Sunday, 30 May 2010

Looking youthful has its perils

I've always been told I don't look my age. Mother nature has given me childlike skin and soft features. I should feel blessed but I've recently been reminded of the flip side.

Where I work, all year round there is a steady stream of work placement students, or stagiaires. They come as part of their studies and stay usually 6-12 weeks. It seems I've been lumped in with them and I frankly don't know how to get out of their gang.

I got belittled the other day when I asked at reception for something - she dialled the telephone and said that a student, I shook my head, oh, the stagiaire... she said.....I grimaced (I was with a stagiaire at the time, so I let it pass) needed this and that....

The same day another person used a voice that can only be described as patronising when I asked for a document from a another department for my boss that apparently didn't exist. I wanted it in English as all the others were that he wanted, but she told me that it didn't exist in English and that I should listen to instructions from my boss more carefully. I was less than impressed. If she'd turned to her colleague on my departure and said 'oooh, that stagiaire is sooo cute for getting it wrong' I would not have been surprised.

It's so important to me to be taken seriously at work but looking baby faced isn't helping at all. You will all probably say 'you'll be grateful for your youthful appearance when you turn 40', yea ok, but it's really not helping the here and now. I am not a stagiaire, I've just had my contact prolonged for two more months (hooray!) and I want to make a good impression all round.

What to do? Any ideas on looking older and more credible bar starting smoking for wrinkles? All ideas welcome.

15 comments:

polly said...

Oh, do I know what you mean! I'm not sure if I have childlike skin, but I'm certainly petite and not very...womanly. Earlier this year while working at the lycée I was mistaken for a student at least twice! Once a cat walked in the door and I (being a cat lover) went to pet it and to usher it back outside. As I was doing so the man at the accueil came running out screaming "Non, il faut pas laisser entrer les animaux!" I said I didn't let it in and he said, "Ah...biensur!" When I came to him later in the day to get some new dry eraser markers I explained who I was and he was uber embarrassed! Every time I saw him after that he made a joke about it or apologized yet again for his faux pas.

Unfortunately, I have no tips or looking older especially since high school students here tend to dress more like 30 year old women than teenagers. Not to mention their excessive makeup or excessive use of hair products...

Cynthia said...

I would gently put these employees back to their place, intern or not, being polite hasn't killed anyone!

As for looking older, from what I learned from What not to wear, sometimes a hair cut or make up helps.

Amber said...

I've got the same problem and it often leads to me over compensating when exerting my authority, which is equally bad. When one of the students at the uni asked my colleague, "I shouldn't have to listen to her, she's nothing but a stagiaire", I lost it and put the kid back in his place. You only have to do that a time or two before people stop making that mistake.

Andromeda said...

I think make up would make the biggest difference. I'm no expert, but I think too much and you definitely will look like a kid trying to look grown up, so just mascara and eye shadow, no eyeliner (or at least not smokey black). Clothes just a little more professional and tidy than the interns, and hair tied back, but not in a ponytail.

Have the people you worked with not noticed that you've been around longer than an intern? Or have you not gotten to the 12 weeks yet? Hopefully once they see you're still around after a few more months things will be better!

Emmy said...

thanks girls. I was sure that I wasn't alone but I honestly didn't have this problem when I was teaching. I wear make up everyday but must admit I don't put it on with a spade.

I agree with you polly about the young french girls looking way older because of their make up, but I never had their upbringing!!

I do make an effort too with what I wear to work but the ensemble is obviously not working!

I've only been there a month, so maybe they'll get used to me. Time will tell.

In the meantime, if you want to sign me up for 'change de look' I wouldn't be offended one bit!

Keep the ideas coming...maybe I need new hair?!

kiwi in france said...

you can have some of my wrinkles! As a fair-skinned person growing up under a harsh sun and studying/working as a geologist I definitely look my age and feel it with everyday :)

Haircut and simple makeup I think would do it. And just an air of confidence.

Ksam said...

I have the exact same problem - though the stress of these past two years seems to have aged me quite a bit since I'm finally getting a few "madames" instead of the constant snarky "mademoiselles". So maybe a stressful life is the secret? LOL

Seriously speaking though, I know what you mean, I work in an all-male environment and it's tough to get people to take me seriously. I don't know if you wear them, but I think glasses can play a big part too - they automatically make you look a bit older and more serious, especially the darker-rimmed ones.

Emmy said...

ladies - it happened AGAIN today. A student tu'ed me when he was asking for some help (thinking, I assume, I was a stagiaire)

I wear glasses all the time KSam... I'm seriously running out of ideas.

The actual stagiaire I share an office with asked me today how old I actually was. When i told her she said 'oh right, effectively, you don't look your age'. She thought I was a student too.

It may be silly but I'm getting a complex about it now. Au seours!

aaron-writer said...

just a short message to say you actually live in the north-west of france... if you were in the north-east you would be near germany...I live not that far from Lille... so I know...

Emmy said...

shit Aaron, I've been in France 5 years and I've never looked at a map of France before. Let's save this debate for another post ok?!

aaron-writer said...

wasn't looking to argue..
only used the comment box because I don't know how to message here...
I'm new on blogger..
no need to post my comments...
I love maps etc... so I'm a bit of a fanatic...girls hardly ever get off on maps...hello anyways... aaron..

Mil said...

Yes, I'm thinking you should put those uppity Frenchies in their place. The one who said you should have listened more closely to your boss deserved a slapping. subtely slip in that you're here on a CDD for such and such post and you're still learning. Don't complain about looking young! I think it's also in the voice. Making sure it sounds deep and a bit authoritarian. Having to scold Juliette has deepened my voice. Glad the contract got extended!

Rach said...

I was at a meeting last week where I was the only woman there and the only person under 40. When the industry reps went round with their business cards they skipped me out... and when I asked why, they said that they'd already given their cards "to my boss" - in fact my Irish opposite number sat next to me. When I told them I was actually there representing the UK Government, not as someone's PA, they soon changed their tune! But of course it was too late...

I think its sad but true that we still live in a society where if you're young and female you're always going to have to work harder to be taken seriously, especially if you're in a male-dominated environment or one like yours where there are people around such as students / interns who others will confuse you with. Like some of the other posters, I find that at the weekend, in my jeans, scruffy hair, contact lenses and minimal make-up I'm always "mademoiselle" and during the week in my suit, high heels, glasses and pinned up hair I'm (generally!) "madame". But what also helps is being a bit paranoid and not even giving them the opportunity to make assumptions about you - go and introduce yourself, make sure they know who you are and what your role is. In a small organisation the word will soon get around that you deserve a bit more respect! (as well as envy at your beautiful skin!!)

xxx

Amber said...

Emmy -- random side note, tagged you over at my blog.. no obligation of course :)

naturelover said...

Oh.. The feeling of being treated as a campus placement trainee even after 3 years into my job was terrible. I never had childlike skin.. In fact, i had acne that wouldn't go away and people treated me as a student and i wasn't taken seriously. Anyway, after my daughter was born, i put on some weight and now, i kind of look my age.
Now, i see few other girls who face the same problem. In fact , one of my friends was so tired of ppl calling her a student at 30 that she went for a make-over.. she started wearing very formal clothes to work ,traded her contacts for good old spectacles and started tying up her hair! Obviously, she didn't look as good as she used to, but it surely gave her a grown-up look.

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