Okay, so you just came off “No-Shave November” and you kind of like having a beard. Or perhaps you’re participating in “Decembeard,” a hair-raising fundraiser held during the month of December. Maybe you’ve been growing facial hair since you were 14 years old and never got around to shaving in the first place. Or maybe you’re a historical reenactor in your spare time. We all know everyone loves Santa Claus with his big white bushy beard, but you’re way too young to be a convincing mall Santa.
So you may be wondering, what are the best careers for people with beards?
It all comes down to the nature of the industry, as well as the type of company. You should always familiarize yourself with a place before trying to get a job there, because they will be looking for someone who is a good fit with their organizational culture.
Here’s the bad news…
Large conservative corporations, especially in banking/finance and law, are prejudiced against facial hair and don’t allow much leeway for self-expression. High-end luxury brands also like to keep up their appearances with clean-shaven employees.
Beards may be prohibited if personal protective equipment such as a respirator mask is required – as such masks require a tight seal and are not designed to be worn with full beards. This may exclude you from firefighting, law enforcement, armed services, and some medical/healthcare jobs.
Other jobs where beards are discouraged are food service and retail sales, or any job where you interact with the public. This is because managers want you to look nice and neat at all times – and typically this means having a clean complexion. Plus they are aware that some customers may find beards intimidating. Let’s face it – beards are often associated with long-haired hippies and leather-dressed dudes in biker gangs.
I took a career course in college where the instructor said that having a beard – even if it’s the short and neatly trimmed kind – lowers your chance of getting job offers because employers aren’t able to see enough of your face to judge you as a person – to see “the man behind the mask,” so to speak. It may sound silly, but a long bushy beard might cause the hiring manager to suspect you of hiding something and it makes them less likely to hire you for that reason.
Her advice was to shave it off for interviews and if they don’t have a policy about facial hair then grow it out later. I suppose this may be true, because my grandma’s doctor is a well-respected orthopedic surgeon with a full beard – yet in his professional photo he is completely whiskerless, so that was probably taken back when he first joined the staff.
But what if you’ve had a beard your whole life and you’ve grown rather attached to it? (No pun intended!) Maybe your beard is part of your identity and you just don’t feel like yourself without it; or even worse, you feel self-conscious without it. Or maybe you look so baby-faced without a beard that people mistake you for a 12-year-old and don’t take you seriously. A guy with a weak chin or jaw bone could actually benefit from a beard giving him the appearance of strength and confidence. Like Abe Lincoln!
Here’s the good news…
While experts say first impressions count, and the popularity of facial hair comes and goes, beards have always been pretty common in creative fields such as art and the music industry, with none more iconic than ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons.
Any kind of manual labor or trade job will likely allow beards because that’s traditionally where the majority of manly men work, so facial hair just goes with the territory. This would include people like mechanics, welders, truck drivers, warehouse workers, sailors, farmers, loggers, and park rangers.
Beards are also quite acceptable among writers, scholars, architects and academics. They’re more common in institutes of higher learning than, say, early childhood education. A teacher who walks in with a big bushy beard might scare the little kiddos, but you never hear of tenured professors being hassled for having a beard.
The best jobs for bearded guys are said to be in IT and computers, followed by engineers, cameramen and photographers. (Notice that these people all work behind the scenes, not out in front of the public.) I can confirm this. Working in computing is definitely beard-friendly for me. I always get favorable comments on my beard from colleagues. My boss also has a beard. There aren’t any beards here as big as mine, but many beards nonetheless. Plenty of hipsters with manbuns, piercings and tattoos, too.
For me, my beard is a symbol that I’m comfortable with myself (and my Viking heritage), and not too concerned about what others think. Admittedly, I didn’t have to do a formal interview since I was lucky to get a job working with people who already knew me. So there’s that. But if you can just get your foot in the door, once they realize what a great employee you are, I doubt if anyone will care.
By the way, if you start your own company, then you can look however you want. Big bushy beards sure didn’t hurt the Duck Dynasty clan! Of course, their long hair and beards weren’t so much a fashion statement as a form of duck hunting camouflage. But their look became such an important part of their image, it was even in their contracts.
If you have a good work ethic and a positive attitude, you can probably rock a beard in most professions if you at least keep it neat and clean. Although some people may find facial hair to be distracting, a neatly trimmed beard can even enhance one’s features. That being said, there is a possibility that you may encounter a hiring manager with an irrational bias against beards (maybe he’s just jealous!). Don’t take it personally.
Keep in mind that some people tend to place beards in the same category as tattoos and piercings, so you may be quietly judged for your stylistic choices. Other people are more tolerant, and what’s more, some people will even love your beard. Here’s to hoping you land a job with those people.