By Dana Kaye, owner of Kaye Publicity
I’m used to being the youngest person in the room. I graduated high school at seventeen, couldn’t legally drink at my college graduation, and launched my company before I could rent a car without a co-signer. As a publicist and owner of a PR company, my youth comes with its advantages: I grew up in the age of the internet, technology comes easy to me, and I have the creativity and energy needed to execute unique publicity campaigns. But being the youngest person in the room also means I have to go above and beyond to earn the respect of my more senior colleagues and overcome the “kiddo” factor.
The first step in gaining the confidence of others is having confidence in yourself. It’s easy to be intimidated by established companies with decades of experience, especially when the founders are twenty years your senior. But it’s up to you to establish youth as an asset, rather than a liability.
Unlike those established companies who are overstaffed and have lots of overhead, young start-ups tend to operate on a skeleton budget and it’s easier to keep costs down. You are also agile, up on current trends, and open to new ideas. Companies that have been doing things a certain way for so many years tend to be adverse to change and can’t easily shift their tactics. They are the Titanic and you are a two-person power boat. It’s a lot easier for you to avoid the iceberg.
The next step in avoiding being seen as the kid at the grown-ups table, especially at conferences and networking events, is to demonstrate your knowledge. Many people who are new to their industry tend to defer their opinions to those more senior or are scared to contradict someone who has been in the game longer. But as a new start-up, demonstrating knowledge and ability is imperative to building a client base and gaining a strong reputation.
When attending conferences and other events aimed at networking and building your client base, show people you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t agree with someone, don’t be afraid to say it. Bring up current industry trends and how you think you’re fit to address them. Just because you haven’t been in the game as long, doesn’t mean you won’t win.
While having confidence in yourself and demonstrating your knowledge to others are key steps in earning people’s respect, as a young person, it’s necessary to go above and beyond. This means dressing up, rather than down. Even if the event attire is business casual, leave the jeans in the closet. Carry your business cards in a professional holder, rather than sticking them in your worn leather wallet. Speak with authority, and avoid idioms like, “you know?” and needless words (literally, like, etc.) You can’t change your age, but you can change people’s perception of how someone your age acts.
The basic principal is: if you want to overcome the “kiddo” factor, don’t act like a kid. Don’t be intimidated by competitors with decades of experience and an abundance of knowledge. As a young start up, you bring assets to the table established businesses do not have: agility, knowledge of current trends, ability to implement new and different ideas. And while some older executives may still refer to you as “kiddo,” have confidence that your youth will work to your advantage.
Dana Kaye is the owner of Kaye Publicity, a boutique PR company specializing in publishing and entertainment. She is also the founder of the Chicago Literati Networking Event and frequently speaks on the topics of branding, social media, and networking. For more, visit www.KayePublicity.com.