“I try not to show my age in the office. I don’t talk about shows I watched growing up or the music I listen to. I don’t want people at work to judge me based on my age.” A friend said this to me the other night, lamenting her fear of being taken less seriously at work because she’s in her 20s.
For those of you who know me well, I’ve commented on ‘ageism’ for years. Feeling like a 45 year-old in a 26 year-old’s body, I’m one of the only females I’ve met who LOVES getting older. I always say, ‘With each calendar year, I get that much closer to my mental age.’
Whether or not we care to see it or admit it, people have impressions (true and false) regarding age. Let’s be honest: you see a geriatric person and you assume they are slow, ailing, and shouldn’t drive. Not always the case, clearly, but a standard stereotype. I believe that the opposite it also true, particularly in the professional world. As a young female with curly blonde hair, I have little working in my favor as far as first impressions of physical maturity are concerned, so I’m likely more aware of this than others. Think to a meeting you’ve attended, a networking event you’ve entered, or a room of executives into which you’ve walked. You likely felt young and they more often than not have instant preconceived notions about your youth. Even if you’re a prodigy, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure Doogie Howser would have had this same problem (were he real), regardless of his talent. We have to work doubly hard to be taken seriously. (Take it from me, the young female in sales, oftentimes in male-dominated surroundings). How often can you go for a high-level job even if you have the ideas and gumption to be a success? My guess is rarely because you ‘don’t have enough ‘years under your belt’.
I do believe that this can lead to opportunity, as well. The ability to succeed beyond expectations is huge if you capitalize on this perceived handicap. Let’s quit complaining and take advantage.
Two such examples are friends of mine who are in their 20s and running companies. It stands out to me because they didn’t start these companies so that they could be at the top. The owner was open-minded enough to see talent without an age attached to it. Kudos Mr. Business Owner. Go spread the gospel.