Recently on a blog that I have been reading, there was an article about tattoos at the workplace and the question came up about professional appearances. Tattoos really don’t concern me much but it got me thinking about my beard.
I’ve had facial hair pretty much since the beginning of high school, it’s part of my appearance and most people I know have never seen me clean shaven (for which I am very happy). I shaved it off once at the request of my wife and she made me promise to never do it again while she was living.Besides, I like my beard and the way that it looks on me. I feel that it shows part of my character and helps people remember me.
I don’t have one of those awesomely cool sculptured beards with little spiral tipped mustache or anything quite that extravagant. I don’t braid my goatee or put beads in it or anything (well there was that once… long story, some other time maybe). My beard isn’t a Grizzly Adams full on beard, its sort from the ears to the chin… but there at the point of the chin it gets longer. In China this isn’t a problem. In fact, because I am in a design based career, the beard is somewhat appropriate.
In China men that have longer hair in China are often in creative jobs, people think of them as “artist types”. I like being an “artist type” but I started losing the hair on my head about the same time as it started growing on my face. After a while I started cutting it shorter and shorter. Currently I keep it short enough to look “all around bald” instead of having that 14th century Monk look. Without the option of long hair it seemed only natural to let the beard grow out a bit longer to make up the difference. Here in China this still gives off the air of “artist” and it stands out enough that most people I meet remember me simply because of the beard.
When I was in the US working, the professionalism of having a beard never crossed my mind. I trimmed it regularly and shaved my cheeks and neck. I was well manicured so it never really came up with any of my employers either. So what would happen if I went back to the US looking for work in my current extra fuzzy state? Would it be thought of as unprofessional? Certainly the long beard and the bald head would give off a “biker” like persona to some but would it be a negative mark during an interview? Who knows?
Here in China its clearly a positive. People can’t always remember my name (it is after all a second language for most people that I work with) so most of the time they refer to me by my Chinese name or as “that bearded designer at your firm”… my boss gets a big kick out of that (he has a beard too). So while I may trim it down every so often, don’t be expecting to see my bony baby skin chin, the fuzz is here to stays!