How to Ditch That “Training Wheels” Mentality as a Young Professional

You’ve been at your job for a while now, and—for the most part—you feel like you’re knocking things out of the park.

You have a decent relationship with your boss and your co-workers, you get things done on time, and you bring innovative ideas to the table. There’s only one problem: As one of the youngest employees in your workplace, you’re still struggling to get people to take you seriously.

Whenever you offer a suggestion or critique, you’re met with some sort of passive aggressive statement about your lack of experience. You only have a few years under your belt, while everybody else in the office likes to remind you that they’ve been in the industry “since before you were born”.

But, like any employee, you want your thoughts and opinions to be heard and valued—regardless of what dates you have on your resume. So, what can you do? After all, you doubt that running and complaining to your boss will help to foster that “adult” reputation you’re aiming for.

Instead, implement these five key tips to shake off those training wheels and command the respect you deserve at work.

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Go Above and Beyond

Of course, you know that if you want to be respected—whether by your older colleagues or really anybody in general—you need to do great work.

But, it doesn’t just end there. Instead of just putting in what’s required to skate by, you should be constantly on the lookout for ways you can go the extra mile to impress your peers and make your boss’ and your co-worker’s lives easier.

Do whatever you can to crank out top-notch work, provide valuable input in team discussions, lend a helping hand when others need it, and generally go above and beyond what’s required of you. That’s a surefire way to not only get respect, but also admiration.

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Communicate Professionally

Constantly being reminded of how young and green you are is usually enough to shake your confidence. But, don’t let that seed of self-doubt grow into a full-blown tree in your mind.

Before speaking in a meeting, presentation, or even a casual conversation, take a deep breath and then take a minute to pull yourself together. Maintain eye contact, speak slowly and clearly, and even smile when appropriate. And, if you find yourself in a heated exchange or disagreement, resist the temptation to rise to the bait and lose your cool. Keep your composure.

Being so polished, professional, and seemingly self-assured—even in the face of adversity—will immediately command the attention and respect of everybody in the room.

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Treat Your Reputation Like Gold

Alright, so you always make your best effort to be totally on your game when you’re in the office. But, when you clock out for the day? That’s when you really cut loose.

No, you don’t need to live your entire life like your boss is constantly breathing down your neck. But, in the working world, your reputation is the most important thing you have. So, you should do everything you can to protect it—both in the office and out, as well as online and off.

That means no profane social media posts or making a fool of yourself with your drunken karaoke version of “I Will Always Love You” at the company happy hour. Remember, word travels unbelievably fast in the working world.

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Don’t Make Age an Issue

How can you expect everybody else to forget about your age if you won’t?

If you’re going to be judged in the office, you want it to be based on the quality of your work and your ideas—not your birth year.

So, don’t continuously remind people of the fact that you’re the youngest in the office or have the least amount of experience. If you qualify every sentence with something like, “I know I’m somewhat new at this,” or even, “This might be a bad idea, but…” you can’t very well expect people to respect your suggestions.

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Trust Yourself

It can be tough to gather your confidence when you’re the newbie in the office. However, you don’t want to be so intimidated by other people’s perceived expertise and experience that you’re never willing to put yourself out there.

Go ahead and summon your courage and speak up in meetings to offer your ideas. Just the simple act of being willing to share your suggestions will help your colleagues to view you as an equal.

Even if you have a few years of work experience under your belt, you could still likely be one of the youngest employees in the office—meaning it can be challenging to shake that “training wheels” mentality and command respect from your co-workers.

But, that doesn’t mean you need to resign yourself to years of being treated like the office baby. Implement these five key tactics, and you’re sure to be taken seriously at work—regardless of your age.

Images: Stylestate, Desk, Canadian business, Cause foundation, The Centre Escondido, and Business Time.

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