Being a young professional can be tough enough as it is, but being the youngest in the office comes with its own set of challenges.
You’re facing a huge learning curve, you probably have a lot of questions, and you’re surrounded by people who seem to know more than you do. It can feel as though people look at you and only see inexperience, not intelligence or potential.
You can’t speed up time, but you can get people to take you seriously.
5 Tips For The Youngest Employee
Here’s some advice on how to own your youth.
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1) Realize That People Aren’t Trying To Offend You
While judgments should be made on a case-by-case basis, it’s definitely easier to pigeonhole people. In this case, young people are often stereotyped as being ignorant and entitled. You might not be either of these things, but you can’t control stereotypes any more than you can control your age.
You can feel like you are being underestimated, but understand that people typically aren’t trying to be malicious.
If people in your industry make assumptions about what you can and can’t do because of your age, don’t take it personally. They may be making judgments based on other people they know, or how they might’ve been when they were young. Overcome this by proving them wrong, and eventually you’ll be judged by value rather than age.
2) Don’t Stop Trying Hard
Even though you have your whole career in front of you, it can be demotivating being young. If you continuously try to go above and beyond, you might be criticized by older family, friends or colleagues for being too naïve or eager.
Ask questions shamelessly, and don’t feel the need to apologize for not knowing everything yet. Most of all, don’t be discouraged by any negativity that comes your way for putting in “too much” effort. Remember that it’s your career, and ambition is what’s going to get you to the next level and pay grade.
3) Take The High Road
Your colleagues might think you’re not capable of doing something because you’re young, or because you’ve never done it before. That’s okay. Try not to make a big production about how unfair it seems; just learn quickly and do a good job the first time. If you set a precedent for yourself, people won’t have the same doubts in the future.
If someone is truly harassing you, absolutely stand up for yourself and take the appropriate measures to deal with it.
Otherwise, let it go.
4) Be Confident
The fact that you don’t have 15 years of experience does not mean that your contributions are less valuable. You haven’t been alive as long, but that does not mean you shouldn’t carry yourself with the confidence, grace and poise of a seasoned professional.
It’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re new, or if everyone around you is more experienced. The best way to assuage your uncertainty is to remind yourself of your value. You got the job for a reason. You are smart. You are qualified.
Be Confident, Not Cocky
Your college degree may be a certificate of completion, but it doesn’t mean you know everything already – not even close. There is always more to learn, regardless of your age.
If you’re the youngest in your office, that means everyone else has been alive longer than you. Use that to your advantage! The people around you, whether they’re two or 20 years older, are a wealth of knowledge.
Swallow your pride and be receptive to advice, even if you’ve heard it before. Be open to learning from your colleagues’ successes and mistakes. No one can fault you for being humble, and you’re likely to gain respect more quickly if you show that you are coachable.
5) Remember How It Feels
Someday you’ll be the older and more experienced colleague. Remember how it felt to be new, and to have endless questions. Don’t forget how it felt when people underestimated you without even knowing you.
Hold your experiences close. When it’s your turn, make sure you give the young person in your life a chance to show you what they’re made of.
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