Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

I'm sure everyone at some point in their lives has been "the baby" - meaning the youngest....

...the youngest of their generation...
...the youngest in their circle of friends...
...the youngest kid at the family table...
 ...and as often in my case - the youngest in my office (job/career/field/etc). 

We all have to start somewhere though right? We all have to be young and "junior level" for a while. Slowly, the age gap closes. People retire and the next group of Junior-Leaguers graduate and join the work field.

These are things I recognize... 

However, somehow with each new position, with each new job and school....I forever remain the youngest.

I admit this is partially my own doing. The moving around....the changing jobs.

Although this doesn't explain/excuse the responses/attitudes I have faced. I'll give you two examples of at-work situations where my age played a factor.

*     *     *

The first happened when I was working my first "real job" after college. My staff was sitting around discussing the challenges we were going to face with the incoming class of millennial students and their helicopter parents. The way conversations often do, the topic changed from our Generation Y students to the favorite music, TV shows and movies of my coworkers youth. It's been years and I can't remember what the pop-culture reference was, but when I was honest about my lack-of-reference the next (perhaps obvious question to everyone but myself) was: 

Coworker: "How old are you?"
Myself: "22"
Dean of Students: "Aw. You're such a baby."

Now, I understand this was not meant as an insult or to say I was somehow inferior...but when adjusting to a new environment, a new staff, a new life outside of college...the last thing you want to be told is "You're such a baby." At this point in my career I had already been involved with alcohol poisonings, attempted suicide, a psychological break down and a sexual assault of my students.

*     *     *
A more recent occurrence happened in my current job. Again I had only been in the position a few weeks, and was attending one of those "because it's good politics" type office parties (someone I had never met was getting married and his department was throwing a "congrats" party). Everyone was sitting around eating and having a good time. Many folks teasing the groom-to-be and giving advice on marriage. A woman, whose name I didn't even know or what department she worked in, turned to me and asked:

Woman "Are you married?
I simply responded "Nope." with a smile.
She then followed up with "How old are you?"
Me: "27"
Woman: "Uh! So young!"

Now normally, if I were going through one of my oh-my-gosh-I-feel-old moments I may have found this flattering. However, as a first impression and in front of a large group of new peers this was far from a compliment.

*     *     *

My mother always says "It's not the age - it's the mileage" and I have to agree. At 27 years old I feel far from a baby. Yes, there are many "life experiences" I haven't experienced but don't assume I haven't just because of my age.

So I didn't know a pop-culture reference from the early 80s! I'm lucky I know pop-culture references from the here-and-now!

And I know plenty of people who are married (and/or divorced) by 27 years old.

So next time you make an assumption based on someone's age just remember...
It's only a number.


  1. I have recently had some generational issues reach difficult levels in my job, and one of the things I began to realize I need to make clear is that if my colleagues (all of whom are at least five years my senior) expect me to act more like a so-called "adult" there also needs to be a willingness to accept and treat me as one.

  2. ok... Morgan I can absolutely relate to this because in my most recent jobs. I was VP of Operations and Finance for a 3-restaurant style in San Diego. I absolutely miss the job, but to continue getting respect from the 40-year old line cook at one restaurant, I had to grow facial hair, fire someone in front of her and tell a customer that they weren't going to quote "have it there way" because I was the manager and even I wasn't telling them what they want to hear.

    I truly believe one of the biggest struggles now that I have had that type of position and go for a different "like" around it job, I have a hard time getting past the point where they scan my ID and realize they are hiring their grandson to run a multi-million dollar restaurant system. I get past all of the questions about budget, labor, systems, and procedures... ETC... but my w-4 and i-9 make me lose any opportunity of the position I want.

    So I always remind myself, age is just a number.

  3. i am usually the oldest, or older person in the group of people i'm hanging out i haven't encountered this...maybe just from the opposite end!;) but i have to say it's annoying when others make assumptions you should be/ do certain things based on your age...i also hear you on not even knowing the contemporary pop-culture references: since when is any of that stuff important, anyway?!!