One of the members of our Alopecia Philippines support group on Facebook recently posted this question. She is graduating soon, and like most graduates will be embarking on the job application process, which of course involves an interview.
Undergrad Thesis Exhibit in UP in 2000. I still had long, curly hair!
I certainly understand her concern. Alopecia is rarely, if at all, a debilitating disease. There are no life-threatening symptoms, and the only noticeable thing about it, is of course, hair loss. In fact, alopecia, if not a symptom of another disease, is quite harmless for the body.
For the ego, however, it can be quite a blow. Hair, after all, is any man or woman’s crowning glory. It’s the first thing you see when you approach a person, and alopecia, in patches or as an overall thinning of hair, can make anyone think that an individual is unhealthy or unfit to work. So how can a person deal with the series of job interviews and land a good job if he or she has alopecia?
MA Graduation 2014
I won’t speak for everyone, since there are many cases and causes of alopecia. In my case, my alopecia became quite prominent in my late twenties to early thirties. Up until that time, the amount of my hairloss did not warrant any concern for interview or job interference. In fact, it didn’t really bother even my social life, as my close friends and family, though concerned, treated me normally.
UP Corps of Sponsors 2000
While I knew that my hair had visibly thinned off the top of my head, I still felt confident enough to do my job, which, in my early twenties, entailed a lot of meetings, company representation, and marketing for events. No, I wasn’t oblivious to the thinning hair. As suggested by my derma, I sported short hairstyles to reduce the thinning look as so as not to pull down the roots with weight of extra hair length. I’m sure people in my professional circles noticed, but because I was always focused on the job and I delivered results, not one of my bosses minded. What mattered was that I was professional. I could get things done.
My TESOL Graduation in 2006, shortly before I applied for a university teaching position.
The only time I was ever asked about my thinning hair in an interview was when I was applying for a job in a certain university. The panel interview had officially ended, and I was already being quite chatty with my potential boss. With more concern than curiosity, she cautiously asked the question pertaining to my hair. In all honesty, I answered her:
“It’s a genetic disorder (most alopecia is, unless it’s triggered by stress and other illnesses.) and if it won’t bother you, it won’t bother me or my productivity and capability as a teacher.”
My interviewer, who has since become of my most-respected bosses, smiled. Case closed.
After that interview, I taught five years in that university. My first few years, I left my head bare, thinning hair and all. I consistently received high faculty assessment results. My students never mentioned my thinning hair in my evaluations (they did notice my accessories and my outfits, though.) and they rated me with high marks as well.
One of my favorite classes with my English Majors and a colleague
Karaoke time with co-faculty
After a couple of years, my hair began to thin out more prominently and I began sporting scarves and bandannas to help accentuate my feautures (I love accessorizing!) as well as to cover the patches of hair that remained on my head. These bandannas, I wore to every class and every function. My university, of course, was a bit lax with the dress code, and I was grateful for this. In 2010, though, after three years in that university, I decided to shave all of my hair off and invest in a real human hair wig. Ever since, my real hair hairpieces has been with me to all presentations, interviews, meetings—-every sort of professional engagement one can think of, including my thesis defense for my master’s degree.
Conducting a feature-writing workshop for another university
MA classes, what fun!
Since I began wearing my (wig) hair as a natural part of me, my employers have never asked me any personal questions. My colleagues and clients have never focused on it either. I continue to be professional in my performance and in my dealings and workplace wardrobe (although I wear boots to my classes, hahaha!). As long as I am healthy and able to deliver results, I see no need for my alopecia to be a detriment to my career, at all.
Strong enough to finish another 21k, strong enough to accomplish goals!
If you or anyone you know has alopecia, take heart. You can find a job and build a career even without hair. If you feel that your confidence is being sapped by your thinning hair or the often unsightly patches growing from your scalp, there are options: 1) get appropriate haircuts from understanding, non-gossipy stylists, 2) accessorize and own your professional style, and 3) invest in a good hairpiece that will not fall offyour head even in windy weather or sports activities, and one that feels like it’s your real hair.
Happy in any kind of hair. =)
Above all, be confident that you have something to offer: your skill, your creativity, your confidence, and your dedication to getting the job done. As long as you are fit to work and you will not be harming anyone or yourself by working, alopecia should never get in the way of your dreams.
Having my book signed by Krip Yuson at an English Language conference in 2010.
Disclaimer: The author is in no way claiming any medical suggestions to cope with alopecia. It is suggested that people who think they are dealing with alopecia should seek professional diagnosis and help as some alopecia cases can also be symptoms of other diseases which may be potentially harmful and debilitating.