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!