On Tuesday, I talked about changing perceptions of acceptable professional presentation. But while I’m certainly seeing some improvements in acceptance of self-expression some arenas, some are sadly still lacking.
For instance, having hair that’s “too Black” can be a major barrier to success, particularly in more conservative fields. (See, for example http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/04/13/what-perception-professional-hair-means-black-job-seekers/) People who are trans face similar difficulties, as do people whose non-Christian religious beliefs involve modes of dress. For instance, in 2017, the EU ruled that private workplaces could ban people from wearing visible religious symbols, including turbans and headscarves.
What does it all mean for you? Well, in general, I recommend that for interviews, you go in as the most conservative possible version of yourself. Imagine the most conservative boss you’ve ever had and the presentation of you that was most objectionable to that person. Yes, if you’re okay with it, you can opt to tame your afro, cover your tattoos, be as gender-conforming as you think will make them comfortable, and remove your turban—but have a plan for how you will reintroduce those after you’re settled in. (You still get to be you, even at work.) Or you can wear whatever the hell you want, with the understanding that the freakier your flag, the likelier it is that you’ll face some discrimination—and the better your fit is likely to be with someone who likes the cut or your jib.