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Getting ahead when they say you’re too young

So you’re being bashed about how young and inexperienced you are? Here are a few strategies to try.

1. Check if it’s true

There may be some truth in it. Make an honest appraisal of yourself. Do you have the qualifications and experience you need? If not, do what you have to get them. Even if you do have the qualifications, make sure you improve your profile and continue to build experience: go to school, shadow an expert, find a mentor, write a book, get some media coverage. Make sure no-one can deny you’ve got the skills.

2. Work in a younger market

Find a market that wants young people – for their ideas, for their connection with the customer, for their energy. Specialise in finance for the under 25 market: young entrepreneurs, tradies who have been working since they were 15, kids who have inherited a fortune. Make being young, up-to-date and technologically-savvy a selling point, and market that selling point. It’s only valid for a window of time (because you will get older) but it’s a niche and it will allow you to sell yourself more effectively.

3. Is it age or authority?

Are people concerned about your chronological age or about your air of authority? If it’s about authority there are ways to build that.

People wearing white coats and carrying clipboards are more trusted than those wearing civilian clothes. Find the equivalent in your business of a ‘white coat and clipboard’, and use it. This could be glasses, hairstyle or a suit. Perhaps it is certificates on the wall. Or regular features in a trusted publication, on TV or radio. When you have Authority, age becomes less important.

Make sure that you look credible and experienced. When he was in his 20s, my friend Jeff used to wear glasses with clear lenses to make him look older. Anne, who was young at the time, wore black all through her 20s and 30s. Use people like image consultants to make you look good – and more credible.

4. Get testimonials from grey hairs

You may be young, but you’re not too young to be good at what you do. Get grey-haired and mature clients to endorse you. Get them to start the testimonial with the objection and then counter it: “I was worried because Mary was so young. What I found was that this made her more tenacious, better informed and more recently educated than the last guy I dealt with…”

Get their photos for the testimonials and use them. Ask them to dress authoritatively for the photos (suits are especially good). Seek people with good job titles and public positions and be willing to ask them to endorse you. It’s about credibility, authority and social proof, so the bigger the fish, the more value you get.

5. Don’t worry, you’ll get older

In the end the age and experience will come to you (whether you want it or not!).  Make sure you capture than and continuously update your look, CV, testimonials and approach to take advantage of your changing circumstances. Don’t get caught in someone else’s definition of you.

When you are old, grey, and rich, you’ll be able to look back and wonder at your energy, commitment and get-up-and-go. And that you convinced everyone you knew what you were talking about.

Cindy Tonkin is the Consultants’ Consultant. She is the author of many books for consultants, including an AIM Bestseller.

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