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:
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
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
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
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.
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?