Nothing shakes a young professionals self-confidence quite like the ever looming question: How old are you?

My mother always taught me that it is rude to ask a woman how old she is so when I first hit the professional scene, I was both confused by this question and offended.

Many times this comes innocently from an older colleague or client who just doesnt know better. They're not intending to insult you. Other times, it comes from a lack of trust and/or suspicion of your true experience. And yes, sometimes, it is veiled jealousy with intent to knock you off your game.

The best way to combat reverse age discrimination is to develop a professional brand image that precedes you.

Here are five actions you can take:

DRESS PROFESSIONALLY

business-women

When meeting a client or colleague for the first time, err on the side of conservative attire, even if you are in a creative profession.

You can incorporate your sense of style and dress professionally at the same time.

KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS

business-woman-strengths

Create a list of your last 10 clients and describe what strengths you used to solve their problems.

This exercise will help you identify experience-based stories you can use to further the conversation along.

CREATE A PERSONAL BRANDING STATEMENT

woman-lead-strengths

This is a once sentence introduction that states what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it (what makes you unique).

Memorize this and say it confidently when asked what you do.

FIND LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

woman-leadership

Join your industry association and/or a local chamber of commerce or charity that puts you in front of your target audience.

Actively participate and get involved with their committees that interest you, working your way up to the board level.

This will help you get known in your industry and your community.

WRITE

woman-write

By authoring a blog, white paper, or even your own book, you will gain credibility and a following.

How To Answer

Nonetheless, even if you have the most reputable brand in your industry, you are bound to be asked this question at some point " especially if you have a baby face. I am sure Facebooks Mark Zuckerberg is asked it all the time.

So, how do you actually answer such an inappropriate question? Depending on the context it was asked and by whom, I may say:

  • I am 32. And, you?
  • Thank you for the compliment. I am 32.
  • If you are asking about my experience, I have been in the XYZ industry for X years.

Keep the conversation flowing. How do you answer the question: How old are you?

Kimberly Bordonaro

Kimberly Bordonaro is a brand strategist and the founder of Brandspiration, a blog that uses ridiculously fun lyrical references to explain how everyday entrepreneurs can create their distinctive brands.

Brandspiration Blog

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3 Responses to “5 Personal Branding Actions Young Professionals Can Take to Stop The Age Question”

  1. treb says:

    Great post! Brings a lot of memories! I could remember the time when I was applying to work for a company… Anyways this could really a big help when this was compose a few years ago… LOL

  2. Cheri Allbritton says:

    I never much thought about age until I turned 50 and was asked to set up a local Twitter account for my store by my company's social media team. There was little preparation/training before hand so I learned on the fly. Most of my "teachers" were 21 to 40 yr olds (I'm guessing but probably close). I was almost thankful for the anonymity of our company logo as an avatar during this time period. But after I was established within several community niches that coincide with my business, did I feel comfortable enough to reveal my age. So Kimberly it truly works both ways. Thank you for this post.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Cheri, I found your comment thought provoking as it made me realize another aspect of age-discrimination: it's so easily assumed that young = tech savy, old = ludite.