These days it’s common to hear about the older generation having problems with age discrimination in the workplace, but not so much the younger generations. More often than it is believed, younger people struggle with age bias from colleagues and employers. Though it’s human nature for people of the same age to get along more than those from different age groups, it doesn’t mean your career should suffer as a result.
Five tried and true tips for young people to overcome age bias at work.
- Take advantage of technology
Growing up in a generation defined by technology development is an asset. Unlike older generations, you’re more likely to have expertise across a variety of technology platforms including computer skills (which are essential in jobs today).
Utilize this advantage by promoting your knowledge and experience when applying for new joles, and offer it as a skill you’d like to teach to others. This will ensure your value is noticed and will help you earn respect from your colleagues.
- Adjust your language
How many times a day do you hear a younger person say the word “like”? When you next get the chance, pay attention and count the “likes” in a conversation, though be warned - it will be impossible to un-hear. To bridge age gaps, adjust your language to the older generation and you will be seen as an equal and be taken more seriously.
How? Focus on using a professional tone, and remove upward inflections (finishing sentences in a high-pitch, often making a statement sound like a question) as this is perceived as a sign of naivety and unintelligence.
- Match your mannerisms
Do different generations really act that different? Yes. The younger generation tends to carry themselves more loosely, walk with less grace, and speak faster. Changing your mannerisms to mimic your older colleagues will make them feel more comfortable around you.
Start by carrying yourself with purpose and only speaking when you have something worth saying. Mindless chatter will damage your status. But if you are careful about ensuring there is quality and significance in every word you speak, you will be highly respected.
- Practice patience
Stop trying to close a deal when you first meet somebody. This is a common mistake made by the younger, (eager) generation. Implementing patience into your work is not only more effective for business but suggests that you’re worth waiting for and highlights that you value quality over speed.
Adjust your focus from closing a deal in your introductions or initial meetings, to building strong relationships and booking another meeting. This will increase your chances to network and will allow you to prepare for the next meeting, giving you more control over the outcome.
- Cultivate relationships
One of the fastest ways to earn respect and establish a positive reputation is to cultivate relationships with the older generation in your workplace. It seems obvious, but there is a good reason to take note of. Older people enjoy bonding with younger people whom they see parts of themselves in. Consider it a way for them to reminisce about their younger, go-getter days.
Pro tip: bond with someone who you know sees potential in you. This is an effective way to find a mentor, build a positive reputation, and open countless opportunities for networking. Remember, your network is your net worth.
There are many approaches you can take to overcoming age bias in the workplace, but being self aware is the essential first step. Take note of how your colleagues react to the way you talk and act around them and adjust appropriately.
Make sure to practice patience throughout your methods, put time into building relationships, and most importantly, harness your strength of technology expertise. This asset is a large asset that will enable you to navigate away from age bias in the workplace.