I look younger than I am. Some might think that is beneficial, but I have never recognized any advantage, and felt hindered at several times:

  • Aged 16, I helped my school to give tours to future students (age ~12). Teachers who did not know me, kept coming to me, asking if I had made my school choice already, and if I was thinking about going to this school. I felt embarrassed by having to say many times that I was already in the school.
  • Aged 22, the same thing happened in my university: I was giving a group of first-year students (age ~18) a Tour, when a faculty member started talking to me about my impressions of the university, asking me if we had lost our guiding student.
  • Aged 26, I was doing my PhD, and a TA for a first-year course, where we had to visit a company. When we arrived at the company, I took the lead, went to the person receiving us, greeted him and told him my name, told him which group we were from the university. In exchange he told me his name, said that there should have been a PhD student accompanying our group, and asked me if that PhD student did not join. When I told him I was the PhD student, he and I were both embarrased.
  • Aged 29, I had completed my PhD and started working in a company; I needed a measurement done so I visited the lab. The lab person was very helpful, but after a while he asked me if I was doing my Master's project or Bachelor project in the company.

Until then, it was just giving some awkward moments, but from then on, I also feel blocked in my career. I have now almost 10 years experience in my field, but people keep treating me as if I am new. Example of a project meeting:

Me: The foo is barred. We can not spoon the foo, but have to fork it.

PM: Are you sure the foo is barred?

Me: Yes, I have analyzed the entire spectrum, and I am 100% certain.

PM: Can you show your analysis?

Me: Here it is. You see: this can only mean a barred foo.

PM: Did you discuss this with other colleages in your field?

Me: No, but they will agree with my conclusion.

PM: I see. It looks like you did a good analysis, but can you discuss it with some colleagues anyway? We want to be completely sure that the foo is barred before we decide on forking.

Me: OK, I will do so.

In contrast, I was once at a meeting where a colleague had a similar issue. The colleague has the same age, a similar experience, but has more fat/muscles some grey hair and a more receding hairline.

Colleague: The foo is barred. We can not spoon the foo, but have to fork it.

PM: OK, what is the best way of forking it?

I was so jealous of my colleague. He could immediately continue with the next step in the project, while I was force to first have a pointless discussion. And while we had both done a similar analysis, I had to take time to put all my results in a presentation because I knew I would be asked to show it, while he could just say the conclusion and the project members believed him.

After this specific project ended, the project leader sent a mail to my boss, cc-ing me, saying that I did very well in this project, "as if I had already ten years of experience". I have ten years of experience...

In my role, I am expected to give advice to projects. In my appraisals, I keep hearing that I should do this more in projects, take on a more leading role. I keep trying to take this role, but projects never trust me to take it, because they don't believe I have the experience! I feel like this is limiting my appraisal result and thus my salary increase, and I am afraid that in the future it might block a promotion to a more senior role.

I am male. I think several parts of my story would feel recognizable to women (the famous gender gap), so I have given extra attention to proposed solutions to the gender gap, but I have never seen anything applicable to my situation. I may have easily missed something, though.

Some things I have considered/tried:

  • Go to the gym to build muscles: I am OK with exercising for health, but I can not motivite myself to exercise for building muscles.
  • Dress more formally, to look older: I have tried it, it does not work. I still look younger than I am, and I don't feel comfortable in formal clothes so it might even backfire.
  • Introduce myself at the start of a project, including my experience: I do this every time, but this information does not seem to stick.
  • Talk with a deeper voice. I tried this, but I can not do this for more than a few minutes, and I just feel silly doing it.

Am I forgetting something that I can try?

(I was in doubt if I should put this here or in the workplace stackexchange. I put it here, but if I chose wrong then I am OK with moving it.)

  • 2
    And this one is even better workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/7338/…
    – user1856
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 14:40
  • 2
    How do you feel about beards?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 17:05
  • 2
    What sort of changes did you make to your dress to seem older? How is your appearance otherwise (such as hair)? How does your colleague with similar experience dress compared to you? Does this still happen with people who know you better, or is it only people who are unfamiliar with you?
    – Kat
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 18:42
  • 1
    Do the people at your company know your coworker from longer than you? Do you think that this is something that could be at play here? Also, do you know if your body language look "childish" (no disrespect here, I know my body language do look childish)
    – Ael
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 19:03
  • 1
    Related: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/14507/21067
    – Ael
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 19:07

1 Answer 1


This question may be closed, but I wanted to give you some advice before. I am a girl, and this happened to me a lot, I always looked much younger than I am. Add to that being a woman and it can be quite the feat making people see you know things.

First of all, don't worry so much about it. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but worrying about it at the moment you are presenting things and such can make you seem anxious and unsure of what you are saying.

Second, dress sleek, you don't need to wear formal wear, you probably shouldn't, just try to be sleek. Try to have a nice jean, or kind of shirt of whatever appropriate for the style they use in your company, don't overdo it. Sleekness gives a bit of an air of knowing your place in the world. Look at yourself in the mirror with different clothes to test with what kind of clothes you feel comfortable but a bit nicer than normal. If you wear too formally in a not formal environment, it is counter-productive, it is like you don't know your place. You need to feel comfortable in your clothes, but also try to always have a bit of an edge. This makes people think you know yourself and your place in the world, even if you still seem young to them, they will feel "this young one is going places, he knows himself".

Third, Someone said to use a beard, that actually sometimes helps, but it sometimes can be a problem too. People maybe think "this young one is trying to look older with a beard".

Fourth, make them realize you are old by getting to know each other. You said you introduce yourself at the beginning of projects, but take into account that many people do not pay attention to those introductions and many hate them. In certain situations, can even make you seem obnoxious and full of yourself. It really depends on the company culture but be careful about how you do that. So, how do you make them realize you are "old"? Well pretty simple: with anecdotes. If 2 people are 29, they most likely watched same toons, had heard same music, had similar things going on in school. It doesn't mean they liked the same things, but you are in general aware of the stuff that happened when you were young, or when you were 20, etc. You can talk about some important historical event, like I know older people know what they were doing when the moon landing happened. Do you have nephews or nieces or children even? That can help too, you talk about younger family and how you take care of them and such. You can mention something special of the year you graduated, things like that.

Fifth, be assertive and extra professionally prepared. I know it is unfair that it will take a bit more work for you than for your other coworkers, but if you already know they do these questions and keep questioning your work and knowledge, you can beat them to the punch. Ask second opinions before they ask you to do it. Make a bit of a presentation before they ask you to do it. This will help them see you in a new light. It is a bit annoying and unfair but think how the other people that look older than they are, have to deal with wanting to look their age or younger, they may even be envious of you. It can be a bit of a consolation price. Also, this extra-preparedness will impact positively in your reviews.

Sixth, blend anecdotes with facts. I am not sure what your work is, but I assume you have done some things many times. So, when you are suggesting something you can tell them of times you did it before. Like

We did this in 3 previous 2-year projects with positive results, or we didnt do this in this 5-year project with this negative result.

They should realize that if you were in 3, 2-year projects, you are obviously not that unexperienced.

7th, make allies. It depends a lot on how the structure of your company is. But you should be able to identify people that interacts with many of the projects or people you will have to deal with. Let's say you have a team of Project Managers and they are the people that assign resources to the different teams. Get to know them, you can even select one and tell him the problems you experience because you look way younger than you are. When you befriend people that are like "human hubs", basically people that know a lot of people, you are exposing yourself through that person to a ton of people without having to actually talk with every single one of them, and you gain an advocate that will speak in your favor.

8th and final, don't whine about it. I am not saying you are whining, what I am saying is that when you tell people about this issue you need to make sure that you are not being perceived as whiney. Because these will send you back to the "too young realm". Basically, don't press incessantly on the issue. Don't bring it up all the time, don't complain to a bunch of people of how unfair it is and how you must do more work than someone else with just same age, matter of fact, never complain about that in specific. Many young people tend to compare themselves to others, like with brothers and sisters "he got more candy than me", etc., and you don't want them to identify you with that kind of behavior.

You need to make them aware of your age in indirect ways. It is alright to point out you have 10 years' experience, in certain situations, but you shouldn't overdo it. Since you look young, if you press too much on an issue that for them is a non-issue, they will think you just don't know how to handle yourself because you are unexperienced.

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