Archive | February, 2013

Respect and Gen Y: What’s Age Got To Do With It?

26 Feb

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I’m working on an exciting new project. It’s awesome, really, because I get to do something that I love.

I get to teach college students about leadership and about success at work.

Yes, I’m currently in the midst of trying to be productive…even though this is me on most days…

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Alright… so in an effort to find the right topics to discuss and the right stories to share with these students, I’ve had to reflect a lot on my experiences in the workplace.

And well…that hasn’t been fun.

It hasn’t been fun because I’ve realized something.

I’ve realized that although there are a lot of things that I can teach these students, there’s no way that I can control the hardships that they’ll continue to face as young professionals.

There’s no way that I’ll be able to rid them of the label that they’ll often be given:

YOUNG & INEXPERIENCED.

This makes me mad.

You know, I once went on a job interview and overall, it was a great experience.

The people were friendly and made me feel comfortable…something a bit rare for an interview. I was actually having a good time.

Until I wasn’t.

I was totally bothered by something that one of the men who was interviewing me asked.

He said, “I’m going to ask you something…you look very young…how are you going to handle yourself when an executive or a senior employee needs something resolved and doesn’t want to talk to you because you look so young?”

Yes. I was really supposed to answer that.

Now, don’t get me wrong…the man who asked me the question was a nice guy. I actually got a long with him very well and so I know that he didn’t mean this question to be negative or to upset me.

But it did upset me because it made me realize that this is a very real problem.

When we talk about discrimination, stereotypes, diversity in the workplace, etc., we often tend to focus on race and ethnicity.

But what about age?

I mean, in that very same interview, would it have been okay for him to say, “you know…you look a bit Asian….how are you going to handle yourself when an executive or a senior employee needs something and doesn’t want to talk to you because you’re Asian?”

No. Absolutely not. That would absolutely NOT have been okay.

So why is it okay that he asked about age?

Why is it okay for young professionals to receive less respect than we deserve?

Think about it.

So many of us are intelligent. So many of us are driven. So many of us are talented and determined and hungry for the opportunity to make a difference.

Sure, we don’t know everything. No one does. And yes, we have a lot to learn.

But we need people who will teach us and who will treat us as equals.

Not people who feel that we’re beneath them.

Because at the end of the day, we all have a lot to learn from eachother.

So when I think about these students that I’ll  be advising, I hate that I won’t be able to force others to fully see their value. I hate that I won’t be able to delete that label that many of them will get stuck with.

But I CAN make sure that they understand the following…

Each of us…we get the respect that we demand.

Simple as that.

Just because we’re young doesn’t mean that we’re not good at what we do. Skill and ability are not necessarily determined by age.

Experience, not age, is what leads to wisdom.

And sometimes people forget this.

So young professionals…

Demand that respect. Demand that equality.

Don’t let people underestimate your abilities and your talents.

And when they do, prove them wrong.

Don’t let people be mean to you just because they think that they can.

Know your worth.

Be professional.

Do good work.

And always make sure to stand up for yourself.

Because if you don’t demand that respect for yourself, no one else will.

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Small Changes = Big Results

5 Feb

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Last week I had a HUGE dilemma. Really, it was catastrophic.

It was the weekend, I had somewhere to be for the first time in forever, and I HAD NOTHING TO WEAR.

Before I continue, please let me say that this is not a post about fashion.

It’s not about clothes, nor is it a story pertaining to any of my previous shopping trips to the mall.

You’re welcome. Now, I’ll continue.

So how could I fix this? Without even thinking much, the solution was pretty obvious to me.

Clearly, I needed to go shopping ASAP and spend all my money on a new wardrobe.

Genius!

But then I stared at my closet for a good fifteen minutes. I mean I just stood there and stared at it.

Here, this is my closet…

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I know, it’s a disaster. I’ll get around to organizing it this weekend. Promise.

But here’s the deal…You see that piece of white wall to the left? Well, behind that wall is a continuation of my closet. The problem, however, is that when I stand in front of my closet and try to decide what to wear, I can’t see anything that’s behind that wall, all the way to the left. So what happens? The clothes that’s all the way to the left of my closet…I forget that it exists.

And then I cry because I have nothing to wear.

So here’s what I did…

I shuffled my closet around and shifted the stuff that was all the way to the left, right to the smack center of my closet. And after doing so, I had a brand spankin’ new wardrobe.

Oh…and I spent no money.

Success!

Now I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking um…okay…so she rearranged her closet…so what?

So why do I think this is important enough to write about?

Because it was a small change that made a HUGE difference.

It seems that these days, young people in particular, whenever we’re faced with a dilemma, we tend gravitate towards brash solutions.

We hate our jobs? We quit.

We feel that our life is devoid of meaning? We pack our bags and take a 7 month trip to Europe…all expenses paid by our student loans that will end up consuming our entire adult life leaving us broke forever.

Now yes, granted, sometimes drastic measures need to be taken. That’s fine.

But more often than not, we just need to relax, take a deep breath, and see things differently.

The solutions to our problems are not always great, giant, life-changing events.

I once read in an article somewhere that just a tiny change in your daily routine can impact your mood dramatically.

So listen, tomorrow…when you wake up hating life because you’ve got to go to that job that’s terrible… take a different route. Drive with the windows down. Decorate your office. Buy a plant and put in your office. Read a book during your lunch break. Go take a walk during your lunch break. Have a 30 second dance party. You might just see that it helps a bit.

But maybe your job REALLY sucks. Maybe you really DO need to quit. Do you really need to quit right away? How about you try making small changes leading up to that? Be smart about it. Don’t just get angry one day and throw in the towel. Figure out what else you can do. Figure out what else you WANT to do. Network. Work on a project on the side. Cultivate a new skill. But do all those things while you have a job.

Because a huge change, a big change…that might not be the best kind of change at all.

You’re feeling that you’re lacking purpose in your life and suddenly feel the urge to take off for a year and travel around the world like a nomad?

That’s cool. But is that the only thing that you can do that will give you that sense of purpose and adventure? Can you maybe make it a point to travel on the weekends? Can you join a club of some sort? Can you find an organization to volunteer at? Can you take up photography? Can you learn a new language?

You see…that problem you have…there may be more than one solution.

You just need a different perspective. You need to see it differently. So change the way you see things.

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