Overachieving is exactly how I would describe how I ended up where I am. At a very young age it was instilled in me that no matter what you do or where you are, as long as you work hard and are determined, you will succeed. I had two parents that often excelled in their careers and social lives. They had multiple jobs and duties, participated is so many events and organization I cannot be entirely sure how many, and on top of that, they had three kids who were also hard-working overachievers. And this is where things in my life get, well, confusing.
Because of these ideals I was given when growing up, I pretty much jumped up the ladder faster than a lot of the people my age or older. I got an Associates at 18, a Bachelor’s at 21, was also a manager by 21, and now I’m working in a position and industry that not a lot of people at 24 have. Because I work hard, and I am constantly in positions with authority, people assume two things. The first being that I am severely under-qualified to do my job, or the second, that I must be way older than I say that I am because no one can be where I am at 24.
For as long as I have been “legally” working, I have always been the youngest person in whatever company I have worked in. it’s true. I have ALWAYS been the youngest person. I am currently the youngest one by at least a decade on my current team. when I was 17 and working as a photographer, not only was I the youngest one in the department, but literally the youngest staff member at the entire resort.
I don’t mind being young. What I do mind is the perceptions people have about me because I am so young in my current job. I got extremely lucky to be working in a profession right out of college. I still have many friends who are still struggling finding work that aligns with what they studies, especially now in the middle of the pandemic.
I have noticed many things always being the “baby” in the office.
No one gets my Zillennial lingo
The biggest difference between me and the majority of my co-workers is the generational gap between me (born November 1996) as a Zillennial (between a Gen-Z and Millennial) and the other older generations. I grew up with social media and internet lingo running most of my vocabulary. A lot of my references and phrases are often met with confused looks and questions. I have had to explain to so many people what works like “sus” and “SHEESH” really mean. It is very hard to make a joke when the majority of the people around you have no idea what you are talking about.
I have had awkward conversations about being underaged
I can write an entirely separate post with the number of awkward conversations I’ve had with my co-workers (past and present) about my age. For instance, when I was a high schooler – a.k.a. an actual minor – I worked at a local beach resort as a photographer. One of the other employees- an adult- I guess had a crush on me and would constantly try asking me out, which was already weird enough. It got to the point where other people had to remind him that I was a literal child and not a fully-grown adult like most people assumed that I was.
I always experienced weird moments like this. It was weird when co-workers would ask me to go drinking and I had to explain that I was 21. I had people assume that I had kids at home as a fresh-faced 22 year old. So many people assume that I am older than what I actually am. Once they find out I get comments like “You’re so mature for your age” or “You just seem so much older” or my favorite “Are you sure you’re only 24” and yes. Yes I am sure of my own age.
A lot of people question my qualifications & experience
If you look at my resume, yes, on paper you would assume that I am a lot older than what I am. That is only because I started working so young and had more opportunities to gain experience. Whenever I go to an interview or somewhere where someone has read my full resume, I get a lot of double takes, and a lot more questions than most. Either people assume that I am lying on my resume or they just cannot believe that someone my age is actually capable of having as much experience as I do.
A lot of the time I am not taken seriously
Even though my employers and myself know that I am more than capable at doing my job, I have never been taken seriously by outside employees nor customers. While working in a bar in college I always got questions along the lines of “are you even old enough to be serving alcohol” and even more creepy questions about weather or not I was a “legal” adult. Safe to say I stopped working in bars shortly after. When you work in an environment where the majority of your co-workers are much older than you, it can be hard to be able to be taken seriously. There are people out there who believe that just because they have lived longer than you that means that they know more than you; which is rarely the case in my opinion.
I feel like I have to lie about how I spend the weekends
Because of the nature of my industry and where I work, I feel like I can’t give too much away about what I do on my time away from the office. I do what normal people do in their 20s. I go to the beach, I drink way too many white claws, and I act like a fool and cause chaos that may or may not include arson. (For legal reasons, none of my weekend activities ever include arson)I can’t exactly disclose to my co-workers about any wild nights out of town without running a risk of not being seen as a working professional. I have had to run into the oh so annoying topics of not sharing photos of me in “unprofessional settings online because I am representing the company even on my own time”. It is definitely an outdated mindset. I have a different life outside of what I do and I don’t see why I need to be “professional” in every single part of my life.
My definition of professionalism is completely different from others
There is a clear difference in professionalism between generations. People my age don’t conform the old ideals of office professionalism than many Generation X and older do. This ranges anywhere from appearance standards, to working overtime, and how we act outside of work. Younger professionals are setting more clear boundaries when it comes to a work-life balance. I set more boundaries about my work – if I am not working, then do not call me. Do not text me. My work email is not on my phone, and NONE of my work ever leaves the office. If I have any available PTO, I will be taking it. It’s not sitting there to be used “for a rainy day”. I will be using it as soon as I can.
When it comes to appearances, many more people in the professional world have visible tattoos, piercings, “non-natural” colored hair, wearing sneakers, and ditching the whole business professional look altogether.
For the most part, being a young person in the office does have a lot more advantages than disadvantages. I am the best person in the office when it comes to technology and computer applications. I get more chances than a lot of other people because “I’m still learning”, and I really am still learning in some ways. I have fresh ideas and I think in terms of longevity and immediate solutions. Working in any environment at any age comes with its own sets of challenges. The best we can do is to treat everyone with the same standards and expectations across the board.
And to be honest, the best part about starting my career at twenty is that I will most likely be able to retire a lot earlier. Catch me sipping margaritas on the beach when I am 50.