Lately, I’m finding that I increasingly wonder about how metal will fit into my life as I get older. After college I want to be taken seriously as a professional, and I fear that somehow my love for metal will be seen as a weakness and I will be treated poorly for it. This may be an irrational fear, but it’s something I’ve worried about. I appreciate any advice you can offer!
This is not necessarily an irrational fear. As metalheads, I’m sure we’ve all experienced those uncomfortable moments with teachers, family members, colleagues, shop assistants and random people on the streets where we know we’re being judged – and found wanting – on the basis of our love of metal. If you’re looking forward to an exciting career, the thought of this stigma following you into your professional life can seem terrifying.
The truth is, in most cases, people in your professional life don’t need to know you enjoy metal. In most jobs, wearing metal shirts to the office isn’t OK (and if it is, you might find it easier not to, anyway). If you’re in a shared office, you’re not going to be able to plug your iPod into the office radio, but you can listen to it with your headphones on as long as you can still hear people talking to you. (I’ve been listening to Volbeat at the office all day). I know some metalheads who like to paper their cubicle with band posters, but you don’t have to do this, either.
There’s much to be said for conforming to office standards. Instead of being judged for your musical taste, you get to be judged based on your professional manner, your skill and knowledge in your chosen field and your kindness and helpfulness toward your colleagues.
When you have a reputation as a hard-working, helpful, clever, funny and enthusiastic person, this is how people see you. What music you listen to and what you get up to on the weekends ceases to matter.
My husband was poached from one department into his current job because they wanted his brain. He has a reputation as a diligent, creative, helpful person with an ability to instantly solve problems that have plagued people for weeks. He describes himself as providing “blue collar solutions to white collar problems.” He was told when he started the job that he would need to wear shirts and ties in the office (he used to work in the field where he could wear what he wanted). So we went out and brought him new clothes. He still had the long hair, but you couldn’t tell he was a bogan.
After a few weeks and months, as the people in the office got to know him better and saw what an asset to the department he was, he got to know them better and started talking about some of the things he was interested in, like metal, drumming, history, trains. I’m sure some people think he’s a bit weird, but he thinks some of them are a bit weird, too. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their jobs. He’s back to wearing metal t-shirts in the office, and no one notices or cares, because all they see is that clever, funny guy in the corner who will sort out your problems.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in my experience, as a professional you’re not judged on appearances or affiliations as much as you are on your skills, your insights, your work ethic and your ability to get on with people. Concentrate on that and you’ll never have to worry about metal holding you back.
In saying that, if you show up to your job interview wearing a metal shirt and use every question to extrapolate on why Slayer is the best band ever invented, you’re probably not going to get the job. If the people across the table don’t know you, your enthusiasm for metal overwhelms your enthusiasm for the job … and that’s what they want to see.
As for metal being a part of your life as you get older, the great thing about forging your own path is that you decide the level of involvement you want to have. I know a lot of people who still consider themselves metalheads who don’t actively look for new bands to listen to, who haven’t been to a show in three years, who threw out all their metal shirts when they faded and have never bothered to replace them. There are metalheads like me who had a huge metal-focused peer group, and other people who are the only metalhead in their adult friends, and that’s totally OK. I know I go to a lot less shows now then I did at university. I know I’ve toned down my clothing a lot since high school. But I know that while everyone else in my office is holidaying in Rarotonga I’ll still be tearing it up at Wacken. And they might not get it, but that’s OK.
Readers, what do you think? How has your experience of metal changed as you’ve got older? Have you ever been in a situation where your love of metal has been considered a weakness? How do you survive in a professional environment?