my natural hair in the workplace

In a comment, a college friend mentioned she is job hunting for the first time since going au naturale and inquired about any go-to work hairstyles. I started to comment back until I realized I never really told much of the “professional/work” experiences with my hair on my blog. My reply comment was getting too long so I decided to write up a blog post instead.

Since my big chop in April 2010, I’ve been hired by three different employers >> I’ve worked at an academic research organization, advertising agency, and currently at a consulting firm. (The fact that I’ve had 3 jobs in a little over 3 years may sound sketchy but it’s been a exciting period of growth and opportunity for me.)

I remember being most nervous when interviewing with the TWA (was my hair going to look “neat” and moisturized? or would it come off too militant?) and short sisterlocks (I can barely style these short little things… how would they feel about locs in the workplace?). However, I’ve come to realize that no one pays as much attention to my hair as I do.  For all the face-to-face job interviews that I’ve had over that period, I was offered the position or was invited to the next round in the hiring process >> If, for whatever silly reason, I feel self conscious about my hair at networking events or interviews, I try to remember that. There is proof that my resume speaks much louder than any real or perceived notions about my natural hair.)

Now, I have gotten questions about my hair at work but it’s usually preempted by a big “change up”– for example, when I left work on a Friday with relaxed hair past my shoulders and returned to work Monday morning with a teeny-weeny afro… or when I went from TWA to sisterlocks… and most recently, going from usually wearing my sisterlocks “straight” to my curly rollersets. For sure, my coworkers have been curious. However, while I do believe there is heighten curiosity about “black” hair, I also acknowledge that any kind of change spurs curiosity about anybody/anything. Even I would be curious.

I love talking about my hair at work. I feel it’s an opportunity to educate people about a hair lifestyle that they aren’t used to seeing and debunk any myths that they may have. (Are those braids or locks? So, wait, they don’t come out? Ooh, I like your hair curly… is that permanent? What do you do to keep your hair locked like that? Why does it looks different than other dreadlocks I’ve seen? Was your hair always like this?)  (Now I don’t go around preaching and I don’t get questions every day… but I do openly answer any questions people may have if they are brave enough to ask me.)

Finally, for “go to” hairstyles… for the most part, I keep it simple, really simple. When I had the TWA, I may pin up part of my hair for a simple style or do braid/twists out for a curly ‘fro. With sisterlocks, for the most part, I just wear it straight– with the occasional braid/twist for a crinkly affect. I’m excited that my hair is growing longer and look forward to being able to pull it into a bun (still a few months away from that).  I love how I look with curly hair so I plan on doing that more often since its finally reached a length where the curls fall just right.

I admire others who wear fun hair accessories and have made it work  in professional settings; however, I’m not much of an accessorizer and have never felt confident pulling it off at work– though I have dabbled a teeny bit in hair accessories for parties and other events.


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