Imagine this for a minute: it’s your first day on the job. You walk in, feeling confident and ready to put in work, until you realize you’re the youngest one there. Every millennial stereotype you’ve ever heard is on repeat in your head. If that scenario sounds a lot like your real life, you know that specific feeling of dread and anxiety. But fear not future boss lady, gaining the respect of your older coworkers may be easier than you thought. Follow these three easy tips the navigate building respect as the office millennial.
Be Visible, Act Confident
Don’t hide away at your desk, be present in the office. If you haven’t already, introduce yourself to your coworkers and shake their hand (believe me, this will leave an impression). They aren’t going to respect you if they know nothing about you. When you show that you’re excited to be there and that you value connecting with your team, people will be more open to you. This goes beyond establishing a basic relationship though. It also means you can’t be afraid of asking questions when needed, speaking up when you have a good idea, and putting yourself out there for new projects or clients. Like the age old adage says- “fake it until you make it.”
Listen (no really, spend a lot of time just listening)
It may feel like a personal attack when a coworker makes an offhanded “young people these days…” comment, but take it with a grain of salt. As a tech-native millennial, they may see you as a threat in the office. Affirm their value by listening to what they have to teach you, and adapting to the traditions of the office. While it may seem easier to make a group Google Doc to brainstorm ideas, if your team doesn’t take to it- don’t push. Learn when to teach and when to sit back and listen up. You’re all there to do the same thing, and their insight and guidance may be the breakthrough you need to go from desk jockey to department manager.
Err on the side of extra professional
Be extra careful of how you present yourself. How you dress, communicate, and act all say something about who you are. In this situation, it also says something about millennials. We’re not asking you to be the sole representative of the generation, but that being younger means there are some stereotypes you may need to overcome with your coworkers. Follow the office dress code, drop the “likes” and slang, and don’t slack off. If you come in wearing jeans (yes, even if they are your “nice jeans!) and using your phone, it’ll be harder to convince your coworkers to take you seriously.
While it may seem easier to make a group Google Doc to brainstorm ideas, if your team doesn’t take to it- don’t push
Finally, keep in mind that while not everyone will like you, respect is something you can earn through hard work and a positive, open attitude. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, mind your image, and be accepting of advice. Even under the shadow of a daunting age gap, healthy work relationships can prosper with a little bit of effort.