Being the youngest in the room - how to present yourself and tips for being in a professional work environment

Having started my first professional job only a few months ago; it is fair to say that I had concerns about what it would be like being one of the youngest in the organisation, and about how I should act in an environment very different to what I know.

When statistics show that first impressions can be formed in 7 seconds (Forbes), or even as quickly as 1/10th of a second (BBC) it becomes clear that personal presentation is key to succeeding in a professional work environment.

To help you out - and hopefully dispel any worries you have about starting your new job - I have compiled some tips about how to present yourself well, and how to succeed when you start:

  1. Start with what you have control over:

Before beginning your new job, you have full control over your appearance and preparation. A smart but comfortable outfit can instantly increase your attractiveness and professionalism when meeting people for the first time. Aim to smile and have open body language (don’t cross your arms when speaking to someone!) and speak slowly and clearly to give yourself enough time to think and get your point across well.

  1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail:

A cliché, but one that is very true and links to what you can control; there are endless resources available to you to help you prepare for your role as well as the working environment. Try to learn all you can about your business: their culture, successes, specialisms, and goals. Find out about key individuals who work there and try to network with them before you start. 

A great way to do this is by being on professional platforms such as LinkedIn, where you can find and message people within your business (don’t overdo it though). Utilise this as best you can by adding to your profile anything you’ve done that may boost your attractiveness as a new professional (anything from school or part-time jobs does count – that’s all I had to put on mine to begin with!)

  1. Fake it until you make it:

Another cliché, but when it comes to confidence it really is true that if you portray yourself as confident, people will believe you are. When you are new and still feel out of place, you could re-read your application to remind yourself why you were chosen for the role, and eventually you will feel your confidence grow naturally.

  1. Show initiative straight away:

You may or may not know, but the idea of ‘coffee culture’ is certainly true in the working world. Perhaps the easiest and most casual way to get to know your co-workers is by setting up coffee dates and asking about people’s job roles and the company you work for. This can be a great way to start to feel more integrated.

  1. Every opportunity is one to learn from:

When you’re new, everything you do can be a chance for you to learn and improve. By noticing what goes well when you: complete tasks, sit in meetings, or present to others, you can build up a bank of tips for yourself.  On the flip side, ask for and take onboard any feedback you can get, and use it to your advantage by acting on it the next time you do a similar thing.

  1. Manners go a long way:

Very simple and perhaps very obvious but being polite and courteous to everyone you meet can set you in good stead to be remembered in a positive light. If you need help with any tasks, make sure to show your appreciation to the person who helped, and maybe feedback to them about how it went – that way you remind them who you are and get to showcase your work and progress.

  1. Professionalism is fluid:

Like many aspects of life, the pandemic has impacted the world of work, and the view of professionalism can be seen to be shifting away from the rather traditional perception of only ‘old men in suits’. People are acknowledging more now that circumstances can be different for everyone, and that hybrid working is a very viable option.

Young people such as you are being focused on more in the workplace, as the ones who will carry on the business legacy and help to modernise the business to attract and retain young talent. As such you need to try and remember that you are an asset to the business you work for, and your personality should shine through in your work and self-presentation. Any ideas you may have are equally as valuable as those of someone of higher ranking; and sharing them can boost your visibility as well as potentially help improve the business.

Your ‘personal brand’ can be created entirely by you, and it’s helpful to think of starting a new job as an opportunity to reinvent yourself in whatever way you choose.  Even if you don’t feel it yet, you can present yourself as the confident, kind, and trustworthy newbie, and one day you will realise you have become all those things. Keep in mind the above tips and good luck for starting your new careers!

If you are still looking for an opportunity, you can use the opportunity search on the NGTU website to find current vacancies with employers from across the UK.

Written by NGTU Ambassador, Taiya Cooper. 

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