The Struggles of Being a 20 Something in The Office

The most curious aspect of being a child of teen parents is now that I am grown, they are still very, very young. I've had many a professor look at me in terror as they realize that I could be their child.

But, that sentiment is exactly what has my gears grinding. At 25, I'm seen as a child.

I've been an active part of the workforce since I was 15 and could work a summer or after school job. I spent nights wiping down tables at a local Chinese restaurant, summers scooping ice cream and stirring shakes and weekends babysitting. I've been in the workforce 10 years, paying taxes and scraping together savings, but I have a hard time getting people to take me seriously. 

It is truly frustrating to not be taken seriously as a mid-twenties professional, especially with a personality like mine. I'm a little loud, a little sarcastic and a whole lot of a people person. While some find these are traits of discredibility, I see them as skills to connect with people on a deeper level than a simple hello and goodbye when they pass through the office.

About 6 months into my job here, our CEO made the hard choice to move to be with her family. I could feel the unrest in the office as agents started to wonder if our brand new ship was already leaking. I made sure that nothing in the office was dropped. I may have just been the office manager but I made sure that the empty position didn't cause a stir among our agents. I called them daily, asking about their business and their personal lives making sure they felt like they were still our priority. I put together trainings and spent many unpaid hours outside the office learning how to get ahead. I grew so much. It gave me a taste of what can be accomplished when you let someone take the lead and trust them, no matter their age. 

When our new CEO was hired this past June, I was ready. I was going to help her take over the market and grow this company to be filled with agents who loved their jobs, loved this company and loved the community they were serving. I could feel the (now blaringly obvious) shift back to office manager begin as the CEO settled in.

Answer the phone. Smile pretty. Make sure the coffee is hot and the clients are happy.  

Though I had the best intentions and thought I had proven my talent and value, my age shot me in the foot. I was, "too young," to be taken seriously in the professional community I'd only been a part of for a year. I was too young to talk to people twice my age and make sure they were happy. I'm 25 for goodness sake, how could I possibly give help to someone twice my age with such different life experience?

I can't help but wonder, what the hell happened in the 20 year shift from when my mom was 25 to when her daughter was 25? 

I still have a hard time realizing that I knew my mom when she was 25. I was 6, my brother was 1. She was well into her teaching career and respected by her peers and bosses. She excelled in her craft and quickly became a favorite kindergarten teacher at Merryhill Elementary School. 

Fast forward 20 years to me. I've been at my first professional job for one year and rarely do I make it through a day without hearing, "You're only 25 Brooke, you're still a baby. You still have time."

I still have time for what? To find a career and passion, or to be taken seriously? 

A lot of time you hear agism in reference to the elderly not able to find jobs. But what about us 20 somethings being told we are too young and too inexperienced by the same generation who was kicking ass and taking names at 25?

I had a conversation last week with a friend who said she purposely won't tell people at work how old she is because it causes a stigma. When they find out her age and then compare it to her position they grow wide-eyed and ask, "How did you pull that off?"

Talent. Confidence. Professionalism. That's how. Give us a chance to wow you, and we will. 

One thing I love about my generation is we refuse to settle. Big name brand abusing its workers to have lower prices? We will find a similar product with morals and pay the extra $2. Affordable housing not an option? We will rent and be fine with it even though people want to push us into 30 year mortgages we can't afford. Student loans? Watch us scrape together every extra penny and pay them off. We are innovative. We have been given the greatest advantage of technology that has evolved so rapidly, those changes make us fearless,  we will try anything, fail and get back up.

To our generational counterparts it makes us look bullheaded and ignorant. It may even give the impression we guess our way through life while posting about it on multiple platforms of social media. But, I'd like to believe we aren't so different from them at 25. 

There is so much to be learned from our older generations, and even more that we the younger generations would love to learn and create alongside the older generations to create a bigger, brighter and beautiful future for the generations to come. 

I hope in the next 20 years it becomes easier for the 20 somethings to find and pursue a career that does not have limits to their success. It will be up to us, the millenials, to remember these moments, the good and the bad, then look upon 20 somethings with an open mind and desire to help them excel.

Brooke Johnston2 Comments