Sick of hearing a bunch of olds telling you about "kids these days?" Millennials aren't a sum of self-involved stereotypes, but it can be hard to overcome that perception when you are the youngest one in the office. Leadership coach Lolly Daskal tackles this reader's question on how to be taken seriously in your early 20s.
I’m 24 years old, I have a master’s degree and I’m really good at my job (I’ve been here for six months), but I think that my young age makes it so that people don’t take me as seriously.
I’m one of the youngest people in the office aside from the interns; most people who I work with are in their later 20s or 30s or 40s. How do I get people to think of me as a peer without waiting a decade?
The best way to succeed when you’re not taken seriously is to start with yourself.
You can’t control the biases of those around you, but you can control the messages and actions you give them to work with. Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Here are some things to be especially mindful of:
Be conscious of your thoughts. If you go around thinking that you’re not being taken seriously, you won’t be taken seriously. It’s that simple. The subtle things we tell ourselves influence our own behavior and expectations, so keep your internal monologue focused on how capable you are, how accomplished you are, and how you will get the job done. Take yourself as seriously as you want others to.
Ask yourself: What kind of thoughts am I projecting?
Your physical posture and actions also influence perceptions. Are your hands crossed against your chest? Do you hover in the corner? Most importantly, look people in the eye when you are talking to them. This will show them that you're serious and engaged. Make sure you make eye contact and stand straight and smile a lot as you connect with others. When you carry yourself with confidence and respect, others will follow suit.
Ask yourself: What is my body language projecting?
What value are you adding? People will take you more seriously when you add value, when you contribute, when you make a difference. Be the person who is always on top of their game, the one who brings just a little bit more than the rest. People get noticed for who they are and by what they do.
Ask yourself: Where can I add more value at work?
Do more and speak less.Many people talk about how great they are, but they don’t actually do that much work. To be taken seriously, do more and say less. Take your responsibilities seriously; be prepared and over-prepared. Figure out what people want before they even ask for it and quietly deliver.
Ask yourself: Where can I do more?
Ask for advice and feedback. People love to help others. Ask for collegial advice and feedback, and listen to what others have to say. Be willing to listen and take it all in. You can learn from their experience and position yourself as someone who is serious about the work you share.
Ask yourself: Where can I use some advice? Who can I ask?
Be humble.The fastest way to win people over is by being humble. Humility doesn’t mean a lack of confidence, but that you’re aware you don’t know everything and that you’re willing to learn.
It is definitely frustrating when you feel you are not taken seriously over your age, especially after accomplishing so much already. As the saying goes, age should not matter unless you are wine or cheese.
But life doesn’t get handed it to us—we have to be the one that shows up and makes it happen. The challenge you face is all about attitude and all about you. Conquering your current situation will not only empower you now but will help you in your long-term pursuit of what life has to offer.
Now go out and do what you are capable of doing. Show them how talented you are, how capable you are, and how smart you are.
Wishing you the best,
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[Image: Flickr user wsilver]