- Do Take Advantage of Your Fresh Perspective. A relative lack of experience also means a perspective that doesn’t carry with it the baggage of history. Bring new questions to longstanding assumptions. Challenge logics that may be outdated. Think about what your industry isn’t doing or about issues in the contemporary landscape that no one in the field is solving. If you approach these questions thoughtfully and respectfully, your team or client will see why they need your perspective.
- Do Openly Seek What Others Can Offer You. Let those veterans who work for you or with you know that you are relying on them for their experience, knowledge, and advice. A trusted set of senior advisers will help you overcome any challenges your lack of tenure brings with it and will safeguard against any concerns about your age. And taking others’ opinions seriously increases the likelihood that they’ll take you more seriously as well.
- Do Show Them, Rather Than Tell Them, What You Know. If you perceive someone is skeptical about your age, the last thing that will convince them is bragging. Show them your fresh thinking through actions. As you become a student of your field, weave knowledge of that history into your conversation naturally. You’ll prove yourself through action, not words.
- Don’t Underestimate Your Intelligence. Whether you’re a young professional offering counsel to a client, presenting your startup to a potential customer, or managing veteran employees, you run a significant risk of lacking gravitas when you don’t believe in yourself. If you think your age or amount of experience is an issue, you stand little chance of convincing others of anything. If you self-censor or are overly deferential to those with longer tenures, they’ll never see the insight you can provide.
- Don’t Overestimate Your Knowledge. While some young professionals diminish their own abilities through self-censorship, others undercut their ability to be respected by taking themselves way too seriously. If you have relatively few years in your industry, always be cognizant that others you work with know much more about the history of the industry and the culture of the organization or the field than you do. Make every conversation a learning opportunity, and demonstrate that desire to learn openly.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Admit What You Don’t Know. Be honest when you encounter something you don’t yet know. That honesty will not only help build trust but will also allow you to be a student of the industry and/or the organization. Asking questions can help build relationships. And the more you become a student at your job, the quicker any knowledge gap will shrink.
Age isn’t an issue; immaturity is. Showing people the new perspectives you can offer while demonstrating humility and a passion to learn what you don’t know is a surefire recipe for being taken seriously, and for your age to perhaps even be seen as a benefit rather than a liability.