The freedom to present your truest self to the world is freedom. Freedom is part of self-care and wellness. Freedom requires income. And while money isn’t everything, the ability to provide for self and others is a clear necessity. What happens when one of the realest parts of yourself seems incompatible with making a living?
We’re talking about the job search. The days of lifelong employment with a full retirement package are long over. It is inevitable that you will have to change jobs and likely careers several times in your life. Sure, if you walk into an office today, you’re bound to see black men and women with natural hair. Most companies have adjusted to the times. However, dress codes and appearance standards in place for employees and contractors are stricter during interviews.
The comedian Chris Rock famously joked that when you meet a person for the first time, you’re not really meeting them, you’re meeting their representative. While he may have been talking about dating, this is definitely applicable when looking for a job. We put our best foot forward to make them like us. When interviewers ask, “Tell me about yourself?” they’re never asking about your favorite films, foods, hobbies or places to travel.
They’re strictly interested in knowing if your individual contribution will help the bottom line. “How will you help us stay competitive and profitable?” is a lot more honest. The question you must ask yourself is how to present the best form of you while refusing to chemically alter the texture of your hair. As always, research is key. And I’m not talking about just their website or financial reports. Get into their LinkedIn page. Look not only for profile pics, but see if there are any photos or videos of company events. Do you not only see racial and ethnic diversity in general but at a least a few people of African descent wearing natural hairstyles?
This will help you determine if you would definitely like to work there. Sure, there are people who can appreciate a fly style no matter where they are, but the focus in this initial meeting is to get people to focus solely on what you say and do, not how you look. You’ve got to come in with the least flashy version of yourself.
Updos are arguably the safest style for any texture or type. Locs can be pulled back into a ponytail. If you’re rocking a TWA, go with it if you feel comfortable. If not, wear a neat, natural looking wig. It doesn’t necessarily have to be straight in texture, but something to give you a little more length without standing out too much. For men, this may be a little trickier, since a more conservative company will be unwelcoming to long-haired men of any race or ethnic group. In my professional experience, companies that allowed men to wear their hair long were the best places to work. In the past, a man with hair either at or beyond his collar was long considered a no-no. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so if your job lets the fellas go long, they’ll be far more accepting of your ‘fro or twist out. Go with the best most polished look you can put together. If your natural hair is a true obstacle, it is likely discrimination and a place unworthy of you.