If you’re like most fresh-out-of-college students, you’re probably working with people who are significantly older than yourself. Sure, there are the hip creative agencies or the quickly growing tech start-ups where young employees are the norm, but these cases are not representative across the career board. This means that more than likely, you will be one of, if not the, youngest people at your job.
How do you communicate with coworkers when they’re twice your age (or older)? Moreover, how do you convince them that you’re not just “some lazy millennial?” It might seem like a difficult task, but in actuality, it’s not that complicated. Our experts have compiled tips to help you connect with your coworkers in just three easy steps.
1. Treat them like Regular People (Duh!)
Just because they’re older than you doesn’t automatically make them less interesting. Have regular conversations with your coworkers and get to know them! As Makailyn, a Hiring Expert at Textron Inc. points out, “I have found that asking people about their hobbies, family, or interests is a way to connect with them on a more personal level and see what you may have in common. The age difference won't seem so drastic if you are able to find commonalities or learn about what each other is interested in on a personal level. Most of all I think that respect, positivity, and engagement can go a long way!”Ref. Link 1
This first step should be both obvious and natural. Even if you’re particularly shy or naturally introverted, you’re going to have to talk to those around you every once in a while. Having something to talk about or relate to will make your job all the more enjoyable.
2. Put in the work
Earning the perception of ‘a lazy millennial’ will make it significantly more difficult to connect with older coworkers. It’s easy enough to avoid this perception: don’t be lazy. The first few months of your job will be a crucial time to put in hard work, as these will be the days that build your image in the eyes of your coworkers.
Ashlyn, a Hiring Expert at Worthington Industries, explains that it’s especially important to “work hard; show those around you that you are passionate about your work and also respect the work that they're doing. Get involved- are there teams at work that you can become a part of? This is always a great way to network with and get to know your coworkers.”Ref. Link 2
Obviously, it will continue to be important to work hard throughout your career. However, if you start off on the wrong foot it will be nearly impossible to overcome the negative perceptions that were initially formed about you. On the other hand, if you come out of the gate strong, coworkers are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt later on if you have days where you’re lagging.
3. Be willing to learn
One of the best career tools a person can have is the ability to learn from others. Especially as a younger employee in the workplace, you’re likely to be surrounded by a wealth of knowledge; you just have to ask others to access it.
Amanda, a Hiring Expert at Daikin Applied explains that the older generation can be an excellent resource from which to learn. “Build a relationship with [older employees]. Get to know each other and how you like to work. Once you have a foundation of a relationship, working together will become second nature. Then make sure to listen and learn from them. Experienced individuals are usually willing to teach and train, but only if you’re willing to learn.”Ref. Link 3
Many young workers have discovered that a mentor/mentee relationship is beneficial not only for the current job but often later on down the road as well. That relationship begins with you finding the right person and keeping your ears open to what they have to tell you.
Even if you’re the youngest employee at work you can still have an effective - and even friendly - relationship with your older coworkers. It just takes a little bit of effort on your part.