Secret: Your Age Doesn't Matter
If you have the sort of cute-but-less-than-authoritative face that causes random aunts to reach out and pinch your cheeks, is your career as an entrepreneur bound to suffer? After all, who would support the business ventures of someone who looks like he could still be mowing lawns for pocket change to go to the prom?
But baby-faced business owners and entrepreneurs who are genuinely young and look their age should take heart: Not everyone thinks your youthful looks are simply a disadvantage. For instance, a new study led by a professor of marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business finds that when hiring managers are given a choice between proven ability and apparent potential, they often opt for the excitement of the untested but promising candidate.
"The potential to be good at something can be preferred over actually being good at that very same thing," lead researcher Zakary Tormala says in a summary of the research, according to the MIT Sloan Improvisations blog. The takeaway for the youthful entrepreneur is positive--your projected potential can work to your advantage and may actually be preferred to the sure (but less sexy) feats of the established older player.
And this research insight appears to be bore out by the real-life experiences of young entrepreneur Thursday Bram, who recently pondered the question, "Are people misjudging you simply because you appear young?" on the Young Entrepreneur Council blog. Sure, there are ageists out there, she acknowledges, but there are also those who will be energized by your youth. So wear it proudly, she advises:
"Of course, there will always be people who don't think that kids should be running businesses.…Be civil to these dinosaurs. That's all you ever need to do. You don’t need to win them over, land them as clients or even get to know them….
"I’ve turned [my youthful appearance] into something of a business strategy…I work with a very specific type of client. I go out of my way to filter out people who aren’t going to be a good fit long before we get to talking about possible projects. My appearance is just one of those filters….
"It's surprising, too, how often people respond positively to my appearance. There are people who respond to casual clothing or brightly colored hair at a networking event as a declaration of confidence…Don't be afraid to use a youthful appearance to your advantage in exactly that way."
Do you try to disguise your youth or, like Bram, use your baby face as a marketing tool?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.