What is professionalism?
According to Google it is ‘the competence or skill expected of a professional’.
Now forgive me if I am wrong but this sentence refers directly to the attitude and skill of a person does it not? This sentence refers nothing to the appearance of a person, the colour of their hair, how many tattoos they have, anything like that. It is not important. If a person conducts their work in the correct way then that should be all that matters.
If you walk into a store and see that everyone is dressed the same, they look the same and are even using the same tone of voice you feel a bit put off. It gives off an uncomfortable air. People like creativity. If I walk into a store and see someone with pink hair, my first thought is never ‘look at them, they are so unprofessional I bet they’re terrible at their job’. My thought is usually, ‘they have cool hair’, and then I move on. In my last few days at my previous job I dyed my hair from white blonde to the polar opposite – black. But this is not totally black, it has blue in it. My hair is a sort of deep navy and it’s beautiful. Everyone commented on it, saying it was beautiful and how much it suited me and that I should keep it that colour. Even the managers liked it. But I wasn’t allowed to keep it. I was allowed to keep it that day but was being forced to dye it that night or I would be sent home. Nothing had been said previously about colour, I used silver shampoo on my blonde hair which made it a kind of lilac, my manager told me that would be okay as long as it was all the same colour. But even though my hair is now all the same colour, almost black unless you really look, it’s wrong.
During my final day I served many people, this was at a well known jewellery brand and a lot of people come in and spend a lot of money. I am very good at this job and was often able to up-sell to customers who may not have wanted to spend a lot. That day I went on as normal and did my hair hinder my ability to sell? Not even a little bit. Did my hair cause people to believe I was unprofessional? No. Did people question my sanity and avoid me? NO! In fact I had numerous people come up to me and compliment my hair, some even told me it was a breath of fresh air, to see someone working there who didn’t look like a clone of everyone else.
People like character. I’m interesting and people are attracted to oddities.
Hair colour and style does not dictate my ability to work. The same with makeup and nails. At my work I rarely wore makeup because I often don’t have time on a morning or, more likely, I just don’t want to wear it as I am pretty happy in my own skin. I was ‘encouraged’ to wear makeup, basically to doll myself up in order to make myself more appealing to guys coming in buying stuff for their girlfriends and mothers. The idea being they would be distracted by my face and spend more money which is utterly ridiculous. I was in a show in the last few weeks and one day I wore my fake lashes to work because I knew I’d forget them if I didn’t, I did a smokey eye and wore lipstick, I even contoured my face. They told me my makeup was too much and I needed to take it off or tone it down. I couldn’t win in any situation, not even a little bit. And then my nails, utterly stupid. I was, once again, encouraged to get my nails professionally done, but they had to be very specific colours or I would have to get them changed. On a few occasions I was told I was wrong, white was too bright and distracting but black made me seem a bit depressive, I was allowed red but not too red or it wouldn’t be attractive and purple was allowed however not the specific shade that I was wearing because it just wasn’t quite right. This high standard of ‘beauty’ is something which I personally believe is pointless and it adds unnecessary stress onto the workers. If we were wearing a uniform and everything was paid for by them then fair enough, however it was all my own stuff and I had to pay for the nails myself which is around £30 or £40 for a decent job, and it isn’t even something I necessarily wanted to do.
I am so comfortable being myself. The image at the top shows me now with my dark hair. I don’t think I look unprofessional. I don’t think I look intimidating and I think not people would disagree with me. I understand that jobs want you to look smart because it’s true if you look a mess most people are put off, but there is a difference between being mess and being yourself, and it is quite large. People need to start respecting others and not being so judgemental in the workplace because I for one will not stand for it. In this day and age especially you would think companies would be more accepting – to be fair a lot of them are, I just chose badly – and I do not ever want to work in a place where my personality and my appearance is thrown in my face and I am told to change. It truly makes me sad, because I’m not a child now, I am an adult and I am able to make my own decisions. Those decisions should be respected.