When you’re the youngest person at your company, its really easy for everyone to see you as the “kid” of the group. Even when you’re given big roles that involve important decision making, earning your colleagues respect can be an upward battle when most of them are at least twice your age. I am the youngest person at my company, in an industry that is primarily made up of men. Over the past two years I have become more sure of myself, and gained the respect of my peers by working my hardest to do well at my position. Here are a few tips to help you lose that “kid” label and prove yourself as an empowered and professional coworker.

“Dot your I’s and cross your T’s”

When entering a meeting, make sure to know all your facts ahead of time. Learn your material inside and out so you are able to answer any question that might get thrown at you. In a fast-paced environment, teaching yourself to slow down for a second and double check everything might feel like its out of your nature. For me, this has been the hardest part of my job. Make sure you know exactly what’s going on, and that you check yourself and your work before clicking send or placing a call. Read and re-read important documents before sending them out. It might cost you a few extra seconds, but will save you a major headache down the road.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask someone you work with for help on a project. If you can’t figure something out, ask for a second set of eyes to look things over. You don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver on a project, no matter the size. Consult with your coworkers, look up a video online, or talk with a professional in your area. Being able to learn on the job is a valuable skill, and a lot of the time the best teachers are sitting right next to you.

Keep a planner

Whether it’s a $60 fancy planner, or just a simple to-do list, keeping track of all your tasks is very important. You don’t want to drop the ball. Personally, I have a planner with a section for each area of our company that I manage. I keep these separate so I’m more clear on what needs to be done & for who. I write down every single task I have to do for the day, and cross them off as I go. This includes meetings, emails I need to send, phone calls I need to make, and little tasks like checking the company mailbox and depositing checks. Every time I get assigned a new task, I write it down then and there. I’ve had huge projects fall apart because a tiny detail fell through the cracks – writing down every little thing will help you to remember all the things that need to be completed.

Set your phone down

Us “Millennials” already get a bad rap for being addicted to our phones. That constant connection to social media can be so distracting during the day, and will get in the way if you let it. If you don’t need your phone during your work day, I suggest following the “out of sight out of mind” rule, and keeping your cell phone in your car, or in your break room so you won’t be tempted to check Facebook. My personal cell phone is also my business phone. For those of you in the same position, I suggest designating a certain place at your desk for your phone. During downtime, like a lunch break or while you’re waiting on a call, it’s okay to check your phone every now and then, but when you have a million other things to be doing, that new Instagram story can wait.

Dress professionally

Don’t get me wrong, I love keeping up with trends, but this is a workplace, not a runway. Make sure you’re always dressed appropriately for your position. Come into work prepared for anything, whether that’s sitting in your office or meeting new clients. You can still show your style and dress in a way that makes you comfortable without going too overboard. I always lean more towards the safe side by dressing conservatively, but with a few trendier pieces thrown in. When shopping, opt for more basic pieces with one or two fun colors or patterns. It’s always nice to have a nice balance between fashionable and professional.

Strictly business

Talking about your personal life at work isn’t always appropriate. Know who you are talking to. Be aware of the situation before diving into a conversation about your boyfriend or your dogs. There is a time and place for everything. Know when it’s time to get down to business and when it’s okay for more casual conversations. By showing your colleagues that you mean business, they are going to take you more seriously and respect you and your position at your company.

Always answer promptly

Whether it be a call, a text, or an email, respond as soon as you see it. If you miss a call, call them back immediately. Even if you don’t have an answer for them right then and there, acknowledging that you received their message and are working on it will go a long way. This is especially important if you’re in a customer service based industry. People want to feel like they are heard, and the best way to do that is to respond immediately, even if you can’t fix their problem right then. Send a “Got it, thanks” email, and then follow up when the issue has been resolved or you find the answer they’re looking for. If you ever work in purchasing, once you send in a purchase order, you expect a “Sales Order” or “Order Acknowledgement” from a company, letting you know that they received your order. In business, treat every email like it’s a purchase order. The corporate world is fast-paced. Your colleagues and clients will want answers and results NOW. Make sure you let them know you got their message!

Be a sponge

When you are the youngest at your company, you have a unique advantage over others in your industry. You have the most time to learn. Quite frankly, learning is probably your most important job. Instead of zoning out while listening in on a conference call, be engaged. Take notes and interject when appropriate. Listen to the way your colleagues and higher ups are conducting business. Learn to speak the language of your industry by listening to people with more experience than you. Ask them for advice, or to explain a concept that is new to you. I have learned so much not only about our industry, but about business and project management in general during the short time I’ve held my position. How? Just by asking questions and getting feedback from the people I do business with. Don’t shorten your sights to only the people you work with, learn from your competitors. Ask yourself, what are they doing that we’re not? How is that making them better? Pick up on how the companies in your industry relate to each other. Bring new ideas to the table. You have so much to learn, so start now.

Sheridan M