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6 Tips for Young Professionals to Gain Respect at Work

6 Tips for Young Professionals to Gain Respect at Work

“So how old are you?” is the dreaded question at the watercooler or the goodbye celebration in the break room. Having to reveal your age is often followed by shocked faces and a collective murmur of, “That makes me feel old!” As interesting as a conversation about the dates all of your co-workers graduated high school is, the embarassement or discomfort that comes from the big age reveal is never worth it. We won’t be able to escape all of these awkward moments until we are older, but here are a few ways to gain respect from people at work who won’t take you seriously because you are young.

1. Dress to Impress

You’ve heard the phrase, “Dress for the job you want.” Well you’ve got the job, now dress for the age you want. As a young person, the perception you give to others is improved drastically by adding professionalism to your wardrobe. Look at how the more established people in your workplace dress and take some notes. There are small changes you can make to give off a more mature vibe. For women, a tighter updo with your hair, a mid-high heel or a subtle lipstick shade make for hints of maturity. For men, it might be a well groomed facial hair, appropriately fitted dress shirts or a watch. And here’s the truth, you don’t have to trade style for a professional appearance. You can look older while still being yourself!

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2. Practice your verbiage

It is intimidating to step in to a new world of professionals who have been doing your job longer than you have. Fear, nervousness or even just lack of experience can make it hard to communicate confidently at work. One way to hack this problem is practising what you will say before that meeting or phone call. As a young person, likely being new to the field, what you do on a daily basis might not be second nature to you just yet. Mapping out important conversations in your mind can be helpful in remembering what you already know, but might easily forget. Jot down bullet points on a sticky note. Practice your word choice out loud as you drive to work in the car. You will be better prepared to communicate in a clear and precise way, which is indicative of a respectable professional.

3. Fake it ’till you make it

In order to be taken seriously, you need to take yourself seriously. Confidence goes a long way in the working world. There were many times at my first real job that I had to correct or advise another professional who was much more established than I am. I realized that many times all it takes for others to believe you are qualified, is for you to believe you are qualified. I found that if I had confidence in myself first, the quality of my work improved. I also found that if I gave off a confident vibe to my co-workers and other professionals they were less likely to ask about my age or mention it at all. From my experience, confidence makes you look like you’ve got all the answers.

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4. Ask questions

Contrary to what I just wrote, you actually don’t have all the answers. A big part of maturity and healthy professionalism is being willing to ask questions. The people at work who are meant to support you will likely know that you are a fresh face in the working world. If they hired you, then they want to help you grow as a professional. Asking questions and showing interest in being a quality employee is not only a sign of maturity, but an opportunity for you to gain great insight and show people that you want to move forward. A good thing to note in this section, is to ask the right questions at the right time. Find a moment that your boss is not swamped to chat and make sure to stay informed by looking in any manuals or handbooks for your questions before you ask so you don’t waste their time.

5. Watch the time

One tactic that is very much in your control is how you manage your time at work. When you have to work a little harder to gain respect, it doesn’t hurt to turn in your reports a day in advance. Show up, ready and prepared a few minutes early to a meeting. Stay on top of returning emails and phone calls. These are subtle efforts you can make daily to boost your reputation among bosses and colleagues.

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6. Use youth to your advantage

Whether others see it you or not, your age can be an asset to you. Being new to the field is both an opportunity to learn their ways and a chance to bring fresh ideas. Some people will seek out your perspective since it is likely that you have been in school more recently than all of your colleagues. Once you build rapport with colleagues you can offer your insights as a fresh and young perspective. A good company needs to evolve with the times. The best new ideas come from people who have the courage to question the old ways. If this is done tactfully and respectfully to your fellow workers, people will quickly forget any previous doubt in you due to your age.

Being a young professional is both exciting and challenging. It is a wonderful time of growth as a young adult and as a professional. It is hard to muddle through the embarrassment or doubt that people may throw your way when they find out just how young you really are. But take heart! Though we are young now – one day we will be running the companies!

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Featured photo credit: Julien Belli via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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