When I first told my friends and family that I was giving up my scholarship and dropping out of college, they looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind. I didn’t exactly fit the profile of someone who might be your typical college dropout, if there even is one. I was getting good grades, I had made some really nice friends, I loved my school in NYC, and I like to think I had (and still have) a good head on my shoulders.
I went into my first year with complete certainty that I was going to become an architect.
It was my dream job ever since my first architectural drawing class in the 8th grade and I never even considered doing anything else. Once I actually started my courses though, I got a big reality check.
I quickly learned that being an architect wasn’t only about being a creative artist who gets to decorate the world with my creations. It’s also obviously a lot about designing someone else’s dreams. It’s plenty of long nights and early mornings and getting underpaid to do more than I wanted for less than I was worth. For some people, it’s a rewarding and exciting career and they do really well, but for me it was quickly becoming something that I was no longer passionate about.
I felt so lost, but I refused to let myself stay that way.
I then chose to pursue a degree in Accounting, as it was something that would give me useful skills that I could apply to any career I wanted, even if I never actually became an accountant. To no one’s surprise, it also wasn’t for me and after my second school year, with some encouragement from a friend, I moved on to the Entrepreneurship & Small Business Management program at my school.
Finally, I felt like I was right where I belonged.
I was with passionate, like-minded people who were creative and knew how to hustle but also made sure that they had fun while they did it. I learned that I never felt truly comfortable before because I hadn’t found something that I enjoyed doing. I missed Architecture, but now I had this newfound interest in small business, and I knew that I could blend the two and find myself happy with a career in real estate.
Once I told my friends and family that I was done with school and had decided to become a real estate agent, they all told me to finish school first so that I had a degree and something to fall back on. Their reasoning was simple: they said that no one would take me seriously because I was young and didn’t know what I was doing, and that no one was going to buy anything from me. I knew I would prove them wrong.
I didn’t feel that I needed anything to fall back on, because I didn’t see failure as an option.
I knew that failure was something everyone experienced on the road to success, and you only truly fail when you decide to give up. If real estate didn’t work out how I’d hoped, I would move onto something else. But absolute failure? No way.
I felt like my friends and family simply didn’t understand, and that my reasons for leaving school were totally and completely valid. School was putting me into serious debt (over $20,000 which isn’t even a lot compared to some people), I was wasting over an hour getting there and back every day, and I didn’t need a degree for the career I wanted or for any entrepreneurial path I planned to take.
But if my family and friends didn’t take me seriously, how would anyone else?
Through it all, I learned that people typically don’t take you serious for one (or all) of the following reasons:
- People associate age with experience and knowledge:
This is a no-brainer and honestly it’s not even done intentionally a lot of the time. People tend to automatically assume that someone who is older has been in the business longer, and therefore has accumulated more knowledge than someone who is younger and hasn’t had as much time. Just because they assume this doesn’t mean it’s true. There are so many middle-aged adults who make career changes or even pick up careers for the first time. It’s your responsibility to prove to everyone doubting you that you can out perform all others.
- They assume you’ll make naive mistakes (and you probably will):
There’s really no way around this one. Everyone makes mistakes no matter how young or old you are, and if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t be human. This, along with my first point, was exactly the reasoning behind my family and friends not taking me seriously. They knew I was young, assumed I was naive, and didn’t want me to get hurt when I made mistakes or didn’t succeed.
Real estate is a tough business and I know they were just looking out for me, but it wasn’t the way I wanted them to. I’m okay with making mistakes and you should be too. Just learn to accept them, expect yourself to make them, and know when to admit you’ve done something wrong but that you will do everything in your power to correct it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. People will almost always forgive you and probably even respect you for it.
- They don’t trust you:
People find it hard to trust anyone that they don’t know. As a young professional, a good way to build your business is to start off by working with or marketing to people you do know. That way, provided you’ve done a good job, they can refer you to other people they know who will automatically feel more comfortable trusting you because you were recommended by a reliable source.
- They assume they know more than you:
This is something that can be really difficult to get around, and sometimes you simply just have to ignore it. You will always have clients or colleagues who are difficult and think they run the show, and unfortunately that’s never going to change. If someone looks at you like a child, even when you’re not, they will absolutely put themselves above you. All you can do is work your ass off to prove them wrong.
So what can we do when we secure a job we love but we’re stuck working with people that make us feel like we’re not being taken seriously?
- Dress appropriately and professionally, and make sure you feel good doing it
There’s a time and a place for everything, and the time to dress like a professional is when you’re in the workplace. You can absolutely throw a twist of your own personality in there, but keep it classy and don’t be afraid to be overdressed. Being the most well-dressed person in the room never made anybody look bad.
- Work on your body language, as well as your actual language
A simple strong handshake will only take you so far if your body is screaming “I’m nervous!” during the rest of the meeting. DON’T fidget, bite your nails, or cross your arms as it will make you seem nervous and closed off. Also don’t use improper language or words that you don’t understand just because you’re trying to impress. It will only make you look dumb. DO stand tall and confident, look people in the eyes when you speak to them, and nod your head as you’re talking every once in the while. Nodding will often subconsciously get them to agree with you or say yes. As for your language skills, speak clearly and with confidence, and only if you actually know what you’re talking about.
- Learn as much as you can especially early on
The biggest issue for many people about working with young professionals is that they simply don’t know as much as someone who has been doing it longer. This doesn’t have to ring true for you. Do your research, know your product, and learn as much as you can about it. It doesn’t hurt to also do some research on your clients to make sure you understand how to be relatable and what you can do to best serve them.
- Find a mentor to associate yourself with
Working with a mentor can have so many benefits and it’s something that you really should consider if you want to fast track your success as well as gain respect in your industry. Mentors are people who can help guide you in your career (or in your life) based on their own experiences, and teach you what to do and what not to do. When I first got into real estate I was quickly able to associate myself with a top agent who was also young but had far more experience than I did. Doing so allowed me to gain respect since he has a positive reputation and people associated me with him. It also helped me to learn my niche much faster than I would’ve on my own.
- Have a harder work ethic than anyone else
You’re young. You have all the energy in the world and if you don’t have a family yet, you probably have all the time too. Take advantage of this and outwork everyone you can. Wake up early, make mistakes, learn from them, and do it all over again. It will surely pay off.
In reality, I had few issues in getting people to take me seriously once I joined a real estate company and learned how the older, more experienced agents worked. I quickly picked up on how to dress, how to speak professionally and handle clients, and ended up finding an experienced agent to work with who would (and still does) show me the ropes.
I have received plenty of compliments from clients telling me that I was more professional and easier to work with than many other agents they have dealt with, and some agents have also told me that they even prefer to work with young agents. I don’t say any of this to brag by any means, I still have a ton of things to work on. I simply want you to understand that age doesn’t have to prevent you from pursuing your dreams.
It’s never going to be easy to get automatic respect in the workplace as a young, inexperienced individual. You will ALWAYS have to prove yourself to earn your stripes but if you just stick it out and follow these 5 pieces of advice, you’ll be well on your way to being taken seriously in no time.
Have you had a time where you weren’t taken seriously because of your age? How did you overcome it? Let me know in the comments below!
Originally published at mindsetstoassets.com