Skip to main content
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
SFU Co-op Student

empty
A photo of Natasha Kothary
Yes, I am old enough. No, this is not child labour.

As someone who has been working since the age of 15, I’ve gotten many comments on my youthful appearance from coworkers, supervisors, clients, and customers. I generally can’t go a week without hearing one of the following:

“You look like you could still be in high school”, “You look way too young to be 21”, or my personal favourite, “Are you even old enough to be working?”

Yes, I am old enough. No, this is not child labour.

It’s a constant struggle being 5’1”, having a baby face, and trying to be taken seriously in a work environment. For anyone else facing this challenge, here are a few tips I’d like to pass along to you.

1. Dress the part

I know it may feel like you’re playing dress up when you put on those dress pants, fitted blazer, and high heels, but it makes a big difference in how people perceive you. In my time working at an office, I’ve learned that I am taken the most seriously when I put effort into my appearance. Investing in a professional wardrobe and taking that extra 15 minutes in the morning to put on some makeup makes a big difference. And the more you do it, the more natural it feels.

2. Be Assertive

One of the most difficult parts about looking young is feeling like your voice isn’t heard. I can name countless times when my questions and comments weren’t given the attention they deserved simply because I was the youngest in the room. It’s easy to be intimidated in situations where you are surrounded by people in superior roles with far more experience than you, but having the ability to voice your opinions, maintain eye contact, and actively participate in conversations will guarantee that your presence will be noticed.

3. Use Your Youthfulness to Your Advantage

Sometimes using your child-like demeanor can work in your favour. People are often more likely to open up to you, allowing you to create connections and meaningful relationships with the people you work with. It can also help you get things done. Don’t feel like replacing the toner in the printer when it runs out? No problem. A 14-year-old doesn’t know how to replace toner.

Have a sense of humour – I completely understand how you feel when someone questions your abilities based on how young you look. It can get annoying to constantly tell people your age and have them look shocked or confused. The best way to not let it get to you is to have a sense of humour about it. Beat them to the punch line and smile as you do it. By doing this you can quickly jump to the next conversation topic and wow them with your professionalism!

SFU Co-op Student
In need of some more tips on how to look the part of a young professional in the workplace? Connect with Natasha on LinkedIn and ask away!

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

Build Direct Company
How Co-op at BuildDirect Influenced My Career

This blog is about my wonderful co-op experience at BuildDirect and how it influenced my career in Canada. I discuss the work culture at BuildDirect, the type of work I have done and the technologies used. If you are planning to do a co-op with BuildDirect, this is definitely going to help you.

Rick standing in front of a Tesla car
The Path Towards My Dream Job at Tesla

Rick has wanted to work for Tesla ever since he started his undergrad degree at SFU. The path to Tesla hasn't been easy nor straightforward. Read on to learn how Rick's previous Co-op opportunities set him up for success when landing an internship in the Bay Area.

a person on their laptop
The Art of Managing Multiple Roles in One Co-op Term

The field of communications is very broad, and as a result, you may be asked to manage multiple roles in your Co-op position. In this article Abhinav will take you through the lessons he has learned and his greatest tips for managing a multifaceted position.