Today’s Guest Post was written by Kelly Konevich. As a young career counselor, she’s encountered some older workers who…well…think she looks like a baby. And as a result, they often question whether or not she’s capable of doing her job. So in today’s post, Kelly offers a bit of advice on getting others to take you seriously…despite your Gen Y status.
I’ve never been much of a suit kind of gal, and as somebody who works in higher education, unless I become a dean (someday…), it is not expected that I’ll ever really have to be, aside from the occasional employer meeting or as a conference attendee. Although I do believe in the mantra “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” I tend to prefer bright colors, blouses and ballet flats to suit jackets, button ups and heels. But I’m sure to always present myself in a professional and appropriate manner.
As Gen Y’s, we are often accused of being too casual both in attitude and in dress, and although I’m not rolling into work in my wet bathing suit, I noticed that some faculty, students (more so alumni) and staff were always surprised when they met me for the first time, “nice to meet you, gosh, you look like you could be a student!” Thank you for the compliment (?), but I’m not. After checking with my supervisor and confirming that I was, indeed, dressed professionally and appropriately for my office, I began to wonder if other younger professionals were getting similar responses.
The answer was an overwhelming, “yes!” One friend of mine who works in finance said that her credibility is often questioned by older clients, and another colleague in education confessed that some parents question her experience. As Gen Y’s we’re new(ish) to the workplace, but if we were hired, that means we’re fit for the position. I’ve come up with these 3 tactics to crush the credibility doubters:
1. This goes without saying but, dress like a pro. Take a look around your office and those who are in positions you’d eventually like to be in and see what they’re wearing. Copy them (assuming it’s appropriate). Although I would stick out like a sore thumb in my office if I wore a suit, I always make sure I look put together and professional, and when I’m teaching or meeting with an older colleague, I kick it up a notch and throw on a blazer and some nice shoes (guys: just have a tie in your office).
2. Know when to speak up/know when to shut up. If you’re extroverted (like me), you may find yourself chomping at the bit to give your opinion at staff meetings. I know with myself, it is uncomfortable and even a struggle to not speak up. Make sure what you have to say is thoughtful and warranted. Ask yourself, “Can I rationally back up my opinion? How will this better my department?” If you can articulate both those question, then speak up. Similarly, if speaking up makes you uncomfortable, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In! You were hired because your manager believes you have something to contribute. It is natural for you to be uncomfortable, but recognize the only way people are going to hear your ideas, is if you put them on the table.
3. If you don’t know the answer, admit it and then seek it out. I work with a wide variety of clients ranging from undergraduates and Ph.D. candidates to alums. I am a self-proclaimed generalist, not an expert in any industry. When working with a client or asked a question in a class I can’t answer, I answer honestly, “that’s a great question, I am not sure, but I will find out for you and get you that information.” Nobody likes a know-it-all and I certainly don’t know what kinds of job searching databases, if any, are out there for biophysicists, but I can certainly ask around, find out and get back to you. People appreciate honesty, it gives you credibility.
Kelly Konevich is a twenty-something Bostonian attempting to balance work and play in a traditional college town. Career Advisor at Northeastern University, social media enthusiast and glitter aficionado. Follow her on Twitter @kellydscott4.
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