I'm Disrespected At Work For Looking So Young: The Boss Baby Problem

I’m Disrespected At Work For Looking So Young: The Boss Baby Problem

Every week Dr. Kirstin Ferguson addresses questions about the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column, Got a Minute? This week: Looking too young at work, having a criminal record and trying to return to an old employer.

I’m 12 years into my career and a senior member of my team in a large organization. I am very experienced and I am respected and liked by my managers and customers. During my career I have achieved a lot, worked on high profile projects and achieved great results. The only problem? I’m a young woman, but I look even younger than I am and I’m often treated with disrespect. For the past few months I’ve been trying to navigate the job market and I feel like I’m sometimes met with disbelief when I describe my work history. In my current team, I often encounter disrespect from those younger than me. How can I better convey my experience and authority without resorting to a 1980s power suit? I feel like I’m flooding.

Looking young doesn’t mean you should hold back at work.Recognition:Dionne Gain

Your situation brings back so many memories on a personal level and I understand exactly how you feel. It’s frustrating, demeaning, and frankly sexist that women (and especially young women) are so often dismissed for their looks. You’re in good company – think of women like Jacinda Ardern, Grace Tame, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg – all of whom were underestimated at some point and are now changing the world.

When I was 21, I remember men reporting to me who had worked for that particular employer longer than I was alive. It took all the courage in the world to earn their respect, but you can and will. keep doing what you are doing You don’t need power suits or (I remember thinking once) early onset gray hair to earn respect. The key phrase in your question is your belief that you will be experienced, respected, and liked. That’s all you need to remember and focus on. You can only control what she Think, feel, say and do and nothing will change the minds of those who decide to fire you because of your looks. Being underestimated can become a superpower if you just focus on continuing to do what you do brilliantly.

Two decades ago I committed a crime in NSW that does not merit an annulment. I worked continuously for 20 years because I was able to choose roles that didn’t require a criminal background check. I am moving interstate and need to find a new job now, but I find that every job requires a criminal background check. Can you please tell me what my options are, if any?

My advice is if a potential employer mentions that there will be a criminal background check, be honest and open about what the check will show. You can try to reassure a potential employer that you’re a different person now by explaining how you’ve changed. Focus on what you’ve learned over the last 20 years, the changes you’ve made in your life, and the decades of work experience you now have that you can apply to your workplace. Try to make sure you have references from different employers you’ve worked with over the past two decades. There may be some employers who can’t get past your story, but don’t be discouraged. Keep applying for roles and go head-on.


I live in a fairly small town and have worked for my previous employer for more than five years. I was released but treated with respect and a nice farewell. My CEO has offered me the opportunity to be my future referee, although I have admittedly underperformed for a number of years for personal reasons. I recently reapplied to my old employer as it has been two years since I left. While the recruiter suggested me, my former CEO said no, so I didn’t get the job. Should I ask my former CEO why she said no? how do i ask her I’m now wondering what she might have said to other potential employers and how I can restore my career.

I don’t think it would be appropriate to get in touch with your former CEO as this could be a difficult conversation and you may never get an honest answer as to why she turned you down for the role. However, if possible, find a new appraiser so you don’t second guess why you might not be successful in finding employment elsewhere. The other person you can talk to is the recruiter who recommended you for this position. You clearly felt that you were qualified and suitable. So maybe ask them for as much feedback as you can and let them advise you on what to do next for your career.

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