The phrases “you’re just a kid” or “you haven’t been here long enough to merit a seat at the table or know what you’re talking about” drive me right up the wall. I find that this is a big issue these days with Millennials and Gen Xers. I even experience this myself almost every day! I have a lot of knowledge stored up inside this head of mine from all of my experiences (good and bad), but it’s a struggle for people to accept that I might actually have more information or knowledge other than what they have about certain topics.
It used to drive me crazy, but now I own it. I know that I know what I’m talking about, even if others don’t seem to care because that knowledge didn’t come from where it came from for them. In fact, there are three times when I feel like others know that I know what I’m talking about: running, working with my cadet corps, and anything to do with this blog (especially youth engagement, development and empowerment). Everything else is an uphill battle that I’m determined to win. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this because of the amount of conversations I’ve had lately with people my age and younger that started out with either “I really want to do this, but don’t feel like I am allowed to” or “I have this idea, but I don’t think anyone will listen to me”.
So what can we do about it? How can we get people to listen and take us seriously as professionals, entrepreneurs and more importantly, people?
I talked about this a little bit in Bridging the Gap: How Young and Older Professionals Can Understand Each Other, when I went over the differences in the generations that are active in the workforce today.
Here are some tips that we can work on together to be taken more seriously in both our respective endeavours and as a collective.
Listen to how others talk about themselves.
Sound odd because we as a generation have a misguided reputation for being self-centred? Trust me, there’s a point. By listening to what others are saying about themselves, you get to understand what makes them happy, frustrated, and every other emotion people feel. By making people feel like they are valued and listened when they think that no one gives a crap, it can help you to earn their trust and respect.
Pay attention to your tone, grammar, and how you say things.
When did full sentences become out of fashion and text message slang become so in fashion? I get that it is a part of our society now, but it’s only just starting to permeate into business culture. So unless you know you’re in an environment where text-speak is okay in emails or you have established a relationship with the person you’re corresponding with that allows for it, stick with proper sentences and formal diction.
The same goes for when you’re speaking too! Saying “OMG I know, right?” to your boss or a client can give off the air of being flippant or lax with how you do things. It may also make them feel disconnected from you if they aren’t sure what it is that you’re saying.
Bosses/older generations that may be reading this too: the same goes for you! If you say a metaphor such as “nip it in the bud”, and your employee looks like they don’t understand you, please just explain it and don’t make us feel bad. This also aids in disconnect!
Know what’s going on in the world and your own community!
Today, most of our news comes from social media, be it right from the source itself (i.e. a press release from a company about expansion or retrenchment or a politician rolling out their campaign platform), or from traditional media posting online (i.e. Quinte News, InQuinte, CBC, or CNN). Know what is going on in your workplace, industry, and the world! Don’t just presume that because you saw it once somewhere that it is true, make sure that you have other reliable sources to go to to back up this info.
In Canada the writ is about to be dropped for our 43rd Canadian general election, to be held in October 2019. It’s important that you understand the issue at play, the different party platforms, and those of the candidates who are seeking election in your area! This way, you can make an informed choice when you show up to an election poll!
Be both humble and confident.
This goes back to what I was saying at the beginning. Know what you are good at and your strengths, but don’t be arrogant about them. A great way to be taken seriously is by asking for feedback. This is because it takes a lot of confidence to ask someone to review your performance. People will respect that you want to be able to move yourself further ahead and learn from past misgivings.
Don’t forget to use your listening skills to truly hear what it is that they are/are not saying to you!
Be accountable and professional.
If you mess up (and we all do), own up to it. Throwing someone under the bus doesn’t save you from going under the wheels at another time. People remember that, and may seek to do the same to you if they are in the reverse position. Plus, it looks petty and like you don’t want to take responsibility for your own actions. Not cool!
In terms of remaining professional, this comes with choosing your work wear and how you conduct yourself. In terms of work wear, it’s simple: know your workplace. If it’s acceptable to wear a sweatshirt and jeans, that’s fine. If it’s a formal place, suit up! In terms of professional conduct, be early, be courteous, and be prepared!
Know that “no” is perfectly ok!
Unless you’re in the military or in an industry that requires a clear-cut chain of command (think EMS, police, fire, and hospital employees) and “no” can have severe consequences, it is okay to say “no” every now and then. Especially when it is a task that doesn’t line up with your skill set or creative side.
A note of caution with this: if the task is in your job description sorry, you need to do it. If you’re an entrepreneur just starting out, you might not yet be able to outsource something that you don’t want to do. It’s also important in being taken seriously that you don’t become the person that always says “no” or “yes” because that can lead people to think either you are a pushover or not willing to do the work required.
Always be prepared.
The Boys Scouts got it right on this one. If you think that you need to do something or bring something, chances are good that you need take care of it! Instead of saying “someone else will take care of this or bring that”, assume the opposite and come prepared. At the best, it was needed because no one else was prepared and at the worst, you have more than was needed.
This also goes for presentations and pitches that you need to make. Practice them at least one more time than you think you need to. Try to anticipate the questions that someone could have for you and plan answers in advance. This will demonstrate that you have confidence and that you are fully prepared. No one can question how serious you take your roles and responsibilities after this!
What tips do you have for being take more seriously as a person, professional, and/or entrepreneur? Leave them in the comments!