Take Ten Years Off

I’m a Baby Boomer (proud member since 1958.) I hear from other Boomers all the time about how their age is keeping them from competing in the job market today.  They claim that recruiters take one look at their face or (graying) hair and make a quick decision to move on to a younger candidate.

Photo credit: http://www.thirdage.com

While this may be true in some cases, I refuse to believe that the mere number of years you’ve been on earth can limit your ability to contribute. I do believe that age is a proxy for other qualities that attract or repel hiring managers, including energy level, vitality, flexibility, resilience, and your expectations about pay and prestige.

But my fellow Boomers persist in worrying about age, so here are seven life hacks that will take years off your appearance and make a great first impression in an interview.

  1. Get regular exercise. Yes, it matters, and doesn’t have to cost a dime. You already know that 30 minutes of brisk exercise a day will help your health. It will also lift your mood and improve your energy level. People who are active look more vital and exude well-being. Losing weight and looking better in clothes is a bonus.
  2. Get a fresh, sophisticated haircut. Your hair (male or female) says a lot about your state of mind. If it’s well groomed and styled to flatter your features, you’d be surprised how little the gray matters. The right cut can also add youth by hiding furrowed foreheads behind a fringe of youthful bangs, lifting your jawline and offseting features that you’d like to minimize. Here’s a dramatic set of before and after (female) photos that show what a difference a great style can make.
  3. Overhaul your diet. Most U.S. adults don’t drink enough water; in fact, some experts estimate that 75 percent of us are chronically dehydrated. Even slight dehydration can sap your energy, make you feel lethargic, and make your skin look dull. Drinking your eight glasses a day may give you a significant energy boost. Likewise, dramatically cutting down on caffeine and alcohol (both of which cause dehydration) can also make a visible difference in your appearance.
  4. Stand up straight. Good posture can make you look taller, slimmer, and younger – what’s not to love? Good posture can also help you breathe more efficiently, which will make your voice stronger and clearer. A strong confident pose held for just two minutes before an important meeting can actually have a noticeable effect on your ability to get what you want.  Watch social scientist Amy Cuddy explain here.
  5. Whiten your teeth. Your smile is an indicator of your age.  As you age, your teeth get ground down and appear shorter and years of coffee or red wine will create dark stains.  Simply whitening your teeth can take years off your first impression.  In-office dental treatments are expensive, but over the counter whiteners are very good and cost between $35 and $50.  You can get teeth that are three shades whiter in about a week.
  6. Smile more. Now that your teeth are whiter, don’t be afraid to use them. A smile lifts your whole face and makes you instantly younger and more likeable (no one will ever make a movie called “Grumpy Young Men.”) A smile will also improve your own mood (even if you’re faking it), as proved by this research.
  7. Get more sleep. Seriously. Especially before a big meeting or interview, a good night’s sleep will take years off your face. “you look tired” is how people tell people of a certain age that they look terrible. And because you are almost always tired, you buy into it. Your body can only repair and rebuild itself when you’re asleep, and sleep is free. Create good sleeping habits that will hold over after you go back to work. You’ll feel more alert and make better decisions on the job. Sleep deprivation also makes it harder to resist food cravings. If you’re reading this after 10:00 PM, stop now, put down the cookie, and go to bed. I mean it.

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