5 Things That Happen When You’re The Youngest Person In Your Office

I work in a small office of a nonprofit organization. Being in my early 20s, I’m the youngest person on the full time staff. These are some of the things I’ve experienced so far and have found interesting. 
Mad Men
Mad Men

1. Sometimes people are shocked by your age in positive and negative ways.

This usually happens when dealing with more complex tasks or problems. Some are almost baffled that a young person would handle the responsibility that the task at hand requires. Some will even bypass you and try to get to your supervisor instead because they don’t trust you and they want to talk to “an adult.” Well maybe I don’t go to bed at 10:00pm, and maybe I still stay out too late, and yes, maybe I even giggled too hard at the typo that turned “public” into “pubic” in the all-staff email. But, guess what? I’m the one that gets paid to deal with you, and that’s what I will do.

2. As the resident youngster a lot of IT, questions go to you first.

“What do you mean the nice popup offering me a discount on my next shopping spree gave my desktop a virus and that brought down the whole network?!” Ok, I haven’t specifically heard that one exactly, but those different things have happened. The way we even conceptualize recent technology and make sense of it is different than most folk in older generations. We were either raised with easy access to computers or were eased into their use through school, and this gave us the skills to, for the most part, be able to problem solve pretty intuitively. At worst if I can’t solve the problem, we bring in the expert, Google.

3. Some coworkers have children your age.

This one can be a blessing or a curse depending on who the coworker is. In the worst-case scenario your coworker has children that are around your age and are lawyers and doctors as well as being either engaged or married and expecting their first child. They are perfect! And they’re off doing exciting and meaningful things like working 80hrs a week and performing surgery, blah, blah, blah. It’s not so much that you’re jealous of their children’s success, although every now and then it might make you stop and wonder what you’re doing with your life, but it’s how often they talk about them and how they talk about them. This coworker’s desk is covered with pictures of their perfect family and you can’t tell if you grossed out, jealous, or grossed out cause you’re jealous.

On the other hand, in the best-case scenario, your coworker is a cool mom or dad. You can talk to them about anything you wish you could talk to your parents about, if you already don’t, like sex, drugs, and alcohol (oh my!). This coworker provides you with that adult wisdom you might not be getting otherwise. This is especially nice when you live significantly far away from your parents. 

4. You can use your age to get away with things and sometimes your age will get you.

“Hangover?! No! It’s only Tuesday! I’m just tired because I stayed up all night going through this month’s reports. They were so exciting!” Then you book it to the bathroom because you’re nor sure if you’re digesting something or doing the opposite. In my experience my age has allowed for some sympathy from coworkers who may notice my hangover. “It’s important to have fun! I remember when I was your age and I would go out,” one coworker told me. On the other hand, you might actually be legitimately sick but some might think you just have hangover because obviously you went out last night because it was Thursday and you’re in your early 20s and everyone in their early 20s goes out… You don’t need to please everyone, but you do need to please those who matter. The hard part is finding the right balance between acceptable and not acceptable for that group.

5. Most of your coworkers will look out for you…except your enemies.

In this particular case I also attribute this to the small office setting, but I’ve found that if you’re the youngest, your coworkers can take a liking to you because you might remind them of a younger family member. For me this has resulted in sometimes receiving multiple texts asking if I need anything when I call out sick. It feels good to know that if my roommate is out of town and I slip in the kitchen and die from banging my head against the countertop in my fall, it would only take a couple of days for someone to do a wellness check and find my body. TC mark

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