Whether you’re starting work experience, an industry internship or your first part-time job – it’s natural to feel a bit nervous!
A common concern we hear from lots of young people is that they’re worried about being the youngest person in the workplace and how this means they’ll be treated. Many young people also worry that others will only see them as the ‘young’ one at work, and they won’t get a chance to grow and learn.
In today’s blog, we’re offering our top tips for presenting yourself in any work environment – no matter whether you’re the oldest or youngest in the room – to help boost your confidence and ensure you get the most out of any work experience.
Age is Just a Number: Top Tips for Presenting Yourself
1. Start with what you have control over.
You can’t control what other people might think about you, but you can help to give them the very best first impression. You have complete control over your appearance, how you greet others, and how you engage by asking questions and staying positive.
Never underestimate how confidence-boosting a professional outfit can be. Remember to smile when meeting people for the first time, and where appropriate, use a firm handshake in greeting (COVID safety rules permitting – you might opt for an elbow bump!).
2. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
We know it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s one we think still holds. When entering a new environment for the first time, there is lots you can do to help prepare; read up about the organisation overall, its goals, missions and culture. Research their social media and get a feel for how they present the company and speak to their target audiences.
You can also prepare some questions to ask; try to think about things you’re genuinely interested in rather than stock questions.
3. Be proactive with networking.
Once you know who everyone is, take things a step further and show an interest in individual people and their work roles. Don’t sit back and wait for people to talk to you; use your initiative and engage with those around you.
Ask if you can catch up with everyone on your team, and prepare some questions to ask them. Talk about how they got into their role and what they like best about it. Ask for their advice on things they would have wanted to know at your age when starting work.
This is a great way to show people that while you might be young, you’re not afraid to take matters into your own hands and make things happen.
4. Everything is an opportunity for feedback to learn and grow.
It can be tricky in a new workplace to seek feedback – everyone’s busy and it can feel like the only time you know if what you’re doing is right is when you get it wrong! Again, being a little proactive here can be helpful.
When you first start, ask your mentor or supervisor how they’ll let you know you’re doing things right – it’s also okay to say you like being told when you’ve done well, especially in the first few days to help build your confidence. Once they know how you like to receive feedback, most people will be happy to make sure they do this.
When you’re new, everything you do can be a chance for you to learn and improve. Take on board any feedback (yes, even if it isn’t good) and act on it the next time you do a similar task.
5. Mind your (professional) manners.
When we’ve been in an environment – like school – for a while, it’s common for us to get comfortable. We know the teachers we can be a bit cheeky with (and the ones we can’t!). In short, we’ve learned the boundaries of that particular environment.
When we enter a new environment, it’s important to put our best foot forward with good manners, being polite, respectful and courteous to everyone we meet, and making sure we create that right first impression.
Over time, as you learn more about everyone, the culture, and how people like to be spoken to, you too can start to fit into that culture more. But to begin with – professional manners come first.
6. Fake it until you make it!
We’re throwing all the cliches into this one – because, as it turns out, they can be pretty accurate! Rhianna once said when she isn’t feeling confident, she fakes it until she does, and there’s a lot to learn from this.
When you’re the newbie on the block and feel out of place, it’s natural your confidence will take a hit. A few ways to help boost your ‘fake it’ confidence include re-reading your application, remembering all your great skills, asking for feedback from your mentor or friends for something to focus on, or revisiting your career plan overall and remembering how this experience is going to help you long term.
7. Adapt to your environment.
No workspaces are the same. You might go to one placement where you’re expected to dress in smart clothes, and then another where jeans and sneakers are totally fine.
Presenting yourself professionally in any environment often means taking cues directly from the environment. Read the room, ask questions about expectations, and adapt to suit where you are. This is one of the best ways to get along in any work environment.
With the ongoing impact of the pandemic, presenting yourself in the workplace has never seemed trickier – especially when a lot of what we do is now online (if work placements are even happening!).
There are still lots of ways to present yourself professionally; make sure you speak up in meetings, share ideas, chat to colleagues one on one, and take the time to learn, grow and explore as much as possible. Don’t be an invisible staff member – be visible in any way you can.
Even if you don’t quite feel that confident yet entering a new workplace, the ways you present yourself can genuinely help. Focus on being kind, respectful, polite and trustworthy and you’ll definitely be setting yourself up for success.
Before you know it, you’ll realise the confidence you were faking starts to feel authentic.