The workplace can be an interesting place to navigate at any age. However, when you are the youngest, it can present some different circumstances. Often times, it leaves me wanting to yell “AGE IS JUST A NUMBER!” from the rooftops. Yes, with age comes more experience, but age does not define your capability or worth. 

First of all, apply for any and all jobs or opportunities regardless of your age. I got my current job as a legislative assistant at a state’s House of Representatives at the age of 19. In fact, I am the youngest full time employee. Although it is not always easy being the youngest, I love my job and my co-workers.

Here’s a few issues that come up often when you’re the youngest in the workplace and I’ll share with you how to navigate them best. 

How to handle ”let’s grab drinks after work!”

Not being of legal drinking age is definitely not the end of the world, but it is an often inconvenience in a world that runs on happy hours. In fact, in the political world, “grabbing drinks” happens almost every day after work. Even if you are not partaking in drinking, sometimes those who are under 21 cannot even get into restaurants after a certain time. If you are like me, you loathe inconveniencing others more than anything. So, naturally, I always used to get embarrassed by this hindrance. To prevent an issue like this, I often ask where we are going to eat. Then, I will call beforehand to make sure I can get in without a problem. 

How to handle conversation topics

At 19, most do not have a husband, or kids, etc. Sometimes, I feel that I have trouble relating with co-workers when we talk about our personal lives. When this happens, I like to sit, listen, and glean wisdom from those with more experience than me. By listening to those older than you, priceless stories of past times and knowledge can be gained. Take this as an opportunity!

How to handle underestimation

This is an obvious issue when you’re the youngest in the workplace, but it still stings every time. Young professionals are often thrown into the shadows of lazy, lacking intelligence, or inexperienced. I have learned that you can experience more in 19 years than some people might in their entire life. When my work ethic or capability is doubted just because of the number attached to me, it makes me want to work even harder. Prove those who doubt you wrong by going above and beyond. You’ll do your best work, gain confidence, and make a name for yourself. 

How to handle “how did they even get this job?”

On the uglier side of being the youngest at work are the whispers of how you got your job. Comments like “Oh they must know someone” or “I bet their dad paid their boss to hire them”come up more than you’d like. These assumptions dig the deepest because it negates my hard work and my achievement. I have learned that ignoring these accusations, as hard as it may be, is the best way to deal with them. Those speaking falsehoods want attention and to be heard. If you do not give it to them, there is no one to listen. Then, they are forced to stop. Let your hard work speak for you! Always be kind, even when others aren’t to you. Kill them with kindness, as my grandmother would say.

Makenzi C