Anja van den Berg
Discrimination based on age – also called ageism – is just as unacceptable as discrimination based on race, gender and sexuality. Yet it often falls under the radar.
Research conducted by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) found that 64% of workers have witnessed or experienced age discrimination.
Even though the level of awareness surrounding ageism in the workplace is low, the focus is almost entirely on discrimination against older employees.
Little attention is paid to bias against young people in the world of work, says Dan Gates, writing for Training Journal.
Emma Waldman, an Associate Editor at Harvard Business Review, agrees. “Young adults are more likely to report experiencing ageism at work than their middle-aged and older counterparts.”
Waldman advises young professionals not to let the fear of not being taken seriously hamper their potential.
Showcase your worth to the organisation by studying the opinion leaders in your business. How do they prove their value to the company?
Blaine Loomer, the author of Corporate Bullsh*t: A Survival Guide, says you should prove yourself part of the bottom line. Like your employer measures its Return on Investment (ROI) on you, so you should measure the ROI on yourself as well. Focus on the activities that use your time, skills and resources most effectively to connect back to the bottom line.
Loomer also says that young employees should use their working hours wisely. “Don’t invest eight hours in putting together a presentation when you can deliver the same results with less prep time. Management will value the content of your message, not a bunch of fluff and pretty artwork.”
It’s also important to admit to yourself that you don’t know everything and look for a mentor to show you the ropes. Moreover, you need to understand the ins and outs of the business.
“Too many people don’t understand the basic operation of their companies,” Loomer says. He advises young employees to familiarise themselves with the organisational chart and reporting structures.
“Study and understand the financials. You never know where your life may lead. Learn as much as you can along the way, even though what you’re learning may not seem relevant at the time.”
From there, you can be a confident innovator. When the opportunity presents itself, remind your co-workers of your unique skillset. You have insights and experiences that others do not. During meetings, chime in with ideas that highlight your skills and viewpoint. When you pitch your ideas to your seniors, be prepared to defend your views and receive criticism.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/11/gg-ascend-pub-11-11-how-old-is-old-enough
American Management Association: https://www.amanet.org/articles/fifteen-ways-to-show-your-value-at-work/