Bullish Q&A: Half-Shaved Haircuts, Interviews, and Mentors

I was just reading through some of your articles (I reread them when I’m in need of career strength) and I’m in the process of girding my loins and applying to jobs out of state and moving, all the while planning a wedding.

My question came about from reading this article.

To preface: I have short hair, very short on the right side and gradually increases in length to form an array of curls on the left side, no longer than right below my jaw. It’s very trendy, and I love it, especially after so many years of boring hair.

The problem is that now that I’ll be getting interviews (optimism!) I’ll be applying to architecture firms. I worry that my hair will send the wrong message about me.

So, do I rock the hair and put together a fierce but appropriate interview outfit to match, or should I slick it back and don’t release it until I’m hired?

The pictures are for reference. My hair is a combination of the two, but my own natural brunette color.

– Rihanna

ps. I’m trying to get myself a lady architect mentor, and so far, nothing. Sigh.

Dear Rihanna,

Good question, and awesome hair! In fact, your hair sounds positively … architectural.

One option is to go with it, but let the shaved part grow out a little bit (get it nicely trimmed around the ear area, etc.) that it comes across as “short” and not “shaved,” much like the second photo you sent.

I find that men and conservative types in general have all kinds of stereotypes about “shaved heads” and the people who have them (for women, mainly “feminazi,” although there’s also “skinhead”) that they do not necessarily have about people with “crazy” asymmetrical hair. You could be wearing a birdcage on your head, as I once saw in a fashion show, and that would look kooky but not threatening in the way, apparently, a small patch of your scalp would be.

A “kids these days…” reaction to your hair, if coupled with other young, cool attributes about you (a fresh take on architecture and amazing computer skills!) could work out just fine. A “scary man-hating feminist/punk rocker” reaction is unlikely to help you out here, no matter how unfair it may be.

That said, aggressively cool hair can also work in the other direction as you age and find yourself combating ageism in interviews. Folks over 40 or 50 have sometimes found they are overlooked in interviews – until they dig back out their old Doc Martens and shave half their head.

Good luck!

p.s. Male mentors can sometimes be even more valuable in that you already have a woman’s perspective on things (your own), and the environment in which, say, a 50 year old female architect had to build her career is probably wildly different from the environment in which you’re building yours. That is, the last 20 years have changed career-wise for women more than they have for men. Also, women in fields in which women are underrepresented get way too many requests for mentoring, when they themselves are still trying to build their own careers. Maybe there’s a male architect out there who doesn’t get asked (and won’t get creepy, and is secretly jealous of your cool hair!)

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