces. 

  • when doves cry

    I am not my hair, but my hair says a lot about who I am.