Ask the Image Expert

Sherry Maysonave is the founder and president of Empowerment Enterprises, one of America's leading communication-image firms. Sherry conducts corporate seminars and coaches executives, professionals, and politicians in achieving excellence in communication and image. She is also the author of Casual Power: How to Power Up your Nonverbal Communication and Dress Down for Success

I look like a Kid!

Question: I'm 18 but I look like a 14yr old I like the compliment but the problem is that I wont get hire because of my looks. I have short hair what can I do? Please help.

Answer: Dear Sandy,
How short is your hair? Is it cut in a pixie style? Is it straight, or curly? Including the evaluation of your hair, the first step is to identify precisely what or what combination of attributes make you appear as a young girl or adolescent.

Try to view yourself as a stranger to get a clear picture of how you are currently presenting yourself. Also you may want to consider asking for feedback from some working adults that you respect. If you do consult others, select those that you believe would have your best interest at heart and those who understand the working world of business. When evaluating yourself or receiving feedback, be careful not to judge yourself in a negative way. You are only 18! This process is simply about how to change your look to one that makes you appear more employable.

Use this "Get-a-Job-Checklist" to assess just what you can change to look older.

Hair: Does your hairstyle contribute to a little girlish look? Do you wear barrettes, headbands, or any other hair ornaments that suggest a younger person? Or does it typify the rebellious adolescent by sporting weird colors or a punk style?

Clothing: Do you wear very trendy or cutesy-little-girl clothing or accessories? Avoid wearing heart earrings or anything with bows or lace. Do you have any concept of a stylish, although professional, outfit? Do you wear short skirts with high-heel shoes or sandals and no hosiery? Always wear hosiery or socks in the workplace or to look employable and promote-able. Also be careful of your skirt length. Miniskirts do not send a message that leads to a respectable job.

Shoes: Get-the-Job shoes have closed toes and closed heels. If the previous description applies, they can be stylish and hip looking. But avoid overly trendy shoes, such as platform sneakers.

Makeup: Do you wear tastefully applied makeup? Avoid wearing blue eye shadow and pale frosty lipstick or very dark lipstick when job hunting. Wearing no makeup at all will make you look younger and can signal a low self-esteem. Low key makeup works best.

Body Type & Posture: Are you petite or slight in stature? If you are petite, follow the "Vertical Dressing Tips" listed in my book, Casual Power, to make you appear taller. Do you stand tall with your shoulders back or do you slouch or slump? Many teenagers slump especially when sitting in a chair. Poor posture does not bode well for getting a job. Practice sitting with your bottom scooted all the way to the back of a chair; this forces you to sit up straight.

Speech: Speak clearly and use excellent grammar. When in a job interview, do not use slang or hip terms. Also avoid saying words or phrases such as "like you know, what's up?, dude, way cool", etc.

Without actually meeting you, or at the least viewing a photograph of you, it is difficult for me to pinpoint exact suggestions that pertain just to you. Try the above strategy of general image evaluation then change what does not support your job search.

Best of luck to you,
Sherry Maysonave

Also see:

  • Advice for dressing when overweight
  • How much makeup should I wear at work?
  • Ask your image questions
  • Personal Power: A case study from 'Casual Power'