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What’s age got to do with it?

I was watching “Talking about your Generation” last week and it got me thinking about the constant generational battle that seems to play itself out in the media and in the workplace.

It was quite a funny show, with a few Gen Y insults thrown in for good measure. Normally I don’t mind a bit of harmless Gen Y bashing, but I have recently been on the receiving end of it, and I have to say, I am “not happy Jan.”

As a journalist/online manager I regularly attend events and meetings. It is a great chance to network and source new opportunities for the website. But there is one thing that really rubs me up the wrong way and that is the look of surprise that people get when they see me and immediately I know what they are thinking, “wow, she is young… how is it that she is an online manager?” Some of them even take one glance at me and bypass me, (without realising) and head straight towards an older person standing behind me.

Which leads me to pose the question: why is age such a factor in business? I may not have as much “life experience” as someone older, but what does that have to do with the price of fish? If the person in question is well educated, articulate and skilled in their particular field, then why question it?

Gen Y has garnered such a bad rep in the media that as a result we are not taken as seriously in business as our older counterparts. At every meeting/event, I always get asked the “so how long have you been with your company?” question. Now I admit, this could just be a way to make polite conversation, but the fact that in a sea of people, I am the only person being asked the question, starts to make me wonder whether they are being polite, or using it as a way to gauge how old I am, and as a result how experienced I am. I feel like I am constantly fighting an uphill battle to prove myself. And it’s not just age that’s a problem. People are judged every day on the basis of looks, gender, age and race. One of our bloggers James Adonis recently blogged on how looks can affect job prospects, where employers actually prefer to hire a good looking person, over someone not so “appealing.” (You can read all about it here)

I think it’s time to strip away all of the generalisations and preconceived ideas and take someone on their individual merits.