This post was originally posted at Employee Evolution I do a lot of speeches and meetings where I’m educating people much older than me on a specific topic. So it’s important for me to appear competent, knowledgeable and quite frankly, older than I actually am. Over the past two years, I’ve learned a few things […]
This post was originally posted at Employee Evolution
I do a lot of speeches and meetings where I’m educating people much older than me on a specific topic. So it’s important for me to appear competent, knowledgeable and quite frankly, older than I actually am. Over the past two years, I’ve learned a few things about fitting in when you’re the youngest one in the room. Here are six tips for you to remember.
1. Talk about technology
This is the first time in history that the youngest generation in the workforce has the most knowledge on a very important business topic – technology. This gives Generation Y a ton of advantages that past generations didn’t have. We can provide ideas for new marketing techniques and new recruiting strategies, and we can implement these ideas at very little cost. Regardless of whether or not it’s true, people assume that if you’re in your twenties, you are an expert on technology. The next time you’re in a room full of people talking about a topic that’s a little over your head, pick the right time to chime in and talk about technology. Explain how Facebook, or blogging or Twitter can help. People will listen because when it comes to technology, you’re the expert.
2. Ask questions
When you’re the youngest in the room, it’s important that you appear confident and competent. But you have to be careful that people don’t mistake confidence for arrogance. You’re not expected to know everything at 25, and older folks will expect that you’re always trying to learn. The best way to show people that you want to learn and that you don’t think you know everything is to ask a ton of questions. Be sure the questions are relevant to the topic being discussed, but remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question (only stupid people…just kidding!)
3. When the kid convo comes up, keep your mouth shut
I hate the kid talk. But somehow, someway, a room full of 30 and 40 somethings will ALWAYS end up talking about their kids. Whether its little league, ballet, their latest illness or anything else, my only advice is to nod your head, force a smile, keep your mouth shut and pretend like you’re interested. At IBM I made the mistake of chiming in on a few of these, but all I could come up with were old war stories about my little league days. Relating to their kids is a quick way to remind everyone how young you are. Avoid this at all costs.
4. Talk about your weekend fun
This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that older folks love hearing your weekend party stories. I’m sure it’s fun for them to relive the old days of late night parties. Usually they will talk about a few stories of their own, it’s a great conversation starter and it allows them to relate to you. This is one case where it actually is ok to show your age because you are relating to the other people in the room, not their kids. Just be sure you don’t give too many less than professional details and you’ll be fine.
5. Be an expert, but don’t flaunt it
You should be an expert in something. There is no excuse for you not to have some sort of specialty or at least a career-specific topic that you are highly interested in. When that topic does come up, it’s the perfect opportunity to display all the hard work you’ve put into becoming an expert. Talk about your ideas and give some background on how you learned about the topic. Just be careful that you don’t flaunt your “expert status” too much. Nobody likes a show off.
6. Accept every favor you’re offered
In college, I wanted to be a psych major. Turns out, I’m much more into analyzing my own issues then other peoples. But that’s beside the point. One thing I learned in a Social Psychology class is that people actually like you more after they do a favor for you. It seems strange, but it’s true. And when you’re the youngest in the room you probably have the least money and least connections, so if they like you, people will offer you things like sports tickets, introductions to high-powered friends etc. Next time, remember that they want you to accept this favor and they’ll actually like you more if you do!
Depending on how you look at it, being the youngest in the room can be a good thing or a bad thing. Some people will never give you a chance if you’re under 30, but if you remember these six tips, you’ll have a better shot at fitting in with the older crowd.
Ryan Healy is the COO/Co-Founder of Brazen Careerist and regularly writes and speaks on all things Gen Y, and Entrepreneurship