Youngest person in your team?

By Mel Sim

Don’t sweat it, own it.

If you’re just starting out in your career, chances are you’re probably the youngest person in your team or even your office. And when you are the youngest, many might just see you as that – a young person.

With that comes a slew of other challenges: Nobody really takes you seriously, the uncle thinks you don’t really know what you’re talking about, especially when he’s had 10 years in experience and you zilch while some of your colleagues may be old enough to be an older sibling or worst, a parent, meaning it can be quite difficult to relate.

Can you ever break out from that “you’re so young” label? Of course you can! And you should too! Here’s how you can do it.

#1 Show respect yourself
Treat others how you want to be treated right? That goes without saying in this situation too. Show your older colleagues respect and they will do the same for you. Act like a child around them and they will treat you like a child. But word of caution: Don’t bend over backwards just to please them because they are older. You need to also show some form of maturity and going all the way out to do something for someone is not one way to do this. Instead, make sure you show that you can stand your ground too so you’re not being bullied just because of your age!

#2 Participate
Scared to share your thoughts and concerns with your colleagues because you are the youngest? Scrap that. Don’t be afraid to share ideas in staff meetings or with your boss directly. You were hired for a reason and sometimes, a different perspective from a new hired (regardless of age) can do a company good!

#3 Stop downplaying your success
If you’re good, you’re good. Regardless of age. You’ve earned a place in an organisation and you should show why you are there in the first place. Been working in the company for a while and got a promotion that puts you on top of the chart ahead of your older colleagues? It can be tough trying to get them to work with you, especially if they’ve been there for longer than you have but that doesn’t mean you need to be ashamed or worried of your success. Take it by the horns, be confident and continue doing good work. Your older team members will eventually see why you’ve earned that spot, young or not!

#4 Be ultra professional!
Yes, dress the part and all but there are also other ways to gain respect and be professional at work. Younger employees are often accused of terrible spelling and using too much text speech in their emails so make sure you steer clear of the LOLs and emojis. It also doesn’t hurt to speak professionally too, ie form your ideas and thoughts first before babbling the first thing that comes to mind. Be clear and precise in presenting your ideas. If you need to practise before you speak, do this while on the way to work or jot down your ideas so you have a clear outline of what you want to share.

#5 Fake it!
Yes, by all means – fake it! Which relates to being confident. If you think you’re too young to be taken seriously, then of course the rest will treat you the same way. If you feel like you’re not qualified compared to your older colleagues, then it will show in the way you deal with them. So first, find confidence in yourself. You’ll be surprised how the quality of your work will improve when you start believing in yourself. And your colleagues will rub off on that confident vibe to start treating you like a peer.

Photo by TerryJ on iStock.

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