Be the Youngest Person in the Room

I recently traveled to Sarasota Florida for a live training to obtain my executive coaching certification. When I walked into the room, I was immediately intimidated to find that I was the only millennial.  I sat among several doctors, employees at NASA, officers from the US Army, and many incredibly accomplished professionals and coaches.  I wondered if it would quickly become apparent that I was the least experienced professional in the room.

Right away, we were thrown into groups of three to begin practicing coaching while being observed.  I was put in a group with a long-time consultant and a retired military officer. When it was my time to coach, I focused on what I know about coaching and did my best to help the “client” solve the problem at hand.  When I was done, the retired military officer shared that he was impressed with the coaching and he was now nervous to go after me.  It was quite a shift in my perspective to recognize that I had let myself believe that my age would determine whether or not I should be in the room with these accomplished people.

As the week went on, I learned so much more than I had expected, I was challenged and I was affirmed in my coaching skill set. At one point, while discussing sales and marketing, the leader of the program encouraged us to take our perceived weaknesses and turn them into strengths.  As I considered my weaknesses, I came back to how I felt intimidated when I arrived.  And I realized that there are many positives to being the youngest person in the room.

When you’re the youngest person (or one of the youngest) in the room…

First, you show a unique drive and pro-activeness in taking steps forward that many of your peers are not yet taking.

When you’re not afraid to be one of the younger people in the room, you can use it showcase your personal drive and maturity.  The ability to contribute isn’t only based off of years of experience – what unique skills do you offer, what are your strengths, and how can your personal drive be used as an advantage to help you and the group you’re in succeed?

Second, you can find mentors and learn from the previous mistakes of those more experienced than you.

There’s a lot to be gleaned from people’s past experiences.  If you ask insightful questions to learn about those experiences and you apply what you learn, you can avoid many painful missteps.  The best approach to learning from those more experienced than you is to ask them if they are willing to mentor you.  At the executive coaching seminar, I was able to create ongoing relationships with two very successful mentors who have built thriving coaching & consulting businesses.  In just the last month, they’ve been challenging me and teaching me how to build up my business. That type of learning, in my opinion, far outweighs what I could learn in any book or class.

Third, it’s an opportunity to network with people that are very accomplished.

Establishing solid connections with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish can create opportunities for future collaboration or referrals.  Cherish these relationships with successful people – you will grow from them, be challenged by them, and they can open doors that you never expected.

In my 10 years of real-world professional experience, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that gaining mentors and networking with other successful people is one of the greatest strategies for accelerating your career growth.  I absolutely believe that you can learn from people younger than you and from people your own age, but there are priceless insights to be gained from people older and more experienced than you.  And this can take place at any age, you don’t have to be a millennial to benefit from great mentors.

There’s also something to be said for the encouragement that comes from having someone whose career you admire, tell you that they believe in you and have high expectations for you.  It challenges you to raise your standards for yourself and pushes you outside your comfort zone.

Where can you find people who have succeeded in what you want to achieve?

Where can you surround yourself with accomplished people who believe in you, challenge you and hold you to high standards for yourself?

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