To provide some background I work in tech job which overlaps with academia, think mix of college, software and IT company, I`ve been quite fond of horizontal mobility, flexibility and ability to experiment with career paths, this type of work culture provides, since it allowed me to escape burnout many times. Once manager offered me to switch to mentor/lecturer position. I glady accepted offer, since I always considered interpersonal relationships my forte and paycheck was considerably higher as well. Fast forward two years and receding hairline started to bother me, while normally it was easily hidden thanks to long hair, after watching few "embracement" videos on youtube and encouragement from peers I finally "shaved it". Little I knew that it was one of my biggest mistakes, fast forward two months again, when new batch of students arrived. People started treating way differently than before, students started to address me with plural pronouns (way you refer to person generation older than you in my native language, rough english equivalent would be constantly referring to one with Mr or Sir) including some of students that were older than me, they were way more reluctant to ask questions or interrupt me, I often made mistakes intentionally to naturally encourage activity and discussion and it stopped working, also my first observation was that students stopped hanging around and asking lecture related questions and clarifications during break, which was common before, and gave me way to "break ice" with students that were shy to rise hand during lecture. Usually my lectures were pretty heated and interactive, I was constantly bombarded with questions and students didn't shy away from refering to me without formalities and sometimes with friendly jargon, but after changing my hairstyle that familarity that was crucial to my workflow is lost, is there any way to recover from this or I should throw in a towel and seek career switch ?

  • Have you talked to anyone about this? Who were the peers that encuraged you? Co-workers? Do they notice your oberservation, too? Aug 9, 2020 at 1:17
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    Can you add some line breaks to this? It's really difficult to read.
    – Kat
    Aug 9, 2020 at 4:26
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    @Bernhard Döbler Mainly colleagues who had similar problem and "solved" it in similar fashion, however i failed to consider that they didnt have public-facing jobs and what worked for them wouldnt necessarily work for me as well. I received complaints from management about worsened performance but didn't have to courage to mention my appearance. At this point it is career suicide to push any kind of body positivity if you are male, at least where I live. Aug 9, 2020 at 10:17
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    @Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Did consider regrowing but it takes time (years) and i am already under implicit ultimatum to catch up with my previous performance or switch. Considering that base salary is pretty low and most of the paycheck comes from bonuses which are based on performance reviews from colleagues and in my case students too. Aug 9, 2020 at 10:28
  • Not sure if this is the case in your native language, but in English addressing someone in an authority position (like a teacher) as "Mr." or "Sir" it just as common as for an older person. Is it possible that not having long hair makes the relationship you have with your students seem more professional or formal? Would this shift also account for students' reluctance to correct your mistakes? In some cultures it is considered very rude to correct someone in a position of authority, and a student may be more likely to correct "Joe" rather than "Mr. Immortan"
    – spuck
    Aug 10, 2020 at 15:59

2 Answers 2


Been there, was there. Other than a few minor details my story is very similar, worked as manager in a small company and after a motorcycle accident had to walk with stick at age of 27. With the local culture being very ableist and lookist it meant an end to my career.

Unlike you I didn't have, "horizontal mobility". I would consider the option of a career switch, especially if you have easy means for it. Reality is that appearance is the lion's share when you are in profession which centers on communication, it can make or break your career.

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    Not exactly a thing I wanted to hear, but it certainly gave me a realistic view of situation. I guess things come and go and only option is to adapt. Aug 12, 2020 at 1:19

I think you just need to give yourself time to adjust to this new paridigm and embrace it for what it is. I have the opposite problem and I think it has contributed to me being stuck as a senior developer at age 52. People mistake me for someone way younger than what I am as I have zero hair loss and zero grey hair, something I haven't seen in any other person even in their 40s. My goal in the new year is to get into shape again and I know from past experience it makes this even worse

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    Well, its a shame that workers are more judged by appearance than professionalism, however your case is a bit different, as it is almost always an advantage to look younger after certain age. Especially in a tech job. Aug 9, 2020 at 10:05
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    Except for one thing, people can tell your age from your resume. I don't really want to cut out my experiences from my early years as the combination of systems engineering and coding is what makes my resume stand out from everyone else's, it's what got me the job at my last place
    – user120435
    Aug 9, 2020 at 20:29

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