Why Baby-faced College Students are at a Distinct Disadvantage in the Workplace

STORY BY Jessica Elizabeth Pawlarczyk

Published: June 9, 2013

I may be biased when I make the assertion that youthful looking students are negatively influenced by their baby-faced features, mainly because I’m young-looking myself.

A little about me: Although I am 22 years old, I am currently carded at R-rated movies. Even worse, while I studied abroad in Spain I was frequently stopped on the street by police officers who thought I was under 16 and skipping class. Apparently they’re really serious about truancy in Europe. 

I could go on and on about my embarrassing run-ins with strangers and law enforcement, but I’ll spare you the time… Let’s just say that my babyface effects my life on a daily basis.

I can often brush off the uncomfortable encounters I have with strangers and keep most of my self-confidence intact. When it comes to employers and other professionals, however, it’s a whole different story.

It may sound crazy, but the truth is that I literally start to despise my appearance whenever a job interviewer begins the conversation by commenting on my youthful features.

The most common greeting I receive from employers is: “Are you Jessica? How old are you? I thought you said in your application that you were a senior in college.”

If I could look in the mirror every time someone said this to me, I just know my cheeks would be as rosy as Santa Nicholas’s.

By the time I convince the interviewer that I am indeed Jessica Pawlarczyk, the college student who applied for the job, I feel incredibly unconfident and anxious. The little voice in my head tells me that I am already an underdog and must work even harder to impress my future boss. I consciously sit up straighter, talk in a slightly lower voice, and make sure WHATVER I DO, not use the words “like” or “um.” 

Besides acting the part during the interview I prep myself before I even walk into the room. Over time, I have come up with appearance rituals that help me age (or at least I think so). I wear extra makeup, keep my hair down and bangs swept back, wear practical flat shoes, and dress in a boring black suit that isn’t too trendy. Occasionally, I also don my reading glasses. Combined, I think all of these subtle rituals make me look “no-nonsense” and “mature” beyond my years.

If I do in fact land the job or internship, I think that I overcompensate in several different ways— mostly, I act overly serious and take my job way too seriously. I put pressure on myself to turn in perfect work and even skip my lunch hour in order to meet deadlines.

I often ask myself: Do young adults that look their age act like this too? Chances are the answer is no. I’ve brought up my babyface insecurities to friends, and not a single one has been able to identify with me… Probably because they all look at least 25-years-old.

Deep down I know that I shouldn’t let my youthful face shake my self-confidence. If anything, it is not my appearance that holds me back in the work world, but rather my negative approach to my unique situation. Like all adversities in life, my babyface can be “overcome” if you will, as long as I maintain the positive attitude that will foster confidence.

Obtaining a more positive outlook, however, won’t stop me from dreaming about my ultimate fantasy: premature facial wrinkles. 

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