Sunday, March 23, 2014

Young executives and ageism in the workplace

A good friend of mine, +Colmon Elridge , posted something on Facebook that I felt rang true in my work experience and that of many young professionals.  He graciously allowed me to repost it, and I'm doing so here.


I was asked today if it was difficult to be a young person in a senior level position and it made me think about how often I am not only asked that question but how often those in executive positions who are young are asked this question.

Here is the honest truth. Yes.

There is a myth that if you are young and an executive you did not earn it.

How could you possibly earn that status if you are young? No matter where you work people will constantly remind you of that.
You have a Bachelor’s? Great, so does everyone else.
You have a Master’s (or two)? You’re a show boat.
You want to have input? Go get the coffee boy and be thankful you have a job.
You want a raise because everyone around you got one? Tough, get a second job. Because executive title does not always mean executive pay.

It is infuriating. It is demeaning. Some call it paying your dues, but it just downright sucks.

There are those who will doubt your abilities and will only see you for what they need.
You’re young and we do not want to seem too old, welcome aboard-kid!
You’re a woman and we need to prove we are not misogynist, nice to have you-honey!
You’re (insert ethnicity) and this can’t look too much like a country club, way to go- my brotha!

But here’s the thing, you can either own it or you can be destroyed by it.

If they don’t pay you enough, be the best broke executive you can be.
If they talk down to you, resist the temptation to tell them what you think, because you’re being goaded into a reaction. Instead drive them crazy by smiling and keep going.
If you are the errand person, get the coffee, make the copies, with the lightning speed of Sonic the Hedgehog.

You see sometimes all of this is just a game and when you throw up your hands you lose your job and those who wanted you gone, win.

These moments, and I know it is hard to believe, are temporary. Be satisfied by knowing you will win the war even if you lose a battle or two.

Where so many in older generations go wrong is they doubt our capacity to be patient and methodical. It is not easy but it is also not as difficult as you would imagine.

So there it is.

It is hard, there is no easy escape ramp, especially if you (or your parents) did not buy your position. But what has always gotten me through is knowing what I have, I earned. Now, that knowledge does not pay a mortgage or wield immediate power, but it is irrefutable and yours.

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