I work in the world of digital marketing — a decidedly youth-obsessed field where being in your 20s is considered a tactical advantage (for me, an advantage that expired about two decades ago). But the blush of youth isn’t always so welcome, especially if you’re gunning for a manager’s position and the corner office.
Some fields are filled with traditionalists who may only see you as a pair of skinny jeans with a fast metabolism and good hair. But fear not! Here’s how to overcome the skeptics and thrive as a young boss.
Learn the ropes
Every workplace is unique and every job is different. Take time to learn about the processes and expectations of your new position or new employer. That means showing interest, engaging with staff, and demonstrating a willingness to absorb information before making any big changes. (See also: 6 Simple Ways to Make a Fantastic First Impression)
Own your knowledge
The best way to thrive as a young boss is to own your knowledge and stop apologizing for it. Realize that very few companies give promotions by accident or hire without reason. Strike a balance between healthy self-confidence and a level of modesty that keeps you accessible, open to new ideas, and willing to work hand-in-hand with your team.
Be conscious of subtle ways you may be contributing to negative perceptions about your age. Uptalking is one of the most pervasive. Uptalk or upspeak is the tendency to end declarative statements with a slight vocal lift (which makes statements sound like questions). This linguistic habit suggests you’re unsure of what you’ve said and are looking for approval.
Diplomacy is a valuable skill for any employee in any job, but for young bosses, it’s absolutely essential. Realize that many of your co-workers were likely vying for the very position you now hold. Tread lightly while the dust settles. Pay attention to office politics (they’re an inevitable part of every work environment) and be transparent as you build your team and work to make your mark as a manager. (See also: 15 Soft Skills Every Employer Values)
Focus your energy
Young bosses are anxious to prove themselves, but there’s risk in taking on too much too soon. Your eagerness may be interpreted as insecurity, as one-upmanship, or as blatant brown-nosing. Even worse, overextending yourself can lead to costly mistakes or early burnout — both bad ways to earn respect. Focus your energy and talents on those duties you were hired to perform. (See also: 10 Tricks to Avoid Workout Burnout)
Now that you’re focused on the most crucial parts of your job, delegate other duties strategically. But choose your resources carefully. Match the task to the talents of the individual and set clear expectations about timing and results. Remember, delegating not only helps you, it allows those around you to develop new skills and demonstrate professional growth. (See also: How to Delegate at Work and at Home in 4 Easy Steps)
It’s one of the most profound duties of being a good boss: supporting the career growth of the people you manage. Though you may still be trying to sort out your own professional path, don’t forget about your employees. Find the strengths in each of your team members and help them use those strengths to take their next career steps. When people see you’re genuinely committed to career development, they’ll have a whole new level of respect for you. (See also: How to Be Successful as a First-Time Manager)