Can a Beardsman Climb the Corporate Ladder?

—Urban Beardsman
Can a Beardsman Climb the Corporate Ladder?

My name is Justin Nall, I am 33 years old, married, have twin boys, and I am an Urban Beardsman. I wasn't always.

I was blessed with the ability to grow a beard at the age of 15, and through high school and college, I had a beard because I could and because it was bad-ass. When I graduated college and started going to job interviews, I shaved because that’s what I was told I had to do.

I landed a job with a Fortune 500 company … and I kept shaving. I was modeling my look based on the look of clients and managers I was working with, and I denied the world the glorious being that my beard is.

I was B O R E D with how I looked. I could grow a beard, so why wasn’t I? Was it because I cared what everyone thought? Did I want to conform to everyone else? Did I really think NOT having a beard would help me climb the corporate ladder?

Then I realized that if I answered yes to any of the last three questions I just presented, I wasn’t in the right place. So I decided to adopt the bearded lifestyle (which I honestly didn’t know was a lifestyle at the time) and if people didn’t like it - so what? I started growing my beard. For the first four years I kept it pretty close to the face, but last year I decided I wanted to see what a year of growth would look like. I shaved on Christmas Eve of 2013 and have been growing it out ever since.

I’m now a program manager for a worldwide defense contractor, managing a multi-million dollar IT program, working with over 90 clients, managing employees, and reporting to Senior Level Managers. Over the past four years, I earned three promotions. And I do it all with a full beard!

First and foremost, you don’t become successful just because you have a beard. However, how do you remain successful and continue to advance your career in a world that hasn’t traditionally employed executives with facial hair?

Here are my four rules:

1. Make it meaningful

I am growing my beard on purpose, so I make it look like I purposely have a beard. A "meaningful beard" may not make much sense the first time you read it, but just remember that an unruly beard can quickly make you look unkempt. Make sure you are trimming your beard, washing your beard, and caring for your beard. A well-groomed beard is appreciated.

2. Dress smart

Dressing smart doesn’t always mean wearing a suit and tie because we have our styles. Make sure your style is appropriate for your workplace, even if it’s a bit “different”. Wear the statement socks, the patterned tie on a patterned shirt, or the vest and tie combo, but do it confidently and smartly.

3. Balance your beard with a decent haircut

In my opinion, the cleaner and more classic the hairstyle, the easier it is to wear your beard. I’m not saying that you can’t rock long hair and a long beard, but I find it’s much easier to look sharp with a classic hairstyle (or a twist on such).

4. Stay positive

By having a beard, people remember me where they might have not before. Being memorable can have a positive or negative impact on your corporate journey, so be careful. Remember that you will stand out with a beard, so people will tend to remember ALL contributions (positive and negative).

I appreciate the attention my beard now receives. People on the street, in a store, and in my office will stop and comment on my beard. Sure, some want to touch it or do something else that’s weird. However - it’s a conversation starter, and in a world where much of corporate business depends on creating and maintaining relationships, this may be the opening you need to strike up that conversation that may lead to your next promotion, acquisition, or partnership that will pave your career path.

So beard on my friends, and I’ll see you at the top.

About the Author

Justin is the father of Roman and Oliver, amazing twin boys. He’s been married to his beautiful wife, Denielle, for five years. He loves craft beer and smoking meats.