How to Defy Ageism
I am 24 years old and I am the youngest person in my office. I don’t speak much about the specifics of the work that I do for confidentiality reasons, but I work for the State of Hawaii in a regulatory role. The decisions that I make affect the health and safety of the public and the environment. It’s kind of important. So I understood when I came into the office on my first day of work, fresh out of college, why I got confused stares. I understood the first couple of site visits that I conducted why facility operators (males in their 50s-60s) smirked when they found out I was the lead inspector. But the tone changed quickly and I’ve gained the respect of my colleagues and of those who I regulate. Age does not define your success!
Here’s a few tips and things I’ve done in the last 1.5 years in my role that have helped boost my credibility and earn trust:
Study every applicable statute, rule, and permit to the point of near-memorization, because this is basically my guidebook for all assessments and decisions I make.
Ask for help! People want to talk about their past experiences and how they’ve solved problems, and it helps build a relationship when you have common interests/cases. Collaboration is KEY.
Research how other companies, agencies, governments have handled similar situations. You do not have to reinvent the wheel! Unless it’s something super crazy, chances are this situation has arisen somewhere before.
Brush up on old skills. For me, this was biochemistry and sampling techniques. In order to analyze incoming lab results, I need to understand the chemicals they’re testing for and the tests they’ve run.
Be honest and be kind. These two things alone will get you very far.
The list could go on but these are the heavy hitters, and I hope they help you! I’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve overcome “ageism” in your line of work.