Why Being The Youngest Person at the Office Sucks

28 Feb

I have this consuming obsession to write. Mind you, I have a paper for one of my classes that I need to write but that doesn’t seem as important. Lately it seems that all I can think about is writing for Gen Y Girl. I’m amazed at how many people are reading what I have to say and I absolutely love it. I really thought that I’d start writing and NO ONE would read. Except for my group partner in my HR class that sits next to me while we make fun of everyone else in class for having zero real-life experience and thinking that they’re going to be ridiculously successful in the workforce. So yes, let me just say I’m pleasantly surprised that some people actually take what I have to say seriously. Because usually, people see that I’m 21 years old and they dismiss me. Ughhh nothing is more annoying. Except for my group partner in my HR class (hey, you wanted me to write about you).

When I started my new job, I scanned the office and quickly realized I was the youngest person there—by at least 25 years. Wonderful. These thoughts ran through my mind instantly:

a)  Who the heck am I going to talk to?

b)   What did I get myself into?

c)    I’m going to be forever alone at this job.

9 months later, I can say that yea, I’m still forever alone. It’s been a struggle being the youngest person. People usually think I’m a volunteer.

Annoying person: “Oh how cute, your volunteering for the department. What are you studying?”

Annoyed me: “I’m an employee, thank you very much. And I already graduated college. Oh, and I’m working on my Master’s Degree.”

It’s as if they still see me like this: In Pre-K, in my car seat, dressed up as an Indian for some weird Thanksgiving song I had to sing.

But I’m not in Pre-K anymore.

My favorite thing has to be when I go to department meetings. We do this thing where we sit in a circle and go around the room sharing things about our personal lives. So I sit there and listen as these ladies (because there are no men in my department) talk about how their kids got into college and how one of them is going to be a grandma and then it’s my turn…awkward silence…I think about telling them about how I went to a club last week and met an Australian guy with a beautiful accent and was a wonderful kisser and got home at 4am…but instead I say I’ve been swamped with school work.

Being the youngest one sucks. I can’t sit here and straight up lie to you. But here are some ways that you can make the most out of this really terrible time in your career:

  1. Understand that being the youngest allows you lots of time to gain experience. Take this time to learn ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.
  2. Understand that there will be plenty of room for you to grow. Old people retiring = job security for you if you’re smart and position yourself well.
  3. Understand that the people that dismiss you for being young won’t be around much longer. And it’s okay to be happy about this.
  4. Utilize EVERY SINGLE OPPORTUNITY to prove them wrong. Nothing feels better than showing everyone that you DO bring something to the table. That you DO have skills and knowledge and that you ARE awesome. 

How about you? What kind of crap have you had to deal with being one of the youngest people in your office? Let me know :D

36 Responses to “Why Being The Youngest Person at the Office Sucks”

  1. Emily March 1, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    I’m in the same boat as you. There’s very little I can relate to with my co-workers outside of liking the selection in the candy bowl at the front desk. I look forward to the days of not feeling like the odd one out.

    And way to go getting your Master’s! You’re already proving yourself to the nay-sayers and self-conscious-of-their-own-age women in the office :)

  2. lilykreitinger March 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Been there, done that. Now I’m one of the “old” employees talking about kids, but I won’t be a grandma for about another 20 years. You are right, proving that you are smart and have something to bring to the table is the way to go. Youth is a condition that goes away over time, but wisdom can be present in both young and old.

  3. I am Reptard March 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Finally! Someone who understands! I am not only the youngest in my department, but also the only single, non-married one too! It’s awful. Everyone is getting pregnant or married, and obviously being a single 23 year-old I have nothing to contribute. Blah.

    It actually sounds kind of lame, but I found that my co-workers struggled to find things to talk about with me simply because I’m not at the same life stage that they’re at. Once they found out I have a kitten, they seemed relieved to finally have something close to a kid (once again, lame) to ask me about. It worked out pretty well!

  4. jennerationnext March 21, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    I feel you about being taken for granted because you are a young woman in America. Praise to you, lady, for putting the stereotypes to rest and keeping your own. Thanks for liking my post, mutual love back at ya.

  5. Sam March 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Hey, really interesting post – I think a lot of it is down to speed of voice and tone of voice i.e. speaking slower and firmer. Sounds almost too simple, right? But I’ve been talking to quite a few graduates and that’s cropped up a few times. Best of luck from across the Atlantic!

    • Kayla Cruz March 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Thanks so much! Glad you like it! And yes, I’m shocked at the number of people that struggle to present themselves clearly and professionally. Have a great day! :D

  6. shake malhotra March 21, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    hiya i have been on the same boat of you for over 7years as much annoying it can be its alsoo fun to see the progress you are making and you tend to learn alot from the experience surrounding you..i have been lucky my manager have been 20-25 years old to me but we always had fun conversation whenever we have been out..i just try not to talk about partying, clubbing and i don’t ever mention my age to them…as the moment they know my age their attitude tend to change towards me as if i am not competent enough for the job anymore…

  7. John March 22, 2012 at 12:30 am #

    Beats being the oldest person. Not that I’d know anything about that.

  8. amandabrinegar March 22, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    I definitely understand where you are coming from. It’s like a form of prejudice.

  9. thebehenjialterego March 22, 2012 at 4:53 am #

    Oh , it sucks when you’re the youngest in an indian office. I worked as a copywriter-intern when I was 18 in delhi. There was no contract and so I was seen as an extra on the sets of people who thought they were doing the best job in the world and lived great glamorous lives. I never realized it until much later, but there were a lot of jokes and comments passed around about me which were extremely sexist and derogatory. I don’t know if this was a plus point; but all the men would sort of compete to talk to the ‘pretty young thing’ in town….No actually, it wasn’t that great- I had a weird smelly man with a perpetual cast on his arm who always felt like greeting me 4 times a day. But you’re totally right, you learn the tricks of the trade early (even though it might be through the hard way) and therefore end up being much more efficient and wiser! Hi-five to you, fellow 21 yr old!

  10. Jim Hopkins March 22, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    I remember well the first time I was a bank manager and my entire staff was older than me, except for one teller. So try being the youngest and the boss! Focus on your competencies and as you said in your post, learn all you can.

    For the past 20+ years I’ve been in the learning profession within corporate America, and work with the current 4 generations out there. We all have our quirks, our pluses and minuses, yet together we are unmatched for our abilities to solve problems and move mountains – IF we work together!

  11. Doug's BoomerRants March 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Well, golly. I’m usually the OLDEST one in my office; looked down upon for being an old timer.. getting those looks from GenY’ers that I will soon be put out to pasture along with my inflexible “old ways”.
    I guess life is all a matter of perspective. Back in my day we didn’t trust anyone over 30. You have how many more years before your decline starts?
    Now don’t bother me… I’m getting my bong.

  12. Susan Barrett Kelly March 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    You have much to offer and are just as interesting as anyone else in the group.Talk about a dream vacation you pulled off, volunteer work, hobbies, even your blog. Don’t sell yourself short!

  13. Mama Bread Baker March 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    I’ve been the youngest in the office, and I’ve also been in the mid-age demographics. I left the outside workforce before I became one of the “old ones.” But with our youngest playing baseball, Chief Money Maker and I often end up being the two “older parents” at his baseball games. It’s the cycle of life. My recommendation…when your coworkers are taking their afternoon naps, go flip their computer screens upside down. I can’t remember what keys will do that, but I’m sure a quick google search will reveal the secret! :-)

  14. the retrospective entrepreneur March 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    I’d never dismiss anyone for being young – only for being immature (whatever their age). You can be young or old whatever your age – it’s a choice. Regards Tony

  15. collegemoneyman March 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Felt the same way when I started out; glad I’m out of that environment. Keep giving them your best and show them you’re the future.

  16. Mohit Chopra March 27, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    I had been the youngest in my office, well I have been the youngest almost everywhere, be it under grad college, theater class, post grad college… so I can totally relate to what you wrote… but I am an optimistic, I am doing things at a much younger age than the ones who i have worked with are doing just now… No more the youngest one though, still cherish the days :)

  17. Hattie Wilcox March 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I think you should say something in the meetings about the Australian guy and 4 a.m. Or, if you don’t want to risk losing credibility, make something up along the same lines. You might be surprised how it can perk up the grandmas-to-be.

  18. Hattie Wilcox March 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Also, I’m reminded of a friend I made at work when I was 21. She was the manager of a few small engineering contracting firm, but I was never in the office because I was contracted out to do prepress on a manual at the Coast Guard. Her children were grown, so she had lots of free time like I did. We became close friends. I have lost her to Alzheimer’s, but I will never forget her and the reason we became friends: she talked to me like an equal and never looked down on me. There are more cool women like this out there. We had some funny times over the years since I was younger than two of her sons.

  19. jasminestewart87 March 30, 2012 at 1:12 am #

    SAME THING HERE. Wow. I often get overlooked because I “look 18″ to my customers and clients. They look past me asking for a manager or “someone else on duty.” But like you said, it feels great to PROVE to them and to prove to colleagues and management as well that we are mature, capable, and highly educated women. I am 25 years old. Furthermore, I got a promotion last week to assistant manager and all four of my employees are older than me. Three of them are in their 40s… Imagine how difficult it would be to “demand” (for lack of better word) respect from them. I say, GO YOU! More power to us young, empowered, educated women with degrees and with our confidence! Take care and be blessed. Wishing you much more success!

  20. Nancy Arter March 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Loved your post! It was well-written and thought provoking. As an old – er person, I can tell you that your strategy is exactly correct — learn as much as you can and hell with them. Most are just jealous because they are the ones wishing that they’d been to the club with a handsome man who was a great kisser.

    See, you win! Love your blog!

  21. Ama Adobea July 25, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    i’m the youngest person in my entire COMPANY…nationally. we have interns that are older than me. i have been automatically delegated as the Social Media tycoon (Twitter didn’t exist at my job 10 months ago). But in these 10 months, i’ve become the #1 recruiter at my company. All of the C-Level executives know my name, and management stands by and respects me. It’s hard being the youngest, and fitting the “Gen-Y stereotypes” (i want to wear skinny jeans every single day). I still face opposition because of my age, but I have Success on my side. And that counts for a lot.

  22. jrfruster September 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Reblogged this on frusterboxxx.

  23. broadsideblog October 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    The best thing to do is to be yourself. I agree, you should mention the cute Australian guy (in a discreet/fun way); people expect that of a woman your age and the long-married would get a kick out of it.

    I imagine there are other things you can share with older colleagues — what you read, listen to, watch, sports…? I’m in my mid-50s but work well with assistants and get along with them, who are in their early 20s (I hire them to help me with my freelance biz.) A sense of humor and mutual respect go a long way!

  24. swimwithnic October 11, 2012 at 5:44 am #

    there’s no perfect age to be at work I think…I didn’t had issues when I was the youngest. In fact, my boss really liked me and was keen to groom me coz I was young and fresh! Instead, I had issues when I’m in the sandwiched age…and you’ll come to experience it.

  25. simmm28 October 13, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    I was in the same boat for a long time. Even those coming in for work experience were younger than me. Now that I’ve been there for 6 years things are turning around completely. I’m only 26, but suddenly it’s all ‘when are you having children?’ You really can’t win either way. I guess when you hang out with a bunch of 30 year old co workers, people start to assume your one of them.

  26. Blue Petal February 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    MY biggest challenge is proving my worth, considering that I started work in my last semester of University. So everyone used to look at me like I was just a child. But one day, not so long ago, I woke up and decided to act like a grown up, to do work over and above my boss’s expectations and it is paying off.

  27. elijahestrada February 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    I can clearly remember the awkwardness of being the youngest employee, but now I sorta take pride in it. I started in the office at 17, and all I did for the first couple of years was show that I was willing to do my best at the most menial duties. Now, 6 years later, I’m the youngest in project management. But I love the challenge. This is probably my ego, but it’s cool to now be the youngest guy in the meeting and have the final say. It’s both scary and rewarding to know that the company trusts me that much.

  28. Christopher Whitehead February 13, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    What you younger ones must remember is to listen much more than you speak. That is how you learn. It’s great to have ideas to share with the world. But sometimes it doesn’t benefit you to share all that you know. 90% of your time should be spent listening. Only 10% should be speaking. That goes for any stage of your life. When you listen much more than you speak you may learn what ideas of yours will work and which ones may not have much chance of success.

  29. Jessica Noel May 25, 2013 at 3:51 am #

    This is my exact situation! I’m not just the youngest, but the ONLY one in the entire company who isn’t married. I’m the age of my coworkers’ children!

    All you can do is learn everything you can and always look towards the future! :)

  30. Aichaa May 26, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    I can totally relate myself with your situation. At my workplace,hardly any females.
    And these males are all aged, old and married.
    And not just old by age, they are old by their thinking as well — desperate to have a female around so they can flirt with her whenever any of them finds her alone.
    As long as you tolerate their bullshit talk, they are happy with you and office environment is good but when it goes beyond your tolerance level and you decide to stand for yourself, you become the culprit and ill-mannered sub-ordinate with no office ethics.

    Its workplace harassment and nothing can be done about it except that I leave this place because the top management is also like that and people of that sort support each other.

  31. Stephen July 29, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    I too the same problem, mine is they always say i got no experience because of my age even when i try to impress them they treat me like i am trying to be old like them. I have been a trainee for more than 3yrs now, they keep asking to do things like running errands out side my discipline as an Engineer, making tea, calling drivers and plenty degrading things few would do. My mom keeps telling me to respect my elders, but this is my work place where my future hangs.

  32. jackie October 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    I’m pretty sure that the only thing worse then being the youngest one in the workplace is being the youngest in the family business. When your grandma runs the desk next to you and your uncles are the owners everyone still sees me as the baby. The first grandchild and first neice. The irresponsible adolescent. Not the mature , worldly, successful, smart 23 year old i am. Ive been on the short end of the stick in both works and neither is fun.

  33. cervifrank November 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    Coming into the workforce now is definitely a challenge for Gen Y’ers like myself and many here reading your wonderful blog(just recently took a look around and I really like what I see). I remember my first “real job”(I hate that term but i will use it haha) at a Municipality, and the age gap there was enormous. Trying to relate to co-workers in the break room was the hardest part of the job, and you can forget about presenting new and fresh ideas where I worked because it would upset the “old guard” very much(change seems to be a hard concept in small government in a small city).Anyways before I ramble any more, great article and I look forward to many of yours in the future.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Yes, I’m Young. Thank you, Captain Obvious. « Gen Y Girl - February 29, 2012

    [...] us. She looked at me, grilled  me up and down, and then decided to bring up the age thing. Ughhh the age thing. Why do people feel the need to point it out? Gen Y is always being called out on their age and [...]

  2. How to Get Along With Older Coworkers « Gen Y Girl - April 17, 2012

    [...] Okay, I’ve said it before…being the youngest person in the office SUCKS. [...]

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