The workplace has always been a rapidly changing environment with constantly evolving technology, trends and processes. The most significant change has been the workforce itself. Young professionals have been challenged to take on leadership roles and sometimes, this can cause tension between managers and their teams.
I, myself, have a baby face. I am a 24-year-old woman who looks like she is fresh out of Plano West Senior High (WOLFPACK TILL I DIE). As an initial impression, this has hindered my ability to be taken seriously. BUT this has not set me back professionally once my colleagues and clients have worked with me.
So how do those of us cursed with the perpetual baby face battle be taken seriously in the workplace? Here is some advice I have learned (and been told) for gaining respect as a young professional.
Prove your value
It can be tough when colleagues talk down to you or dismiss your ideas because of age. Don’t let that discourage you! Embrace your youth as an asset and proudly show your energy, ideas and abilities as a professional.
Set goals for yourself early on and share those goals with your team. Make sure those goals are attainable. Setting your own goals shows that you take your job seriously and see it more than just an entry-level position. Keeping yourself accountable and responsible will help you gain trust with upper-management. This way, your team will see that you are capable of performing, or even going above and beyond, as expected.
Genuinely care about your team
In my experience, it’s easier to earn respect from your team if you genuinely care about their wellbeing. Not just your team as individuals, but collectively as well. Make time to be available to your team for work and personal matters, and listen more.
If you can tell someone on your team is having a bad day, you can show them you care by taking them to get a Starbucks drink or offering to take a task off of their plate. A little gesture can go a long way.
Your team’s success is your success
Personally, I think someone who puts their team’s success in front of their own is a surefire way to earn respect from everyone on your team. Whether you are the leader of the team or an entry-level employee, ultimately, you want to succeed. To attain success, you need to work collectively to achieve those goals together.
Another way to ensure your team’s success, while simultaneously showcasing your value, is to anticipate issues and expectations. Be ready with a few scenarios to manage those expectations and ensure that there are resources allocated effectively.
It’s okay to say no
A trend I have noticed from young professionals is taking on WAY too much. Don’t always say yes. Ask challenging questions and be prepared to pose a sound rationale on how goals can be better achieved that will ultimately benefit all parties.
Ask and give honest feedback
Feedback is one of the most important aspects of your career. I am constantly asking my managers and peers for feedback, positive or negative. I view it as an opportunity to hone in on my strengths and actively work on my weaknesses.
Not only should you ask for honest feedback, you should consistently give feedback to your team and managers. This eliminates any miscommunications by addressing any underlying issues that might form between team members. Failing to give honest feedback will result in mediocrity and stunts the growth of your team.
Being humble means putting the good of your organization and team ahead of yourself. This also ties into being able to rationally evaluate your strengths and weaknesses from your team’s feedback.
It’s easy for me to assume I know everything going on with my accounts since I am the account lead. But don’t assume you know what’s going on behind the scenes. As a junior member of the team, there are levels of every situation you will not be privy to, and most likely, for good reasons.
A wise manager/mentor/friend gave me a valuable nugget of wisdom: the world does not allow you to move at your top speed. As an extreme Type-A personality, this is something that I have struggled to come to terms with.
Trying to force moving up faster, expedite getting a raise and assuming people are out to get you will only hinder your ability to grow in your career and as a person. Be clever and find ways to extract empowerment by effectively managing up to people in power. And don’t feel guilty about it.
Ask for advice from other leaders
You won’t always know the answer to things and that is 100 percent okay. I am constantly asking all of the leaders at my organization for advice. I enjoying hearing different perspectives from our leadership team, they all provide valuable advice and bring up issues and solutions, some that I would not have even considered.
Having a diverse perspective and being able to see issues from another person’s point of view will make your team respect you, trust you and feel comfortable approaching you with new ideas. Creating a network of successful leaders that you can lean on will make you a more effective leader in the future.
Remember, you must act like a leader to become a leader.
Are you just starting out in your career? Do you have a baby face that is hard to take seriously? Have any tips or tricks to gaining respect as a young professional? Comment below!