How To Be Taken Seriously When You’re The Youngest Person In The Office

For those taking your first steps into the corporate world or trying to move up the ladder, it can be hard to prove your worth when surrounded by older and more experienced professionals.

But just because you’re a bright young thang, doesn’t mean that you’re any less capable of doing the job you’ve been hired to do. You’re a professional force to be reckoned with. All you have to do is prove it, which is where we come in with this handy-dandy guide on how to be taken seriously when you’re the youngest person in the office.

#1 Dress to impress

Like it or not, your clothes and general appearance speak volumes when it comes to being taken seriously. They are, after all, the first thing that anyone notices about you – before your charming personality wins the day, of course.

Jeans and knock-off Converse from K-mart’s clearance section (the real MVP) might have cut it for 8am uni lectures, but the professional world demands a little bit more polish. If you want your co-workers to respect you, you have to look respectable. Invest in staple wardrobe pieces, made of quality material, that fit you to a tee.

Your career, and your wallet, will thank you later.

#2 Don’t let others cut you off

We’ve all been there, sitting in yet another dreaded Friday meeting when a rare opportunity presents itself: you actually have something meaningful to say. You open your mouth, ready to drop a knowledge bomb that will earn you all the praise and promotions you’ve been dreaming of. But then an older colleague cuts you off, completely hijacking your moment of glory.

The next time it happens, respond with a polite but firm “actually (insert name here), I wasn’t finished yet” and mentally give yourself a high-five. You have just as much right to be in that meeting as everyone else and don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.

#3 Don’t mentally put yourself on a different level

As a young person in an office full of older professionals, it can be easy to compare and find yourself lacking. You’ll always have less experience, less confidence and less of that je ne sais quoi that makes a grown-up a proper adult. But that doesn’t mean your work is any less impressive or meaningful.

By mentally putting yourself on a different level than your colleagues, you’re telling them that you don’t deserve a place in their office. Nip this negative attitude in the bud by taking a moment to reflect on everything you’ve achieved so far.

#4 Prove yourself through your work

Remember when your Mum told you that slow and steady wins the race? Well, that old gem has never been more relevant than in the workplace. As a youngster looking to prove yourself in the corporate world, it’s tempting to burn yourself out by completing an entire week’s worth of work in one day in order to show your boss how much of a legend you are.

Instead, make like the tortoise and prove your competency by getting your work done on time and to the best quality it can possibly be. Over time, your colleagues will start to respect you for your reliability and consistency.

#5 Don’t undermine your own achievements 

Sure, getting really good feedback on a project you’ve been working on or reaching a personal milestone might not seem like a big deal when you’re comparing yourself to co-workers who are having children or applying for leadership positions.

But those little things that put a spring in your step are important and you should never, ever put yourself down for feeling that way. Received an awesome email full of praise for something you created? Don’t be afraid to drop a few humble brags in the office. Finally learnt how to bake a cake? Bring in the leftovers for your colleagues to sample.

You can still be proud of what you’ve achieved while admiring those around you for killing it. 

#6 Act maturely in everything

Just like confidence, maturity can be achieved by acting like you’ve already got it. In order for your older colleagues to respect you, you need to prove that you’re far removed from the awkward, angsty teenager they associate with people your age.

No, that doesn’t mean complaining about taxes or talking endlessly about the NBN.

Yes, that does mean leaving your personal problems at the door (well, as much as you can while still remaining mentally healthy), making an effort to socialise with your co-workers and removing yourself from a situation when you know you’re going to lose your cool.

#7 Never, ever, mention when you graduated from high school

It might be a song that comes up on the office playlist that came out before you were born or a memory a co-worker has of a TV show well before your time, but at some point in your office life your co-workers are going to be reminded just how much younger you are.

Trust me when I say your older colleagues do not want to be thinking about what they were doing when you were a wee baby taking your first steps into the “real” world. Actually, now that we think about it, try and keep all indicators of your youth under wraps and everything should work out fine.

Shannon Coward is a Brisbane-based freelance writer and corgi aficionado. She enjoys long walks to the nearest doughnut shop, romantic evenings spent with Netflix and dreaming of travel plans she really can’t afford. You can find her little slice of the internet here.