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.)