On Moustaches & Professionalism

Heard of Movember?

It’s a fundraising movement for prostate cancer research in which men (mo bros) and women (mo sistas) alike dedicate the month of November to growing a moustache. In other words, it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Over the last couple of years, Movember’s popularity has skyrocketed to the point where it’s no longer surprising to see more moustaches than clean-shaves during November. I would even hazard to say that this year’s Movember might be the biggest yet in Canada, given the death of politician Jack Layton, who always sported a great looking stache.

Those who know me well know that I quite enjoy growing the odd moustache, much to my fiancee’s discontent (she’s a good sport though). During my undergraduate days, especially during the summer months while I was out fighting forest fires in the bush, I didn’t really care if I looked a bit ridiculous for a few weeks. There was nothing lost and some good fun gained.

In the last few years, however, I have been hesitant to take the stache plunge. My rationalizations were understandable, I think. I was just starting my professional career, and was insecure enough about my ability to help people effectively without having to wonder if they could look past some strategically grown facial hair to take me seriously. There are some people in the world that you look at and just think, “wow, that guy was just meant to have a moustache.” Well, I’m not exactly one of those guys. The Dave-moustache tends to look out of place, and a little bit creepy.

But I’m writing this post today to commit to growing a Movember moustache this year. I am also making a commitment to actually do some fundraising for the campaign, something that I haven’t really done before.

So what’s changed? Why do I feel like I can safely sport a stache this year if I couldn’t in the last 2?

It comes down to professionalism. I think I had different ideas about what professionalism actually means last year and the year before, during the infancy of my professional career. Because I didn’t really feel like a professional, I was very sensitive to any sort of feedback that might confirm my suspicion that I was actually an impostor, a fraud, that it was somehow luck that I had gotten to the place I was, and sooner or later people would realize that I didn’t belong. If this sounds familiar, don’t be surprised – it’s a well-documented phenomenon known as the impostor syndrome.

What I’ve come to realize recently, as I’ve become far more comfortable and confident in my professional career, is that true professionalism starts on the inside. Yes, yes, I realize that sounds like a rhyme we’ve head before. True beauty is on the inside, love yourself before you can love others, and all that. But trust me, this one’s for real. If you’re a recent graduate just getting started in the professional world, or a student about to graduate, you can probably identify with some of the feelings of insecurity I described above. The good news is that it goes away, even if it takes a few years.

Because I’m confident in my own professional identity, I don’t mind if students look at me a bit strangely when they meet me for the first time. That moment will pass, and we can get down to work. In the meantime, I’ll be doing something good for prostate cancer research.

You can see (and donate to!) my “Mo Bro” profile for Movember, complete with a moustached picture of yours truly, here: http://mobro.co/davelindskoog.

*Cross-posted at the Career Services Informer.