It isn’t easy gaining respect from your coworkers when you look and are young. But being young does not have to mean you are immature. In fact one of the best complements I ever received was “you don’t act 25, you seem like you are very mature for your age”. It isn’t fair but people assume that anyone under 35 is a slacker, likes to party and isn’t really reliable. (see Frank’s recent post) Once you demonstrate your maturity and knowledge in our field respect will follow. How do you do this? The following tips will help.
It is a sad fact but how you look does affect how people view you. Even the greenest, most inexperienced among us knows that you should dress in a suit for an interview, but few people know how to navigate the “business casual” waters that most offices have – and this goes double for young people. I’ve worked at places that the standard attire in the summer is cut-off shorts and concert tee-shirts. That is not work attire that is weekend attire! I don’t care what everyone else wears where you work, you should dress like you are at church. At the very least wear a pair of nice pants (or slacks as my Nana would say) and a nice top.
Some young professionals just starting out seem to think that business casual and even casual dress codes means they can dress like they did in college. Yeah, you look hot, but that shouldn’t be your goal at work. Your goal shouldn’t be to show off how great you look in skinny jeans, it should be to show how professional you are. And this is even more important for young women. Yes, it is a double standard, but women are judged for how they dress more so then men. So stop wearing jeans to your casual work place. Nothing says “young and unprofessional” more than an employee wearing jeans and skimpy top. You don’t need to wear a suit everyday but nice cloths won’t hurt. If you look put together people will assume you are – that is until you give them a reason to think you aren’t.
This might sound silly, but stop reminding people how old you are! I never tell anyone at work my age. Let them guess. But what I really mean by this is stop showing people that you are still young. Conversations about your weekend don’t have to be about mowing the lawn or taking the kids to soccer practice, however, stop talking about partying with your friends. Don’t talk about going to clubs, or all the people you are/have dated. None of this is relevant to you professionally, and while it is important to build personal relationships with the people you work with I think if you project an image of maturity people will consider you mature. Don’t giggle during meetings or forget your manners. So act older and people will think you are. You’ve heard of fake it till you make it? Well this is the act it till they think it method.
There is nothing like self confidence to help your image. A cocky attitude will get you noticed for the wrong reasons, but being confident will help people realize that you are a professional. This goes along with the idea of having an “adult attitude”. When you present your ideas don’t start with “This might not work…” or “this may sound stupid…” or the ever popular “I think..”. When you present your ideas like this you basically told your audience that you don’t like your idea, so why should they. Present yourself more confidently and people will see that you know what you are talking about – then age won’t matter.
One of the best pieces of career advice I was ever given was whatever company you work for learn as much about what is going on and how things are done as possible. Learn about what is going on outside of your department because the more you know the more you will be able to have a positive impact at the company. Even if the information doesn’t impact your job it will be helpful some day (thank you Meredith J ). Pay attention to what’s going on around you and demonstrate that you understand what is going on and people will show you respect. Also, try to understand what is going on in the industry you work in. Again, it might not have an impact on your job but if you show that you understand the market place your company is in, people will start to look to you for advice – and that is real respect.
This is possibly the most important tip –be accountable. Do your job, do it well, and do it faster than anyone else can. If you do your job well you will gain respect. But here is the kicker – you will make mistakes (everyone does) and when you do be accountable. I’ve made some pretty big mistakes in my career but they haven’t hurt me because I take responsibility for what I’ve done. This means owning up to the mistake and then letting your boss (or whoever else needs to know) what you are doing to fix it. Nothing impresses me more than someone who can say: I screwed up but I’m fixing it and here’s how.
Does anyone else have any advice on how to be taken more seriously at work when you are a young employee?