interviewing with a beard as a woman, fending off an unwanted promotion, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewing with a beard as a woman

I’m a graduate student about to start my first professional job search, and I’ve been trying to prepare myself for the process. Here’s my situation: I’m a women with a beard, and not a blonde one: it’s dark and coarse. I shave every morning, and by halfway through the day, I’m got a shadow. If I go three days without shaving, I’ve moved into scruffy territory that’s extremely visible from across the room. I’ve been doing it since high school due to some (retrospectively) horrible advice from peers.

It’s getting to the point that shaving is painful, and I’ve explored (and dismissed) other options. I really want to stop, but I realize that a woman with heavy facial hair sticks out a bit more than one not wearing makeup.

My question is: does your advice remain the same as with women and makeup, that professionally, it will not have any impact? Would I be shooting myself in the foot interviewing unshaven, or would shaving for the interview and then stopping be dishonest?

It definitely would not be dishonest to shave for the interview and then stop after you have the job. People often make a point of looking much more polished or formal for interviews than they’ll look once on the job — but even if that weren’t the case, you’re not locked into keeping the look from your interview forever. People decide to change their hair, stop wearing makeup, grow or shave a beard, and so forth.

Now, will have it any impact on you professionally? It’s hard to say without knowing your field, but I lean toward thinking no, it won’t be a big deal. I would love to say that more absolutely, because that’s how it should work, but the reality is that some fields are much more appearance-conscious than others. If you are in a field where this stuff matters, being super polished in other ways will probably help. But I’m interested to hear other people’s advice on this one.

(For what it’s worth, my advice about makeup isn’t that it won’t have an impact; it’s that what matters — in fields where such things matter at all — is that you look professional and polished. Some people find makeup helps them achieve that; others don’t.)

2. Fending off an unwanted promotion

My wife has been an administrative assistant at a relatively small company for about six months. She is exceptionally good at the detail oriented work that an administrative assistant does, she really enjoys working for the company, and all indications are that the company thinks a lot of her work. This actually has my wife and I worried, because the standard progression at her company is for the administrative assistant to move up into customer service work, and the customer service department is now short-staffed.

She will be the first to admit that she’s much better as an administrative assistant than at customer service. When her last job transitioned into a customer service position, her stress level went through the roof, her job performance suffered, and she came home virtually every night crying. The customers of her current company are rude and demanding, so there’s no reason to think that would be different here. Moreover, the customer service department at her company has different supervision that seems keen on firing people, and we’re concerned that if she’s not immediately a fit for the job, she’s going to end up being let go from this company that offers her a great commute, good pay and benefits, and at least in her current position, a great working environment.

Is there a polite and positive way for my wife to suggest to her superiors, when the time comes, that everyone would be better off if she remained as an admin instead of being “promoted” to customer service? If there is no saying no to a promotion, is there a way to ask if she could return to her former position if it doesn’t work out?

Does she periodically talk to her manager about career development or have a performance review? Those are both good times to bring it up and she could say it this way: “From what I’ve seen, it seems like the typical path here is for the person in my role to move into customer service work. I actually really like being an admin and want to stay on an admin path rather than going into customer service. Is it possible to stay on an admin track here instead?”

It’s pretty likely that she’ll learn that’s fine — that other people have moved over to customer service because they wanted to, not because they had to. But even if that’s not the case, this will be a useful conversation to have.

And if there’s no natural opening for it like a performance review, she can just bring it up on her own. That’s very normal to do, and most managers will appreciate knowing what her thinking is.

3. Are you supposed to tell other companies you’re withdrawing from consideration once you accept a job offer?

After a few months of searching and getting to the late stages of interviews at a couple of places, I finally received a job offer and will start my new position soon. I’m especially appreciative of your blog–your advice to mentally move on after completing the necessary steps post interview was definitely quite helpful!

My question is prompted by a former supervisor who recently emailed me asking if I had withdrawn an application I had in with another prospective employer. My former supervisor had flagged my application through an email to the hiring manager and a few of her contacts within the organization, and now that I was going to be working elsewhere was interested in recommending another potential applicant for the position. Before recommending someone else, she wanted to make sure they knew I was withdrawing my application. Is it typical to alert every place you have an outstanding application at of your withdrawal from consideration? I hadn’t yet heard back if I was even going to be offered an interview (though the application deadline had just ended, so I’m not sure if they were waiting for that particular date to review submissions) and wasn’t sure if an email removing myself from the process would come off as a little presumptuous. I did meet a lot of the requirements for this particular position, and have a couple of other contacts within the organization, so I do think there was a good chance I would’ve been offered an interview, but from previous experience I’ve learned it’s best not to expect anything.

My former supervisor shared that from her perspective it was best to alert all places you have an application at since that will help reduce their workload (one less application to read) even in the event you’re not asked to interview. I went ahead and sent an email withdrawing myself from the process, but I’m curious to get your perspective on this, as well as thoughts from those who read this blog and have been on the hiring side of the process.

I admit to being very frustrated by prospective employers who stop communicating with applicants even after they’ve been interviewed or reached the final stages of the process (I’m not talking about companies that don’t reach out to each applicant who applies, but it’s is just dumbfounding to me that some places will stop communication cold even after you’ve advanced past the phone screen and first round o in-person interviews!) So, now I’m wondering if me not reaching out to all of the places I may have applications still out at is similar behavior to what I find very rude.

Nope, you definitely don’t need to contact all the places you’ve applied to tell them that you’re withdrawing your application. It’s pretty common to do that with places that have interviewed you recently (because at that point they’ve invested time in you and may be thinking of you as part of their finalist pool), but it’s not at all common to do that if you’ve just sent in an application and not been interviewed.

However, in this case, since your former manager had contacted people there on your behalf, it does make sense to let them know that you’ve accepted another job. That’s not an across-the-board rule; it’s specific to this particular situation where she has used some capital on your behalf.

And about your worry that it’s presumptuous to let an employer know you’re withdrawing — it definitely doesn’t come across as presumptuous, so don’t worry about that at all.

4. Using very personal examples in interviews

I am applying for front-line positions where I would be working with people in various kinds of psych crisis. I don’t have much professional experience with crisis–just a few almost-situations that I could try beefing up and spinning into stories. However, I do have experience with family members in crisis (think assessing family members for suicidal ideation, talking to family members in psychosis about their goals and values, and working with health care professionals to complete petitions for involuntary assessment).

One one hand, I’d like to talk about the personal experiences in interviews because they demonstrate that I can handle similar complicated and high stress situations well. (I stayed calm, asked the right questions, got the right professionals involved when necessary, and practiced self-care throughout). On the other hand, I worry that using personal examples risks waiving the red flag of “iffy professional boundaries” or “mess of countertransference issues.” I try to be self-aware and think that I have better boundaries than many of my professional peers, but I wonder if bringing up my experiences with family members in interviews would project the opposite.

Normally you don’t want to use very personal examples in interviews, but when you’re applying to do very personal work, that rule changes a bit and there’s more room for it.

So I think you can use one or two, but I wouldn’t use more than that or it risks crossing over into too much sharing.

{ 216 comments… read them below }

  1. Stella*

    I’m wondering in the LW with the beard has ever been tested for PCOS. This sounds like a medical/hormonal issue.

    1. Stacy*

      Yes. I have pcos and had facial hair. I’ve been doing electrolysis for 3 years and it’s completely gone. Haven’t shaved in over a year. It’s a godsend. I highly recommend it. It’s better than laser

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Just curious, has electrolysis changed in the last several years. I have similar issues, although probably not quite as extreme as the OP. I went through electrolysis, laser, even tried waxing once or twice (mostly to appease my mother because I was still a teenager at the time). Nothing worked; the hair continued to grow, and I got tired of painful treatments that didn’t produce any results.

        I definitely feel your pain. To answer your question, I do shave before an interview and before meeting clients for the first time, but I am not diligent about doing so every single day. Most people who know me know about my hormone issues or are polite enough not to bring it up when it starts getting more noticeable.

        1. PizzaDog*

          In my experience, it has. So have laser treatments. I’ve tried electrolysis a few times but had to stop because the pain wasn’t worth the result – but the improvements now that I’m doing it again are out of this world.

        2. AndersonDarling*

          I worked pt at a medical spa, and all the laser/electrolysis technology is evolving faster than I can track. New technology comes out every year, but some places keep their old equipment. If you would ever want to try again, you can shop around at spas/med spas/clinics and ask what machines they use and you can look up the names on google and get the lowdown. The best places will have the newest machines, but you pay more. The cheaper places purchase the old used machines, which still work, but for something like this, you’d want the best.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            Oh, and laser hair removal has changed so much in 10 years that it is almost a whole new technology. Many of the new lasers are pain free!

            1. Kate*

              +1000 to this, I also have PCOS and after trying things as a teen didn’t want to try again, but as a 40-something I have had great success with laser treatment. My only comment is that it doesn’t work on white hair, so if you’re greying get as much done now as you can and you can deal with the stragglers with electrolysis.

            2. DG81*

              Truth! They even sell very effective models for home use for under $500 now. Obviously it’s not going to work as quickly as a professional laser, but according to my BFF who could shave her legs twice a day no prob, they do work!

            3. Brisvegan*

              How permanent are the results? I know someone with medium brown beard hair that they would like to remove permanently. Do you think laser would do the trick?

              1. Zombii*

                Theoretically, permanent is permanent since the objective is to destroy the follicle and prevent any new hair growth. You’d have to research regarding the specific laser/method though to see how well it works and in what circumstances.

                Laser does rely on a certain amount of contrast between hair color and skin tone though, so skin tone is relevant to the question (more contrast/darker hair than skin = better/more reliable results).

        3. Amy*

          The issue with PCOS is that while electrolysis and laser will remove the existing hair, the woman’s hormones must be under control or new hair will just grow back. If you’re able to get your hormones stable with medication, diet or other means then hair removal *should* work permanently. It will vary from individual to individual as to whether it’s possible to get the hormones stable, though.

        4. Elsadora*

          If the OP is like myself, nothing will stop the hair growth outside of electrolysis. Some women here suggested that maybe the OP has PCOS, but unless she is suffering other symptoms like hair loss and excess weight gain, I would bet my bottom dollar that is not the case! Because not all excessive hair growth is hormonal, unfortunately. Lots of women, myself included, have familial hirsutism, meaning they are androgen sensitive, but their hormone levels are completely normal. While methods like laser hair removal has been touted as a god send by the beauty industry, they work for only a very select number of women: those that are fair skinned, with dark hair growth that the laser can pick up. And its a temporary hair reduction at that! Worse, if a woman has familial hirsuitism as I do, studies have shown that laser hair removal can in many cases stimulate new hair growth, thereby making the problem worse. They don’t know why exactly, other than damaging the hair follicles can sometimes stimulate hair growth. . Electrolysis, on the other hand, while permanent (it is the only hair removal method currently recognized as permanent by the FDA), is VERY EXPENSIVE, and can take years to see results. Try upwards of $60 an hour! Most women I know simply don’t have that type of cash, so we pluck and suffer through, knowing all the while that the plucking is likely making the hair growth worse. Plucking can also stimulate new hair growth I am afraid, making it a damn if you do, and damn if you don’t situation.

          OP: I don’t know what the answer is, other than I know too well that feeling of what it is like to watch excess hair growth rob you of your femininity, and feeling like their isn’t a damn thing you can do about it due to luck of genetics and monetary poverty.

      2. That's Me*

        I did electrolysis for two years as a teen for PCOS aggressively. It got to the point where the technician said, “This is doing nothing. Stop wasting your money.”

        I still shave.

        Fingers crossed something works as well for me, because I really worry about it holding me back in my career.

      3. 2horseygirls*

        My 16yo daughter was recently diagnosed with PCOS. Nothing like battling facial hair in high school! She waxed (professionally) a couple of times, but hated it, so she shaves when it gets too bad.

        I will show her this thread, so she knows she is not alone. Thanks all, for commenting :)

        1. pope suburban*

          Harnam Kaur is a public speaker and model who has a beard. Her work on body-positive activism is great. She’s a really delightful person and maybe reading her work would help your daughter if she’s feeling alone.

          1. Collarbone High*

            I just saw a video yesterday of her talking about coming to accept and then love her beard — great stuff. It’s sad that people are so cruel, but I admire how she rose above it.

              1. pope suburban*

                Every time I happen across that article, I wish she was my friend. She seems like a lot of fun to spend time around.

        2. zora*

          Late to this, but wanted to add another story:

          A very good friend of mine is a woman who lives with a beard, she doesn’t shave anymore, only light trimming, and hers is pretty full. She is one of the loveliest, most amazing people I have ever known, and everyone loves her. She is in her 40s, has a good job, and is very happy not shaving. Granted, she lives in a very progressive area, and works in an extremely non-traditional, progressive workplace, but I absolutely think your daughter is not alone and can be successful and happy in the future whether she decides to shave or not!

      4. Chairman of the bored*

        Me too. I take spironolactone to lower my androgen levels. A good reproductive endocrinologist could help.

        1. Elsadora*

          I forgot about spironolactone. I have heard of successes with it. However, I will tell you, I spent close to a thousand dollars on blood panel work done by an endocrinologist, only to be told i was hormonally normal.

    2. MillersSpring*

      Another vote for electrolysis. Many dermatologists have payment plans for such things so patients don’t have to save up. OP, please call a few derm offices and ask; if any say they don’t do payment plans, ask if they know any doctors who do. I know of at least one person who was shaving her chin significantly every day and was able to completely fix it through electrolysis.

      That said, I hope interviewing goes well for you, and I have my fingers crossed that you find a great position someplace where facial hair isn’t an issue whatsoever.

    3. krysb*

      I, too, have PCOS and hair-where-it-shouldn’t-be problems. I hope to start getting electrolysis or laser hair removal soon. For now, I use traditional, very short-term methods, but I feel like a stubbly mess halfway through the day.

      Reading these posts reminds me that it is not uncommon and nothing to be ashamed of, but it does hit the part of my self-esteem that focuses on my looks.

    4. Mags*

      Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t, but at any rate the LW stated “… I’ve explored (and dismissed) other options”. So we should probably respect that instead of speculating.

      LW, fwiw I work with a woman who has a full beard which she’s never shaved, and it hasn’t impacted her at our workplace whatsoever. But it definitely doesn’t come across as dishonest to shave before interviews. Most of us don’t show up to work three months into the job looking as prim and polished as we did in the interview.

      1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

        Thank you!!!!

        OP seemingly has explored other routes and it’s not working!

        I have facial hair and electrolysis is simply WAY too expensive where I live. As in impossible.

        1. Czhorat*

          It’s also possible that this OP wants the beard, or that it’s part of her identity and how she sees herself.

          In either event, I agree; it isn’t our place to judge. I’ll only say the obvious; if she does grow out her beard, it needs to be neat, professional, and well-trimmed. A beard should be fine; a sloppy beard would not be.

          1. RVA Cat*

            I’m hoping that acceptance for people with different secondary sexual characteristics is going to come along with our growing acceptance of transgender people. Maybe the beard is part of the OP’s identity, just like maybe there’s a man with breasts that are part of his identity too. You do you.

            1. Czhorat*

              I hope so too.

              The first place to start is in ourselves and our reaction; the natural inclination to try to “fix” the bearded woman is one we should fight.

              1. Temperance*

                In all fairness, I don’t think it’s about “fixing” her so much as other women who have gone through something painful and dealt with the same issue offering tips/encouragement, which is something that I really do not think we should discourage.

                1. Teclatrans*

                  Yes, as evidenced by the mom who is going to share this with her daughter. And some reader with a similar issue, in the future, will likely stumble across this post and find the digression helpful. I think there should be a bit of leeway and a reminder to get back on topic, but not full-on censure.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  At least on my end, it’s an attempt to keep the conversation on-topic because these threads get unwieldy even when they do stay on-topic. And also recognition that it can be very frustrating for letter-writers to write in and say “I’m X, and I’m fine with X, but I need advice on how X will be received professionally” and then get a bunch of advice on how not to be X.

                3. AthenaC*

                  Agreed. I would be a little irritated if I was complaining about, say, the fact that the skin on my face likes to flake at any significant change in the outside temperature, and not a single person responded with, “Try X! It did wonders for my sister’s husband’s cousin’s step-daughter from his 2nd marriage!”

                  I understand where the “let’s not fix her!” is coming from and it’s kindly meant, and yes of course nothing in this world can reduce the inherent dignity and value of a human being just as they are, but the fact remains that as long as we are all human beings, sometimes the easiest, best thing to do on an individual level is to “fix” it.

                  If the OP doesn’t want / need “try X!”, she is free to ignore.

                4. Zombii*

                  Agreeing with this.

                  I completely understand Alison wanting to keep threads on track but the LW didn’t say anything about her facial hair being tied to her identity, she even asked if it would be dishonest to shave it for the interview. This sounds like more of a convenience vs professionalism issue to me—I mean, it’s more convenient for me to roll out of bed twenty minutes before I have to be at work, so I’ll suck it up and throw on a full face of slap for the interview but once I have the job, I’m back to BB cream, mascara and tinted balm.

                  If there’s a convenient solution, I think that’s worth exploring, along with anecdata about women with facial hair who haven’t had noticeable impacts to their professional growth.

      2. TheLazyB*

        A good few jobs back I worked in a large department where a woman had a moustache, a very neat one. I did a double take the first few times I saw her but she didn’t seem in the least bit phased/self conscious about it so after that it was just something I didn’t really notice. If you act like it’s not something you’re really self conscious about, chances are everyone else will do that too.

        1. NW Mossy*

          A once-in-a-while colleague of mine has one as well, and you’re right about not noticing if the person doesn’t draw your attention to it. I find her to be such a competent professional and nice person that it simply fades into the background.

      3. Joseph*

        “Most of us don’t show up to work three months into the job looking as prim and polished as we did in the interview.”
        I’ve yet to meet anybody in my industry who wears a full suit to work every single day. I’ve also yet to meet anybody (successful) who *doesn’t* wear one to an interview.
        Also, I can’t speak for females, but I can definitely say that I’ve met plenty of males who are clean-shaven in interviews, then let their facial hair grow out a bit afterwards.

      4. Bobbocio*

        I wore a suit during my interview for this job. Now I probably wear a suit once a week. I hope no one at my office is thinking I’m being dishonest!

        1. Science Teacher*

          Agreed! I would wear suits or dresses to interviews when I was a teacher, with full makeup, my contacts, my hair down and heels.

          If you walked into my science classroom any given day and I was in dress pants and a plain shirt (labs with young kids can get messy!), comfortable “teacher” shoes, usually my glasses, a ponytail (again, labs!) and some concealer, mascara and eyeliner. On parent conference days, I’m back to my interview clothes. Field trip day? Sneakers and jeans!

          No one thinks I’m dishonest. I’m just dressing for the role I’m in that day!

    5. Lady Blerd*

      I mistakenly shaved instead of tweezing an annoying hair when I was a teen and am still dealing with the consequences decades later. I’ve tried electrolysis twice and stopped because I hate the dedicated sessions, then I tried lasering (didn’t agree with my complexion). All this to say that it’s quite possible OP’s beard issue is just as likely to be not related to a medical issue.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        I am somewhat confused by people talking about the “consequences” of shaving, as I shaved my upper lip as a teenager a couple of times and the hair and skin there are still exactly the same. Do other people have something happen to them when they shave? Just women and just on the face? I shave my legs and nothing happens, I admit I have no clue about this!

        1. Amy*

          Nope, this is an old wive’s tale. Shaving DOES NOT cause hair to grow back thicker or fuller. It can sometimes appear like that at first since shaving blunts the ends of the hairs while other methods don’t, but it’s an illusion. A lot of times the incidence of shaving coincides with increased hair growth simply because there was no need to try and shave until the hair showed up, and it’s following the progression it would have anyway.

          I don’t think I am allowed to link anything here, but a simple Google search will back this up.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes, I got into a disagreement with a coworker about that. I finally told her I didn’t know what magic ability she thinks the razor has to affect the hair shaft and trigger it to grow an entirely different kind of hair. I mean, I believed something like that when I was a teenager because it was what we were all told, and it fit what you’re describing (blunts the ends of hairs, you have increased hair growth). But it’s been thoroughly debunked.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              Oh yes, I knew about that old story parents tell their teenage boys to get them to shave their patchy peach fuzz (“It’ll grow back thicker, honey!”) but I thought maybe some women with PCOS had something specific happen to them or something, especially since OP mentions shaving has gotten painful. I guess she is just dealing with some awful razor burn, that can really kill your skin.

        2. Gaara*

          There’s a myth that shaving causes hair to grow back even thicker. It’s not true, but I wonder if that’s what it’s a reference to?

      2. Lady Blerd*

        Well, to be fair, I am currently shaving and the only hairs growing back thick are the ones that already were. Still, I maintain that it may not be medical, some women simply are built that way.

    6. Kate the Little Teapot*

      I just want to address one thing – your beard did not grow thicker because of shaving, if that’s what you meant by “retrospectively horrible advice.” That’s a myth. The hair looks thicker for a short time because the end is blunt from the razor rather than pointed as it would be if the hair grew out naturally. I know this from personal experience – I shaved my thick Italian arm hair in high school.

      I apologize if you know this and this is not what you meant by that tangential remark, but I just wanted to address that in case you were carrying around a guilt burden about “making your beard thicker.”

      1. MsCHX*

        And there’s also the issue of shaving being more likely to lead to ingrown hairs. Yes, other methods can cause ingrowns too but shaving is the bigger culprit. So then you have hairs and dark spots.

    7. Rebecca*

      The LW wasn’t asking for suggestions to not have a beard. She was asking about how having a beard would affect her job search.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    My concern for LW #1 is the often times unfair standards that are placed on female appearances. We’d like to think it doesn’t matter when in fact it does. More traditional industries will have stricter standards.
    The harsh truth is that women are judged by their appearances even when it is irrelevant. Many people judge without thinking.
    I’d recommend shaving just to be safe. After you’ve proven yourself you’ll have more capital for your appearance.

  3. AMT*

    Psychotherapist here. #4 is very field-specific. I actually wouldn’t use the personal examples at all, period. Assuming your interviewers are veteran mental health professionals, they’re going to be highly attuned to how candidates might handle potential countertransference issues. They will be listening for signs that you might be prone to inappropriately using your work to resolve your personal issues. Using these anecdotes risks making you look like a “rescuer.” Beef up your existing stories or do some volunteering with a crisis hotline, but please don’t bring your personal life into the interview!

    1. AMT*

      Just wanted to add that it might be okay to mention these things (briefly) if they ask you why you into your field—just not as an example of your crisis management skills.

    2. Cat steals keyboard*

      #4 I disagree with the beefing. You will probably crumble when questioned. Be honest. If you haven’t experienced a situation don’t pretend you have – that will not end well.

      1. AMT*

        To clarify, I assumed OP had actually experienced these things, but just needed to find a way to spin them in a way that highlighted his/her skills. I definitely don’t think anyone should be making up or embellishing stories.

    3. MP*

      I was coming here to make my very first AAM comment to say the exact same thing. I’ve been in the mental health field 15 years and have done hiring- those kinds of anecdotes would be a huge red flag.

    4. Amy G. Golly*

      I don’t know that there’s any one correct answer here, but fwiw, I’d like to offer a contrasting perspective. (For context, I used to be a social worker in the field of community mental health.)

      I think it’s fine to use personal examples, as long as you can demonstrate 1. concern for privacy and 2. appropriate boundaries in your examples. Instead of talking about “my mother” or “my former roommate” say “someone close to me.” Leave out unnecessary details; instead of “her husband left her and she lost her job” say “suffered some personal losses”. Place an emphasis on the calm, logical steps you took to assess the situation and to seek out information and assistance, and leave your emotional response out of it. (However, DO mention any strategies you employed to manage your emotional reactions and to reinforce the boundaries between your desire to help and your loved one’s autonomy.)

      I think it’s also important to stress that you understand that these personal examples don’t take the place of professional experience, and to articulate how you might act differently in a professional setting. Going through the process of involuntary assessment for a person in your life is managing a crisis, and I think it’s perfectly appropriate to share that with the interviewer, as long as you understand (and can articulate!) the difference between your experience as a loved one, and what your duties might be in a professional context.

      Further, I think the suggestion to limit yourself to only one personal example is a good one. Even if your professional examples are in a completely different sphere – managing an angry customer, dealing with a supply shortage, etc. – focusing on those examples demonstrates that you understand work experience trumps personal experience, even when you have a lot of relevant personal experience.

      In any case, that’s my two cents. It may be that AMT’s advice is more relevant to your particular situation, but if you do decide to share a personal example, I hope my advice is helpful!

  4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – I once worked in a place where a lady had the same situation. I think she eventually either went the electrolysis route or shaved because in later years, when I encountered her, the facial hair was gone.

    #3 – if they have engaged you in interviews, and you’re in, or have been through the cycle, yes – it is the right thing to do , to inform those that you’ve been in dialog with, that you’ve accepted another position and thank them for their time, and wish them luck.

    In fact, it’d be nice if employers let people know that they’ve filled a position and thank the applicant for his/her time, but that’s not something that companies generally do.

  5. lazuli*

    LW #4: I’m a licensed therapist who works in county-level mental health. One, I agree with Alison’s advice (and I love the way she phrased it!). Two, you might want to look up the ideas around “peer support” for mental health. There’s absolutely a growing recognition that people with direct personal experience, or secondhand personal experience, with serious mental-health issues bring a unique and needed perspective into professional mental healthcare situations, and more agencies and departments (at least in California, where I work) are seeking that out. I think you have to watch out for assuming that having secondhand experience is the same as having firsthand experience, but I do think the people I work with would find it a positive that you have some experience helping people through a crisis. Red flags would be more about “I totally cured my friend myself when no one else could help!” (savior issues!) or “This one experience I have has taught me everything I ever need to know about mental health issues!” (projection issues!). The way you’ve presented your experience here, especially the way you emphasize referring to more trained professionals when appropriate, the way you talk about helping loved ones interact with professionals in appropriate ways, and your awareness that self-care is vital, would make me believe you likely have very good boundaries and high awareness of any counter-transference issues, and would be likely to consult a supervisor or other appropriate person if any ethical issues did arise.

    I wish you luck in your search! We need more people doing important frontline work for people in crisis, and we especially need more people doing that work who have good boundaries, who are willing to ask for help, and who realize the importance of taking care of themselves!

    1. lazuli*

      Heh, just saw the earlier comment. I think it’s likely not just “mental health” field specific, but “type of mental healthcare” field specific. If you were interviewing for a private-practice therapy job, I’d agree with AMT; for a crisis situation, I stand by my answer.

      1. Amy G. Golly*

        I just left a reply under AMT’s comment, and then scrolled down to find yours – I think this is definitely going to be a situation where your miles may vary!

        I came from a background similar to yours: county-level community mental health. In my experience, it’s not at all uncommon for the people you work with to have direct personal experience. I think being able to describe that experience, how it informs your perspective, and how you can mitigate any unprofessional instincts you may have developed because of it can be a definite asset!

  6. ES*

    I’ve always worked in somewhat client facing fields so it may be different but unfortunately a woman with a beard would be at the the very very least noticed, just like a man with extreme ear hair, uni brow, etc. I’m not saying it’s right but there are social norms that say a woman shouldn’t have a beard.

    Now I absolutely assume some fields it won’t matter but in many (most?) it will. It is difficult to say – lets say you work in research, engineering, etc. you may be fine. Unfortunately our society has certain expectations when it comes to men and women’s looks and you don’t have to adhere to them but you also have to realize it can impact you if you dont.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Actually it would matter in research engineering. It would be subtle, but in general women are viewed as less competent if they don’t fit the beauty norm. It’s totally not fair but it must be acknowledged.

      1. blackcat*

        It’s definitely not universal, but a fair number of my female friends in large engineering firms seem to feel similar pressures about their appearance to my female friends in large law firms. In both cases, aiming for a certain level of formality (which I think is 100% okay) and attractiveness (which I think is super icky) seems to be expected.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Right. It offsets the “she’s outside my comfort zone of what women are Supposed To Be Like” problem.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I probably wouldn’t characterize the impact of your appearance on an engineering career rising to the level of big law. The highest ranking woman in our company really does not fit the conventionally attractive stereotype. She’s shorter, heavier, and dresses in a “sensible shoes and blazer” style more than a designer suit executive style. But she’s extremely experienced and competent.

          I do think appearance has an impact on advancement for men and women here, but just not at the level or big law or investment banking or entertainment. You can’t be a stereotypical, socially awkward nerd and rise to the top.

          1. blackcat*

            Yeah, it’s also company specific, and regional. My friend who has felt this the most is in the oil and gas industry in Texas. A friend who feels it to a less extent is a chemical engineer at a pharma company in Boston.

            For my big law friends, it also seems somewhat regional (even within the same firm, LA and Chicago offices sound surprisingly different…).

            (And now is the time that I reflect on the fact that it is odd that nearly all of my friends from both high school and college have post graduate degrees of some type and are all doctors/lawyers/engineers/academics/teachers. My sample may not be representative!)

          2. Engineer Girl*

            You should never use the outlier as a justification for ignoring the truth. Walk-on-water types will always rise up. The merely excellent and very good will need to stick to social norms.
            And personally, I’d ask the walk-on-water woman if she felt that she was judged by appearances. I’ll bet she’ll say yes, but she compensated for it by skill.
            The standard for women in most industries is higher than it is for men. There’s plenty of evidence for that. Like the study that showed that women faced discrimination for being 15 lb overweight where men didn’t experience it until they were 50 lb overweight. That’s a huge difference.

    2. NotMe*

      I came to make a similar comment. This is going to vary by industry AND by organization. My large company is rather conservative with a specific “look” that is most acceptable. That doesn’t mean we don’t have people who don’t share that look, but it is clear that their career progression is hindered by this.

      Our current CEO is very fastidious and values appearance. You can clearly see the similarities among those that are closest to him. I’m not talking race/gender but fitness, grooming, clothing, etc. For example, no one men here at the manager level and above have facial hair. Because of that, I double that our leadership would be very accepting of a woman with a beard. I’m not saying that is right, but that is what it is like at my company.

      OP – I would recommend shaving for interviews and be very observant during the interview process. How do other people look at the organization? Does everyone look alike or is there a lot of individuality? You may want to look for organizations that seem to have people that dress is various styles, men with facial hair and/or long hair, even tattoos or piercings. (None of that would be seen at my company.)

  7. Thomas E*

    #1: it’s not fair but in my industry (very customer focused) a woman turning up to an interview with a beard would not get the job in most cases IMHO.

    Your industry may be different.

    1. Jesmlet*

      Same, it’s depressing to acknowledge this but a woman with a beard in my company/industry would not fly with our clientele. It really depends on what type of work they do, and if there’s any face to face customer interaction, what type of customer base they serve.

    2. NASA*

      My field is on the opposite spectrum. Government and very liberal.

      My teammate is a lady with a beard and no one bats an eye. We aren’t really client facing either, but even when we are she doesn’t shave or anything and no one seems to care (good!).

      As some other commenters has also mentioned, let’s be real here…depending on OPs field there is a good chance it’s going to be an issue. It’s the 21st century and we still see women not getting paid the same amount for the same role…God forbid that woman also wears pants and or has facial hair. Society has a long way to go. Not to go too off track, but the NYT is featuring their most powerful pieces and one was encounters with a gender barrier. Reading the stories…Wow!

      OP, best of luck! Do what you need to do. And shaving for an interview is not disingenuous.

  8. Lissa*

    Wow, I went and read the old thread on makeup (agree with your advice there!) and some commenter showed up months afterwards and made a ton of very…opinionated…comments! That was an interesting read for sure.

    1. Myrin*

      I sometimes see that regarding the most random topics when I re-read some of the posts from way back. Like, dude, it’s been more than a year, chill!

      1. Liane*

        I had to check out the makeup thread comments after Lissa and Myrin brought it up.
        Was so funny, that commenter had a bunch of “Whyyyyyy do you think such a silly thing?!” posts, then apparently realized, “This article is six months old, no one’s reading my stuff.” But then comes back to it 6 or 8 more months later with that tl;dr rant.

        And then there’s the Great Pantyhose Debate, or was it “Debacle”? That one rabid Anonymous! Clearly, they believed Refusal To Wear Pantyhose was the cause of all things Wrong, Evil, and Immoral in the world. Including wrongs, evils, and immoralities that predated the invention of pantyhose.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          That sounds suspiciously like my late grandmother. She was APPALLED (!) that I was showing up to work without pantyhose, even though it was summer in North Carolina and I biked to work. Even pointing out that female staff at all levels of the organization did likewise–no dice. I was Ruining My Reputation by not wearing pantyhose.

          1. Zombii*

            When I had my first job, people thought it was weird that I showed up wearing pantyhose because it was summer and I biked to work. You can’t win. Now I wear slacks—and still no pantyhose. ;P

  9. Cat steals keyboard*

    #4 I’m sorry you’ve been through those things. I think you do need to avoid using those examples in the way you describe though. Experiencing those situations as a family member or friend is very very different to experiencing them as a professional – using personal examples may make it seem like you don’t understand that difference. With respect, you haven’t necessarily demonstrated all the right skills in your examples – because that may simply not be possible in a non-professional situation where you don’t need to, say, follow certain kinds of processes.

    But I’ll tell you what you do have. You have experience of what a service like this needs to look like. Don’t use your examples to cite experience in the field. Use them – briefly – to show that you understand why this kind of work is needed, that you have awareness of what situations like this may be like and why it’s important to get it right. You understand why people in crisis need professionals who will get it right. You may have seen good or bad examples and know what you would like to do differently.

    Good luck, and do consider volunteering to get experience.

  10. Grits McGee*

    OP#4, do you know if this job will involve contact with the family members/loved ones/caregivers of clients? If so, that can be a way to incorporate your personal experience- ie, you have caregiver-side insight into the process of navigating your local healthcare system, etc., and that helps you provide better customer service

    Given the high rate of burnout in crisis-oriented fields, mentioning your self-care experience may also be relevant if questions along that line come up. Although, now that I think about it, unless you’re a long-term caregiver it won’t be nearly as strong as multi-year professional experience.

      1. Cat steals keyboard*


        I will say that I think it’s not possible to compare professional burnout with being a carer – they each have their own challenges and I don’t think it’s possible to compare really. Sure, professional burnout looks different but what about someone who cares for a relative and never feels they can truly switch off from that ever? They just aren’t comparable – to do so is a disservice to both. Just seemed worth saying.

        1. Grits McGee*

          I definitely see your point about care giving vs. professional burnout. I was really thinking about it in a more superficial and interview-specific way– if OP gets asked about burnout but is coming from an environment where stress/crisis just isn’t really part of the workplace, then that’s something she can reference. I really just meant to clarify that there’s a world of difference between dealing with a particular event in the short term (things that the OP mentions, like getting a psychiatric evaluation for a loved one, arranging hospitalization and follow up appointments, etc) and the strain of providing long-term care.

          I apologize if I minimized the experiences of caregivers and professionals. One of my parents works in mental health, and so my comment was colored by my experience of seeing the difficulty she had disengaging from work (both emotionally and the hours she had to work off the clock to get all of her paperwork done) once she at home.

  11. JHS*

    For the first LW, if you haven’t seen an endocrinologist, I would highly recommend going just to make sure you are okay health wise as there are several endocrinological health issues that can cause facial hair growth (someone mentioned PCOS above, however, that is not the only one). I know you said you explored other options, but I understood that as hair removal options, rather than exploring the potential medical reasons for why you have the excess facial hair which could require treatment for other reasons. If that’s not the case, I apologize and Alison, feel free to delete if you think it is off topic!

    1. Erska*

      Yeah … I’m pretty sure the OP has explored those issues considering they, y’know, can grow a BEARD.

      1. JHS*

        You would be surprised at how many people brush off those things as cosmetic, so I don’t think it’s an automatic that someone would have considered it. Also, a lot of people don’t necessarily have access to or think of going to or know which medical specialist is appropriate. My comment was trying to be helpful to the OP and I told her to ignore and that I apologized if it was overbearing.

        1. Zombii*

          You weren’t overbearing, your comment was valid and sensitive. Nothing in the letter implied the LW had explored this and you didn’t deserve a condescending, dismissive response for a genuine suggestion.

  12. Gem*

    Lady with PCOS here: I shave but not every day because I’m lazy. I’m lucky enough to have it never seem to hold me back (I also don’t wear makeup). I do shave every couple of days so never have a full beard but it’s noticeable. I’ve also worked in a pharmacy so have been in a customer facing role and no one cared.

  13. FD*

    #1- This is a tough one. It shouldn’t matter, but I’m not convinced it won’t. Especially in the US, we’re still really bad at coping with perceived gender ambiguity. People tend to get especially antsy when women don’t conform properly to gender norms (even when it’s things like having facial hair, which is within the realm of plausible for people designated female at birth).

    I don’t think it’s going to be conscious in most cases, but I suspect that having facial hair may hurt your chances in many interviews. From there, you have to decide what you want to do about it. You could decide that if an interviewer is going to turn you down just for that, you don’t want to work there. You could decide to shave for the interview and ignore it later. You could decide to address it up front: “I know this is unusual, but I have a medical condition that causes the beard. I wanted to let you know up front so you wouldn’t be wondering.” Or something.

    Good luck!

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I am always fascinated about the “gender norms” stuff, because so much of it is not connected to biology at all. For example, any time armpit or leg hair in the office comes up in a letter, there’s a sizable proportion of commentators who feel really strongly that it’s unacceptable, even though it’s absolutely natural for women to have hair there.

      It’s not even about gender, because leg/arm hair isn’t exclusive to only one gender – it feels like it’s about women not being enough in our “natural” state. In the same way, I’m ready to bet that the majority of women over, say, 30, do some kind of facial hair removal, because it’s natural for women to have hair on our faces, especially as we age. I’m blonde, and my body hair grows lightly, including my eyebrows, so I can get away without it being too noticeable, and I definitely know I’m lucky.

      But it kills me that there are these “norms” that are totally abnormal and unnatural, and that there’s so much societal pressure to change our bodies because they’re supposedly not good enough in the natural state.

      1. Amy The Rev*

        Removing leg and armpit hair for women only really became a thing during one of the big wars (I forget whether it was WWI or WWII), but the razor companies needed more clients since all the men were fighting (and dying, which also lead to shift away from monogamy in dating culture, which happens whenever there is a higher ratio of women to men (perceived or actual), but I digress…). Anyway. The razor companies needed people to buy razors, so they created advertising that lauded smooth legs and hairless armpits for women, essentially shaming them for their body hair so that they’d buy razors and the companies could keep their profits.

        1. orchidsandtea*

          Yep! The origin was slightly before that, 1915, when sleeveless dresses became A Thing for the first time.

          1. Anna*

            Yes to this. Magazines started featuring women in sleeveless dresses, arms raised over their heads and such, with hairless underarms and it became the fashion.

  14. always in email jail*

    #4, I may be way off base since I’m not in your field, but I am in a field where HIPAA and privacy matter. I’d avoid saying WHICH family member experienced a crisis if you’re going to share the story. I’d be put off if someone was like “my mom was experiencing blah blah blah”, because you just told me a very personal story about someone else who I could easily find if I wanted to.
    As others said, for an entry level position, I am always interested to hear someone’s experience/perspective on when to get the proper professionals involved. It’s good to point out that you recognize the importance of referring people to the proper level of care.

    1. Nan*

      Oooh, good point. It’s very much a HIPAA/privacy issue if she says how they are related. Too easy to narrow down on.

    2. Grits McGee*

      This is such a good point. Mental illness is so stigmatized that I would be nervous to hire someone who even came across as “gossipy,” whether or not disclosures met the bar of violating HIPAA. Probably safest to keep it to “loved one” and “serious mental health crisis” and focus only on your actions rather than the circumstances of the person needing help.

    3. Jesmlet*

      While not technically a HIPAA violation since that only applies to health care professionals and not family, I don’t think it would be a good idea to go into specifics of the situation. I agree that it’s more important to emphasize the impact good professional care has on helping people, etc rather than implying your personal experience provides transferable skills.

      1. always in email jail*

        Exactly. It’s not a HIPAA violation, but working in a field where those are a concern puts privacy rights/issues in the forefront of my mind when making judgement calls. As an interviewer I would read it as a poor judgement call to give me that much identifying information on someone you know. If you don’t respect your family member’s privacy, why would I trust you to respect that of clients? (I’m not accusing OP of not respecting their family member’s privacy, I’m presenting a possible thought process of an interviewer)

  15. drpuma*

    I am curious if, depending on her state/country, OP #1 would be protected by laws that forbid discrimination based on medical conditions or gender expression? Obviously a beard is by no means a handicap, but I also have a hard time thinking of any non-modeling job it would interfere with. Regardless of what she chooses to do for her interview, she may want to look into the appliae laws for a little extra security of knowing what she legally can (and cannot) be asked to do once hired.

    1. Kathlynn*

      It would likely trigger sexism laws, if they would hire guys with facial hair. If I understand US laws right

        1. LBK*

          I mean, we do have the EEOC, and unless there’s a bona fide occupational requirement for women to not have facial hair while men are allowed to, I’m pretty certain only making women shave their faces would violate it.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It would trigger our federal antidiscrimination laws ;) (assuming the employer has 15 or more employees) Sadly, sexism is still legal. It’s only illegal if it adversely informs hiring, firing, or one’s terms/onditions of employment (promotion, scheduling, work responsibilities).

        1. Kathlynn*

          A law preventing discrimination based on sex would count as a law against sexism. Even if it is sadly limited in function.

    2. BRR*

      It’s certainly possible but it’s also very easy for anybody to cover their biases by saying the lw isn’t the right fit or doesn’t have the desired experience. I never think it’s a bad idea for people to educate themselves on employment law but because it can be hard to prove, expensive, time consuming, and could garner the lw a reputation (especially since she is going for her first job) I would say it’s not a likely solution for the lw.

      1. Natalie*

        I think this is why the general advice is to not mention that sort of thing in an interview, if it’s not relevant – it’s a lot harder to pretend that someone is a bad fit when you hired them not knowing about X, and then changed your mind when you find out about X. A lot of discrimination is also subconscious, so once hired the manger wouldn’t be harboring an intense hatred of the person.

    3. AMT*

      Not a lawyer, but I remember a case in which the EEOC filed suit against a fast food restaurant on behalf of a woman with a non-contagious skin disease whose face was disfigured. IIRC she’d been fired because of concerns that people wouldn’t want her touching their food. However, I’m not sure that OP’s condition would be considered a perceived disability. I don’t think obesity is usually considered a disability under the ADA without (real or perceived) physical difficulties like mobility impairment. It probably depends on the reason given for rejecting the LW (e.g. “She looks terrible with a beard” vs. “Ew, she must have some weird disease”).

      1. AMT*

        I forgot the “for example” after “obesity” — I didn’t mean to imply that the LW is obese, but that obesity is an example of a condition that makes someone subject to appearance-based discrimination, which usually isn’t covered under the ADA absent other disability-related factors.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s also unlawful to discriminate on the basis of non-comformity with a gender stereotype, fwiw.

        1. Brisvegan*

          Just curious: would this also cover transmisogyny?

          I haven’t finished reading all the comments yet and am not sure if LW1 has come back to say she is a cis woman. I know most people have been assuming that (since she doesn’t mention she is trans). However, reading the question, I did think it was also possible that she could be a trans woman.

          Do the US sex discrimination protection cover something like beard growth if the discrimination is because the woman is trans or because a cis woman was percieved to be possibly trans due to beard growth?

          My country, Australia, has specific national and often state protections based on gender variance. I know some of your states don’t and am really curious about how your laws apply to such a situation.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      In some cases (not necessarily the OP’s), it might potentially touch on religious discrimination law, too – for example, some Sikhs don’t remove any facial hair for religious reasons.

  16. Not an IT Guy*

    #2 – I can relate to this, my manager keeps pressuring me to take a position as a customer service team lead whereas I’ve repeatedly stated that I no longer wish to be in customer service. Hopefully her superiors are respectful of her wishes but I just want to forewarn of one of two possibilities: Either they will respect her wishes but take her out of consideration of any promotion for the remainder of her stay, or they will simply force the promotion on her (which is how I got involved with customer service to begin with).

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m thinking, if they’re at all reasonable, they’d be ok with it. Admin and customer service are very different animals (I’ve done a lot of both).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, and having a competent admin who wants to stay in the position is way more valuable than people think. If they force a promotion, they’ll have to start all over again.

  17. always in email jail*

    Also, #1, I really have nothing new to add but I know when I ask for advice it’s helpful to hear the same thing more than once (makes it easier to believe I guess?). I want to second (third? fourth?) that shaving for the interview and then not regularly shaving for work is no different than wearing a full suit and spending extra time on makeup etc. for an interview when you don’t intend to do that every day for work.

  18. Sled dog mama*

    Another female with facial hair. I just have a mustache. I usually just shave or use hair removal cream for interviews and don’t worry after I actually have the job. It’s never seemed to hurt me but I’m in a male dominated field.
    And OP FWIW if you haven’t explored the reasons behind the hair growth just how to remove it please do. I have PCOS and treating the underlying hormone imbalance really minimized the hair growth for me.

  19. Allison*

    I agree with AAM on #3. If you just applied and someone sees your application, likes it, and contacts you, you can tell them you’ve already accepted another job. They’ll probably understand, especially if you applied weeks ago (or heck, even if you applied a few days ago just in case the promising job lead didn’t work out), but it might be a good opportunity to make a connection with that company for future opportunities.

    If you interviewed in person, there’s a chance they may be in the decision-making process and that you might be high on the list, or they might be assembling an offer, and may have even put other candidates on hold thinking they’re gonna hire you, so it makes sense to let them know you’re not on the market anymore. If you wait until they reach out to schedule another interview, or extend an offer, you’re not just delaying the process for them, you’re also delaying the process for other strong candidates.

  20. LW #2*

    I’m the OP for question 2. Alison, thanks so much for your advice, which I think is excellent.
    She does not have formal performance reviews; however, since I wrote in, she did recently have an informal sit-down with her manager, which went well. She will begin to learn the work of other departments in the coming year as she continues in her current position, which I think is a happy medium. Which is a big relief — it really does seem like signing up to be a customer service rep at that company is like becoming the drummer of Spinal Tap; they just do not seem to last!

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Thanks for the update! I once worked somewhere that had a usual promotion path from admin to a particular department. I knew I wouldn’t be good in that department but didn’t say anything when the promotion came, and I was miserable. I’m glad your wife now knows herself well enough not to take a promotion into a position she’ll be miserable in.

  21. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1: Yet another bearded lady here. Like you, OP, I’ve tried a lot of non-shaving means to get rid of the hair growth, and nothing really helped.

    I won’t leave the house if a razor has not touched my face that day. I grew up not being allowed to shave off the growth (my stepmother was weird) and it’s actually a relief for me to be able to remove it.

    Here’s how I look at it: unless you are actually trying to disguise your identity, there’s really nothing you can do with your appearance that can rightly be decried as deceptive. You are in charge of your body, and you get to decide how it ought to be maintained and decorated. If that means shaving for an interview but not on the job, well, plenty of guys do that.

    About how it’s likely to affect you… I’ll be honest. My experiences when I wasn’t allowed to shave were profoundly negative, and I hear a lot of negative talk about women with facial hair. But that may be because until recently, I worked with very…. hm. Opinionated people, if you get my drift. Your experiences may vary.

    1. Callalily*

      Little off-topic question: What technically is disguising your identity in an interview to the point of deception?

      Thinking on it, I feel that changing your appearance would very rarely be considered deception because employers aren’t supposed to base anything off of them. Things that come to mind of what people would be doing are: wearing makeup, wearing unneeded glasses, not wearing needed glasses, wearing coloured contacts, changing their hair colour, hiding piercings, hair removal, fake hair, body shapers…

      The one thing I can think up is if you put on fake muscles under your clothing to make you look stronger for a job that requires certain physicality when you know you can’t meet their standards.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I was thinking pretending to be another person in the legal sense. You don’t have a driver’s license and borrow a friends so you dye your hair and wear contacts to look like the friend so you can pass for that person. Obviously, you would be using a fake name too. We are into movie territory here.

      2. CanCan*

        To the point of deception… a Tootsie or Mrs. Doubtfire type of disguise?

        Or a disguise designed to support false claims in your resume/application (even when the change in appearance on its own would not be a problem – thinking of Rachel Dolezal here).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think Tootsie/Doubtfire would apply b/c it conflates cross-dressing with transgender expression.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Well, Doubtfire applies since he was specifically pretending to be someone he wasn’t as a way to get hired as a nanny by his ex-wife. That wasn’t gender identity anything, that was a really creepy kind of fraud.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Pretty much what Case of the Mondays and CanCan said. It’s really hard to think of anything but a genuinely unusual case where manipulating your appearance reaches the point of being materially deceptive.

        Mostly, there’s a lot of garbage I’ve heard tossed about regarding women being “deceptive” if they put a lot of effort into making themselves look nice. I personally enjoy my morning transformation from “stubbly bed-headed slob” to “sleek well-groomed professional woman” every morning, and find the end result to be much more “me” than the raw material.

      4. LBK*

        The only thing I can think of is if you were going for a position with a bona fide occupational qualification and you manipulated your appearance to fit the description when you wouldn’t naturally. But those situations would be incredibly rare, as there are few positions with BFOQs and I can’t imagine there would be many cases where, say, a man was so desperate to work as a Hooters waitress that he would pretend to be a woman in the interview.

        (This is, of course, completely separate from actual trans people, which I would hope goes without saying but I just wanted to make it clear that that’s not what I’m talking about.)

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          And even there, if you were willing and able to do whatever it was to make yourself conform to the BFOQ, I’m curious whether that would count as a deception. Plenty of people cut/dye/straighten/curl/whatever their hair for acting gigs, certainly.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I was actually thinking that the OP could seek out companies that could have less “opinionated people.” Sometimes you don’t have choices on where you apply, but if possible, I’d start with companies that tout their inclusion policies or support inclusive initiatives in the community. It would signal that they have an accepting atmosphere. I worked a bunch of places where it would be awful for the OP, but I currently work at an office where facial hair wouldn’t matter at all.
      If the company has a bunch of glassdoor reviews about discrimination or bullying, then I wouldn’t bother.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        The “opinionated people” can be hard to suss out. My old company was actually pretty good on the non-discrimination front, but I had to stand my ground and get a bit rude in order to stop my department’s Halloween festival theme from being “freakshow carnival” (we had some American Horror Story buffs). I just knew someone was going to be a bearded lady and I was going to be really upset if that went forward.

    3. shep*

      Not nearly the same thing, but when I was a kid in middle school, my mom refused to let me shave my legs until I came home crying one day because someone had made fun of me on the bus. Finally she relented. It was probably only six or seven months from the time I started asking to the time she let me, but it felt like EONS and I hated the dark hair on my legs.

      Years later I asked her why on earth she wouldn’t let me just SHAVE the damn things when I asked initially, and she shrugged and said she knew what a hassle it would become and wanted to spare me that a little longer. I expressed some exasperation, and then felt bad because she essentially admitted it was mistake and she felt bad for not letting me do such a simple thing for a while.

      And shaving is totally a hassle, but like you said, the social/self-conscious relief that came from shaving, especially as an adolescent, was worth the hassle!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It was pretty awful; I actually had a lot of gender dysphoria issues in high school that made things way harder than they had to be… and then they completely evaporated when I was able to look at my unbearded face for the first time in four years. Funny how that works!

      2. TL -*

        That’s fascinating to me (off-topic, a little) because it never occurred to me to ask permission to shave or remove hair from my body (mostly tweezing my eyebrows). I just grabbed a new razor one day – my dad had a bag of disposable ones – and hacked at my legs until my mom clued in on it and bought me a better razor and my cousin walked me through a gentler technique.
        I never had much interest in makeup, but whenever I did, my parents let me wear whatever. (I think I was well into my teens before this became an issue, though.)

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I didn’t really ask for permission either; I just sort of started when I was about 12 or so. My mom never really said anything, although my big sister did offer to help out after I nicked myself a few times.

          1. shep*

            My parents normally let me wear and do whatever with my hair and makeup as well. I am still baffled as to why my mom was so adamant I not shave. I only asked because I had no access to a razor of my own (my parents used one razor at a time and bought the head replacements only).

        2. Nic*

          While it wasn’t a huge deal in my family, it was something that I was expected to ask permission and (for lack of a better term) go through training on, and show that I could handle with supervision before being allowed to shave on my own. I was around fifth grade at the time, which was around the time many girls in my community started to shave.

          Looking back, I don’t think it was so much “you need permission” as “let’s make sure you don’t somehow hurt yourself.”

      3. Marcela*

        My mom refused to let me shave too, legs and upper lip. But her argument was that she did not want to end my childhood. Yeah, all the pain I had to suffer because my classmates bullied me for being ugly, surely kept me as a child. I hated her for that.

  22. Callalily*

    #1: I think this is going to boil down to individuals being uncomfortable with you and allowing it to impact their perspective.

    Shaving for the interview is an excellent idea – you don’t want something really petty to get in the way of a job offer and prevent you from proving yourself once on the job. If anyone didn’t hire you for having facial hair, they would likely dare not tell you that it was the reason.

    Also, (correct me if I am wrong) but I think the general expectation for men is to interview clean shaven unless they have a full (and groomed) beard. So by going in with any kind of noticeable hair on your face would make you appear unpolished regardless of how good everything else is.

    Don’t worry about appearing dishonest… your appearance is not supposed to play a role in whether or not you get the job (even though we all know it almost always does)! This may be seen as a bad example but imagine if a coloured person was worried their skin colour would deny them employment and they used makeup to temporarily mask the colour of their skin for interviews… they get the job and stop wearing the makeup revealing their natural skin colour. Would you view this as a dishonest practice to get a job?? Sure it is technically dishonest but the employer had no right to base the job offer on skin colour! So remember that no employer has the right to base the job offer on the fact a woman can grow a beard – so hiding it is not dishonesty for an interview.

    It could be full fledged discrimination if they hire men with the ability to grow facial hair but refuse to hire a woman with the same ability.

    Once you are on the job though it becomes tricky.

    You first should check up on the grooming policies at the workplace… you wouldn’t want to start letting anything grow and then get dragged in the office because there is a blanket policy of no beards/scruff allowed! If a policy like this exists then you are pretty much stuck to what we consider the male standard. This really makes me feel bad for you because it is bad enough to be held to grooming standards for your own gender let alone standards intended for the opposite gender.

    If there is no policy I would at least conceal your facial hair until your probationary period is up since it is too easy to fire you over something silly like this. You really shouldn’t have to but I could see a bad manager making a knee-jerk reaction and giving you a very hard time.

    If you do decide to grow it out you might want to consider talking to the boss/HR to avoid a more awkward conversation later on when they notice that you are growing hair. If this is medically caused you should certainly have a doctor’s note on hand just in case something goes awry.

    For some reason I keep imagining my old boss in this scenario – she’d look at the hair and say “You are defiantly growing that facial hair despite knowing my unspoken preferences”.

    1. N.J.*

      I know this wasn’t the intent of your post and you are just using an example of situations in which employers should not be basing their decisions on appearance, but I feel the need, for whatever reason, to point out that that it is considered anywhere from out of date/old-fashioned to highly offensive to refer to a person of color as a colored/colored person, especially in the U.S., residents oh which comprise a good portion of this blog’s audience. This term was, at a certain time, viewed as a respectful alternative to the horrible slurs used to refer to a person of color, but it is not a term to use today. Person of color, black, African American or other official and accepted terms to refer to racial minorioties who would be viewed as POC are fine, but colored/coloured person is not a respectful word choice. Alison, if I am out of line for bringing this up, I apologize but it felt like a teachable moment.

      1. Just a thought*

        In some countries, it’s still the polite term, I think. I’m told South Africa is like that. Your correction was incredibly kind, though. I’ve gotten so used to nasty comment sections that I’m always impressed by this one!

        1. KBo*

          My husband is South African and this is indeed a separate term that does not mean the same as Black, African American or Asian.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I think the change in terminology comes, in part, from person first speaking. Instead of autistic child we say child with autism. It’s not a disabled person but a person with a disability. “Colored person” sounds like it is entirely defining that person while person of color just means it is one of the attributes of that person.

      3. Jesmlet*

        I think it’s definitely good to point this out as a general correction but I do feel the need to say that when I’m speaking quickly about things, I have at times referred to myself as a colored person. I know we’re pushing more into the person first language (which I think is so important!) but there are plenty of people on either side of the line who don’t view it as disrespectful or negative in any way. I’m the type of person who would rather focus on the intent and context than the word choice.

        1. N.J.*

          I understand that as persons of color, you and I may have different comfort levels as to individual preferences for terminology. I also agree with focusing on intent. My answer to Noel gives more details as to my reasons for rejecting the use of colored. I would caution that there are enough people who reject the term that it is a more respectful option to not use the term.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Yes, agreed. I think I said generally the same thing below but I think my inadvertent occasional usage is one of a couple reasons why the term persists… ‘if she said it, I can say it too’ (oops!). Other obvious reasons shall remain nameless because there’s really no reason pointing them out.

      4. Noel*

        A question: why is “person of colour” okay but “coloured person” is not? From a linguistic standpoint, do they not mean exactly the same thing in the English language? Not trying to be obtuse or inflammatory here, I’m just genuinely curious what the difference is.

        Full disclosure here, I am white and don’t believe I have any right to tell minorities what they should or should not be offended by. As “coloured person” is generally thought of as offensive, I don’t use it. I was just wondering why it’s offensive, but “person of colour” is not. They seem the same to me.

        1. Jesmlet*

          I believe it’s a matter of the history of the word and like I mentioned, person first language. Same as autistic person vs person with autism. Semantics to many but offensive to more and if it’s just words, I try to default to the option that won’t offend anyone.

        2. Amy The Rev*

          It’s the difference between definition and connotation. While in theory yes they mean the same thing in English, they have vastly different connotative loads (the cloud of mental associations or ‘baggage’ they carry). “Person of color” is a more recent term largely coined by people of color themselves, saying that that is what they’d like to be called, expressing agency in the face of systemic oppression, etc. “Colored person”, while it might’ve been the accepted term several decades ago, in light of all that has happened since the 50s and 60s, it now connotes segregation, explicit racism, derision, dismissal, etc.

          I think you hit the nail on the head though about how its more about not telling people what they should/shouldn’t be offended by- since “person of color” is the term that most people of color seem to prefer, using a different term, especially one with that kind of emotional baggage, is one of the main things that makes it disrespectful/offensive.

          It’s kind of like how the celtic cross was originally a neutral symbol of christianity as it was expressed by celtic peoples, but now is very much associated with white supremacists and their ideology. Still the same image/cross, still technically a celtic cross, but the connotative load has changed.

        3. N.J.*

          This recent article from Slate does a good job of explaining the problem thoroughly–

          In summary it’s the idea that at one point this was a more acceptable term, but colored was also used during a time when black people in the U.S. were subjected to segregation, violence and civil rights violations in the time before the 50’s and 60’s. So this was used to some positive effect in referring to specifically black individuals in a less pejorative way, but it is associated through its historical occurrence with segregation and Jim Crow laws as a term used to separate and suppress black rights. That’s the sophisticated answer. The more personalized answer, for me at least, as a POC is that colored is the same as referring to a person of Asian descent as Oriental–there are more nuanced, accurate and less odd feeling terms to refer to black people, African Americans etc. just as nowadays you refer to an Asian person as Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, or national origin term (Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian etc.).

          So it’s a combination of both of these lines of thought for me.

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We’re getting off-topic here so let’s move on. (In general, it’s fine to call out something like this once, but I don’t want it to derail the thread.)

        5. African American History Archivist*

          (US Centric historical info follows) There are historical difference that have led to the differences in usage. Person of Color originates with the social/legal term “Free Person of Color” used to describe the ethnically diverse Afro-Diasporic peoples who were not enslaved (so mixed race people, Black people, etc.). People chose in the 90s to bring Person of Color back into common usage to (1) represent a diversity of background beyond something like “African American” and (2) call on the freedoms/experience of those earlier Free People of Color. Colored, historically speaking, is anarchronistic and has fallen into the realm of offensive for the same reason people don’t like to be called “a negro” in the 21st century. It represents less of a direct cut than nig*** but does signify someone calling on the racial descriptors of an earlier time when terms of identification were not self-determined.

        6. Artemesia*

          One is a person and then hs characteristics. It is like you would not call someone a cripple, or an autistic but a person who has a disability or autism. Leading with a characteristic makes it easier to see such persons as non-persons.

        7. 42*

          It’s like the trend in medical writing–moving away from saying “cancer patients” or “lupus patients” and toward “patients with cancer”, “patients with X”. Not letting the disease define them. And I agree with it that distinction.

      5. Anon for this*

        +1, although based on their spelling, I don’t think that commenter is from the U.S. It might be fine where they live.

        Where I live, the southern U.S., it’s not acceptable. While I don’t want to police someone’s word choice if it’s okay in their own culture, I do want to thank you for bringing up the term politely.

    2. AthenaC*

      I think is is probably the best take on the situation. I would also add to OP1 that if you start growing out a little scruff and people try to let you know that they’ve noticed, the Oblivious Act is your friend. It’s easier for someone a little socially inept like me, but with practice even the most socially conscious person can pretend to be oblivious!

      It works like this: if anyone does a double-take, changes their tone of voice, says anything about your scruff, just act as if you were having a normal professional interaction. If necessary, take control of the interaction with a momentary blank stare and a subject change to something professionally relevant or even personally relevant (ex. Did you have a good New Year’s?).

  23. Mockingjay*

    #2: Alison’s advice to proactively bring up the wife’s preferred career path is solid.

    So often people who are stellar in their current role are moved to problem positions. “You’re so organized/calm/methodical/on-time/etc., so you will be awesome in a customer service role!” But transfers rarely fix the underlying problems. Not to mention that you never wanted such a position in the first place. If you did, you would have applied for it.

  24. Just a thought*

    #1 – I’ve noticed that Alison often seems to give people more credit than I think they deserve in the niceness department, And I think some of her answers are based on how she would treat others, not how the average person is likely to treat others. While this shows what a kind person Alison is and how she values people for who they are and the work they do, rather than the way they look or act, I do not think the average person is as kind as Alison in the workplace. I’ve had the misfortune of working with people who made fun of my appearance, weight, height, accent, clothes, autism spectrum behaviors, and too many other things to list. I’ve taken away from those experiences that fitting in to others’ expectations of you is crucial in most workplaces. I just say this because I don’t want the cruelty of some people to come as a shock to the OP, although she may already have experienced some of it.

    1. J3*

      I agree with this. I really appreciate how Alison works to push the needle towards more equitable and saner workplace/hiring norms, but I think she is understating the unfairness OP#1 will likely come up against. OP totally has the right to say “screw ’em, if they don’t want me the way I am, I don’t want to work there,” or “I want to take a stand to normalize interviewing with this appearance for me and others” and that might actually be the way that would ultimately end up most sustainable and happymaking for her, but I do think the beard would hamper her in interviews in many places, and she should be aware of that for her decision. It sucks that it’s this way!

    2. LBK*

      I think there are certainly mean-spirited people out there but I really don’t think they’re common; I can only think of a few I’ve come across in my career and for the most part others regarded them as mean and nasty and didn’t respect them for making personal attacks like that. Those people will always exist and will always find something to be cruel about, so I don’t think it’s worth changing your behavior to avoid them. Remember that a grown adult choosing to still act like a playground bully says more about them than about you.

      Assuming that the majority of people aren’t going to be complete a-holes (which, again, I think is a fair and accurate assumption), the question does boil down to whether people will have professional concerns about appearance, and that applies to anything that might fall outside of a certain desired “look,” whether it be facial hair (male or female), piercings, tattoos, hairstyle/color, etc. And as Alison says, that’s only true in certain industries that might have more conservative cultures and/or in certain roles, generally public-facing ones.

      I think Alison’s answer is a perfectly good one for the question the OP asked, which is just about whether this will potentially impact her professionally when dealing with rational, kind people. I’m sure the OP is no stranger to people being cruel about appearance, but then, who is?

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not about me being kind; it’s about what my experience has been with others. I haven’t come across very many openly mean people in my adult professional life (and especially not ones who aren’t widely acknowledged by everyone around them as jerks to be ignored). Certainly they exist, but I don’t think they’re so much the norm that people need to make decisions based on the possibility of encountering them.

      1. Gaara*

        My concern would be that even if they aren’t openly mean, they might subconsciously evaluate her negatively.

        1. Just a Thought*

          Exactly. I think a lot of people have learned not to say what they’re thinking, but they’re still thinking it.

      2. Just a Thought*

        It’s entirely possible that I’ve worked in more unpleasant environments than other people, but I’ve really found the majority of people to be less than wonderful about anything that sticks out as different. I’m also from a part of the country that values normalcy and traditional values, so I imagine that other places might be more accepting.

          1. Student*

            Yeah, there is. There’s also a huge socioeconomic component, and racial and gender components.

            I grew up in a poor neighborhood by a big city, and later moved to a very middle class, partially rural college town in the same geographic area, followed by an upper-middle-class, semi-rural town on the West Coast.

            The place I grew up in was mean. Mean was normal. Casual violence was a normal way to resolve conflicts. When you didn’t like someone, you told them, and then you fought, and then you went your separate ways, with the winner getting the thing fought over – friends, territory, property, or worse. Arguing was loud and normal.

            When I moved to the college town, it was a rude awakening to find I wasn’t supposed to solve problems with violence, ever. Violence is met with shunning. I adjusted, but I was always considered a bit too outspoken, too loud, too aggressive.

            When I moved to the upper-middle-class town, not only is violence forbidden, but also most forms of arguing. It’s met with horror, confusion, and full retreat – shunning. Instead, I had to learn to argue sideways – to disagree politely with special code words, to try to politely redirect people towards what I want without ever saying an idea is bad or wrong. They don’t believe in being “wrong”, and politeness is the formal battle code for fighting with others without being too “mean” or aggressive or direct.

            It is all exhausting in its own way. There are upsides to no violence, lots of upsides. But there are downsides, too – decisions are less final. The loss of anyone being “wrong” and of “arguing” is extremely frustrating to me, but it comes more naturally to people who’ve grown up with this form of manners-based fighting.

        1. shep*

          Same–I live in a very liberal city in a very conservative state. I grew up in the suburbs around the city, so always felt that kind of liberal presence even if everything was very white-picket-fence in the suburbs.

          But I even surprised myself the other day when I went to a grocery store in my old suburb–I saw a girl with a tattoo half-sleeve (incidentally, quite like mine), and another older woman with a hoodie that I recognized as something from the BioWare store–i.e., very niche video game paraphernalia, which I thought was really cool!

          I was surprised that I WAS SURPRISED, because I don’t notice these things at all when I’m shopping in the city (in fact, I’d notice more if people DIDN’T have tattoos or wild hair, etc.), but the fact that I noticed it in the suburbs was so indicative of the pervasive sense of cultural difference even thirty minutes up the road from the city, that I’m sure region definitely impacts job-hunting re: appearance. Add to the mix an unkind bias, and I can imagine it getting difficult very quickly.

  25. Temperance*

    LW 1, I think it really depends on your industry and what your industry norms are. I’m an attorney, and as much as I hate to say it, I think there would be professional consequences from not adhering to gender norms. It’s the reason why so many women wear skirted suits, pantyhose, and heavy makeup.

    I don’t think it *should* be that way, but it is.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But it also varies by region. Not meeting the stereotypes for women’s beauty, presenting oneself in gender asexual or masculine attire, declining to wear makeup, not shaving one’s legs, etc., is common in some geographies (e.g., SF Bay Area, parts of LA and Sacramento)—the bigger issue is looking polished, which one can do regardless of gender expression. There are hundreds of women attorneys who do not wear skirts, pantyhose, or heavy makeup because of fear of negative professional consequences, and there are hundreds who do all of those things because it makes them feel put together/confident. Failure to conform one’s gender expression to cis-notions of gender is the core of Price Waterhouse.

      I know this is not what you’re saying, Temperance, but I’m troubled by the stream of “yeah, it sucks but it’s the way the world is” comments. If we validate and adopt dumb stereotypes that have nothing to do with a person’s qualifications and everything to do with one’s own damage/bias, then we’re recreating a terribly unequal society. There are studies that indicate that tall men are seen as more competent/trustworthy, while overweight/obese individuals are unfairly judged as lazy or lacking discipline. I would not recommend that a person try to stretch themselves on a rack or pursue aggressive weight loss methods simply to beat those (erroneous) stereotypes.

      My suggestion for OP is to do her best to look put together/clean cut in a way that makes her feel the most confident. A personality that exudes confidence, competency, and calm will go much further than a skirt or heavy makeup.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        If there’s rain in the forecast, I bring a raincoat. I don’t refuse to bring the raincoat because I don’t think it should rain.
        It’s nice to say things shouldn’t be that way, but it is necessary to recognize what is. It’s up to the OP to decide if this is the price she wants to pay for a job. And let me assure you, it is much easier to change attitudes from the inside Vs the outside. That means holding to norms and slowly changing them in the place you work. It’s much easier to break stereotypes if the other person knows you as a real person instead of the “other”.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          There is a difference between social attitudes, which can change, and rain, which is a product of a physical/chemical process. That’s like saying gender discrimination is as immutable as gravity, which is just not true.

          I’m not encouraging OP to make any decision she is not comfortable with. And I agree that it is easier to break biases/stereotypes once someone knows someone they previously identified as “other.”

          I’m making two arguments. The first is that we should not make unsubstantiated generalizations that “all of X industry” would discriminate against her (particularly if she plans to shave before an interview). The second is that we should not treat things that can be changed as if they are unchangeable truths that are true in all industries in all places at all levels. What we’re really talking about are perceptions that can and should shift.

          And it’s not enough to rely on those who are unfairly discriminated against to make that change. While one can make a difference as an “insider,” I’ve found that nothing can be accomplished without buy-in from people who don’t identify with the group being excluded. I’m basically asking the commentariat to think about what it means to step up in OP’s context.

    2. Just a Thought*

      My husband and I are both lawyers, and I would say that’s accurate. My personal favorite story is that a woman at his firm was pulled aside and given a warning because she wore blue shoes, which were seen as straight up crazy. You’d have thought she wore fuzzy bunny slippers to work, the way the partners got so upset about it. I’ve found so much freedom and joy in being a solo practitioner, because I don’t feel that pressure to conform constantly.

  26. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I wanted to share a story with you from a different context. A college student took a photo of his female, bearded Sikh classmate, posted it to the internet, and made snide/cruel remarks about her facial hair. She responded with an exceedingly kind/thoughtful response, and the photo-taker publicly apologized (and apologized in person to the student). They ended up grabbing coffee and talking about how to be kinder and more open-minded.

    I share this story because it raises ideas outside of hiding/removing your facial hair for how to interact with people who may be taken aback or who are unfamiliar with seeing women with facial hair. I also find that it can be charming to say things like “*shrug*, I’m just channeling my inner Frida Kahlo.”

    You shouldn’t be judged for something that is normal/common and clearly not your fault. I don’t think you’re misrepresenting yourself by shaving for interviews. I just want to ensure you have tools/fallback responses for when you get those jobs and may feel pressured to explain yourself once the 5 o’clock shadow hits. One would hope that your coworkers/peers would behave like compassionate adults, but in case they don’t, I find sometimes that humor can help remove the high-charged feelings people develop about women’s body hair. Clearly you should not have to explain yourself, but if you decide to do so down the line, I think it can be done in a way that doesn’t feel so high-stakes.

    1. pope suburban*

      Just FYI, that link goes to the news site’s timeline, where the current top story is about bears swimming in a lake. Which is adorable, no complaints here, I just wanted to let you know.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Wow, that is both horrifying (in the context of this post) and also strangely cute. OP, I did not mean to imply that bears playing in a Lake is in any way related to your letter. popesuburban, jazzcat, thank you for catching the mistake!

      jazzcat, you’re right—I was trying to link to the HuffPo coverage (please let it work this time: I will now hide under a rock.

  27. Lady Blerd*

    LW1, I will draw a parallel to black women who wears their hair natural (ie no chemical straightener) who wonder how to wear her hair for an interview (a topic fraught with worry in our community) : we do wonder if it’s dishonest to wear our hair conservatively or even wear it under a wig or extensions and then go natural once we get the job. If I was in your situation and shaving is a no go, I would consider camouflaging the growth with makeup. I don’t consider it to be dishonest unless your appearance matters in your field.

    Also maybe look into shaving and post shaving lotions to help sooth your skin and reduce the pain and irritation, you may have to look into higher end products.

    1. Lady Blerd*

      To clarify, I’d do the makeup for the interview, not just to camouflage but also so that I can focus on getting through that process without having the extra worry of being judged for my appearance.

  28. ella*

    LW1, I apologize in advance because I know this isn’t a response to your specific question, but because you said that shaving is painful, I thought I’d share something that Neil Gaiman put on his blog a few years ago about shaving with sensitive skin, citing Harlan Ellison as a source (and since Mr. Gaiman went 40+ years without knowing this, maybe it’s not common knowledge): “What you do is, you rub your stubble with hair conditioner. Leave it a couple of minutes, then wash it off. Then shave normally. Makes it really easy to shave. No scraping.”

    I’ve known one bearded lady, and when I first met her spent a day or so privately wondering if she was genderqueer or had something else going on; but I took my cues from her (she was confident and funny and made no mention of it) and it was basically a non-issue. I would hope that people you interview with (and ultimately work with) would act the same.

    1. Vin Packer*

      Yeah, some people may be assholes, some will be totally unfazed, but probably most will be a little thrown at first but ultimately determine it doesn’t matter.

  29. Vin Packer*

    Late to the party, but: #1, are you familiar with the cool bearded women out there doing their thing? There’s Jennifer Miller, for one, and Harnaam Kaur, both very dope.

    Also, re: looking polished, you can totally keep your beard neat and trimmed and nice-looking without shaving! Beard oils and balms are having a moment right now–a lot of the lines are obnoxiously masculine but not all are (I happen to know of one great one in particular, but I don’t want my to seem like a shill so if anybody’s interested let me know and I’ll leave it in a reply!).

  30. LW#4*

    LW #4 here. Thank you readers for your thoughtful responses. I like seeing the variety–it’s comforting to know there isn’t a definitive answer :) In retrospect, I should not have used the terms “beefing up and spinning into stories.” Playing up my past professional experiences seems like a Very Bad (TM) idea. I meant something more along the lines of turning “worked with two supervisors at a past internship to complete a petition for involuntary assessment for self-neglect” into a one-minute story that highlighted my skills, which in this case was just knowing when to involve supervisors.

    Since submitting my question, I interviewed for and landed what is basically my dream position on a community mental health team. In my first interview, I was asked to describe how I dealt with a crisis situation. I floundered a little bit when talking about my past professional experiences–should have practiced more!–and mentioned my family experiences tangentially, in a “I have experience in my personal life completing petitions for family members so I am familiar with the requirements and process” way. The question did not come up in my second interview. Next time I go through the job application process, I will have some bona-fide professional experience to draw on! And perhaps will have done some more work sorting out my savior complex :P

    1. Cat steals keyboard*

      Hey, well done and good luck. Knowing when to involve more senior people is a good skill to have, FYI! And I wish you every success in your new role.

    2. West of the Mississippi*

      Sounds like you did great- welcome to the field! A lot of the advice shared here still stands for how much to disclose to other coworkers. Many of the crisis workers I know treat each other like family and share A LOT of personal information over time.

  31. LW #1- Fellow Bearded-Lady*

    LW #1-
    I’m in a similar situation as you. I can offer plenty of medical/superficial advise to treat the beard issue, but I’m sure you already know about it.

    Here’s my experience with interviewing; I would schedule my interviews in the morning and be freshly shaved. I found that this did not impact my ability to get the job, and it also gave me confidence that I was “looking my best” and “polished.” Obviously during a normal work day you get shadow, and some of my coworkers have noticed, but don’t say anything. I live in the liberal-yist city in the USA, so in SF a lot more people are tolerant of “different” body types and won’t point out obvious outliers unless you bring them up. If I’m feeling particularly vulnerable or self-conscious, I’ll throw a scarf on since my office is often cold, and most people have blankets or an extra hat anyways (we’re in a renovated warehouse, great in theory, poor in reality), but this is often my own neurosis and not other people’s behavior.

    I would suggest wearing a 100% coverage, tone foundation on your face and neck if you live somewhere that’s conservative or have a cultural belief of make-up/gender roles in a certain way, or if you simply feel uncomfortable with people noticing that in your first interaction with them. This won’t create a “polished” look as you then need to include the full ensemble of make-up, but then it won’t be the main focus of your interview. I have a lancome product that I will wear when in large meetings, or if I have to do a lot of face-time with someone I don’t know that’s not in a healthcare profession (vendors at my Teapot company, or even our Teapot SalesTeam, as they’re in a completely different pod). I don’t bother wearing foundation if I go to the dentist or doctor, for example.

    If a potential employer cites the beard as being an issue, you wouldn’t want to work for them anyways. It also shows a lack of sensitivity, in general, to health issues. Most people are, and should be, more concerned with how you are at your job, not if you have an a-typical body that fits their personal perceptions. :)

  32. AJ*

    #1 – Not sure if this is off-topic, but I wanted to say – I used to have really bad acne, tried everything etc etc etc, and the only option left was Accutane. I was really freaked out about Accutane and put it off for years. Then I finally did it and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I know having acne is less out of the norm than having a beard as a woman – but I 100% empathize with knowing what it’s like to have people staring at your face all the time. Just my 2 cents if you are putting off/are freaked out by electrolysis or other options.

    +1 to all the suggestions to test for PCOS and “Fellow Bearded Lady”‘s comment above – if they are the type of people who wouldn’t hire you because of it they are NOT the type of people you want to be working for anyway.

    A lot of discussion about gender norms above, which I agree with, but just wanted to add – women with facial hair/beards aren’t choosing to have a beard – it’s just how they look. (You’re not choosing to wear men’s clothes, you’re not a man choosing to wear dangly sparkly earrings, etc). I work with a physically disabled woman who walks with a cane. One of her eyes is always focused up and to the right. It would be totally unacceptable for me to stare or act weird around her because of her physical appearance – as it should be with you. I’m sorry if you have had to deal with jerks in your life.

  33. West of the Mississippi*

    OP#4, I work in community based mental health in the PNW as a licensed MSW. I interview and hire social work students at the BA and MA levels, many of whom have no prior work history in mental health crisis work. Some thoughts for applying to first time front line jobs:

    1. Refine your professional story. It’s very common to come to mental health field because of very personal reasons. Your elevator speech should include the headlines of why you came to the field WITHOUT sharing personal details or becoming emotional. I would be fine with a candidate who told me, “I became interested in working in mental health after supporting a loved one through the involuntary commitment process. My crisis skills in professional work look like XYZ.” You want to convey that you are knowledgeable about the field, aligned with mental health care consumers, and that you can manage your emotions professionally. I would bet that you do have other professional experience that would demonstrate crisis work skills. Scan your work history for work that shows off your customer service orientation, managing resources or quickly researching information, keeping accurate documentation, improving work flow, flexibly setting and changing priorities, and setting boundaries. Practice, practice, practice this elevator speech and decide how much you are going to reveal before your interview. I recommend sharing no more identifying details than what you’ve written here and be willing to discuss specific action steps (brought to the ER and talked with the ED social worker, represented family member in mental health court, helped family member re-integrate into the community, advocated with their psychiatrist/therapist/case manager, etc). This will highlight that you know particulars of your state’s mental health system, which vary greatly state to state. Specific caveat: do NOT reference assessing anyone for suicide. Risk assessments for suicide must be done by certain credentialed staff in nearly all mental health settings; even a credentialed clinician is ethically not an acceptable person to assess a family member.

    2. Know your setting. Community mental health agencies hiring for front-line crisis staff often attract staff to “come as you are” and emphasize the personal as a pro. You might share more about your story when discussing your passion for the work in these interviews. In other cases though, crisis workers are more aligned with police, first responders/ EMTs, EAPs, or state involuntary commitment professionals. If you interview at a primarily medical setting or private practice, like AMT said, I strongly advise you do not discuss personal material.

    3. Know your region. The west coast is generally friendly to the mental health wellness and recovery model and harm reduction approaches to mental health and substance abuse. Like lazuli said, you might look up peer credentialing practices in your state. Some states do have trainings for professionals who also have lived experience, while some are more geared to people who are mental health care consumers first and then start work in the field.

    Good luck!

  34. specialist*

    I realize that I am late to the party and also a bit off on the actual requested advice for letter #1, the woman with facial hair. Please delete if this is inappropriate. Should you not wish to pursue treatment for your hair, then don’t do it. I would trim it neatly and present otherwise in an appropriate professional manner.

    I treat excess body hair. There are multiple ways to handle this. Bleaching of the hair is common. It is not tolerated by all skin types but most will do alright with it. Lighter hairs are less noticeable. Waxing and threading will work well, be sure this is done in an appropriate setting by knowledgeable personnel. There are hair removal creams available, such as Nair. Electrolysis can give some people permanent reduction. It is usually more time consuming and a number of treatments are required. There are risks including scarring, and it is more costly. The current best treatment is laser hair reduction–more effective than electrolysis. The appropriate laser depends on your skin type. The alexandrite laser has reasonably been the gold standard for people with light skin and dark hair for many years. (See Fitzpatrick skin typing, Fitzpatrick I-III) Other technologies are available to extend the utility, but the effectiveness does decline. Dark hair on dark skin (Fitzpatrick VI) usually doesn’t work reliably with a laser–the risk of burn is significant. The increase in poorly supervised medispas has been a problem in the US. Laser hair reduction only works when there is a hair root in the follicle. Waxing, threading, or plucking prior to the treatment will render the treatment useless. You can expect a period of time after each laser treatment where the hair doesn’t grow. In my hands, this is between 2-3 months in most patients. You do not laser again until the hair is growing back–again, the laser only works when there is a root in the follicle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen treatments done at inappropriate intervals–people paying for 4 treatments and only getting the results of one because they were done too frequently. There is also a prescription cream on the market, Vaniqa, which can stop or significantly reduce the growth of facial hair.

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