Is Youth the New Glass Ceiling?

I love The Office Newb blog, a "twenty-something's guide to the corporate life." In a post called "Age Is the New Glass Ceiling," the Office Newb pondered "why are we all so quick to judge people based on age? Why do we favor the potential of 'experienced' employees over the proven track record of younger ones?"

It's a great question to ask, and I would reply that younger employees don't really have that much of a track record yet. I know it doesn't seem that way from their perspective, which is why Office Newb is frustrated.

In her great follow-up posting, she writes:

I feel that there are lots of mid-level or managerial positions I qualify for based on my skill set, interests and previous experience, however, they usually require 2 — 3 more years of professional experience than I currently have. What exactly can I do about this? Nothing but wait. And I think that is at the root of the frustration for many young people.

Is it a millennial thing? Is it just the folly of youth? Most likely it's a combination of both. And for a generation that was taught "if you can believe, you can achieve" being told to wait can be a hard lump to swallow.

From the manager side of the table, I often get an earful about Gen Y'ers who show up in the workforce right out of school and expect management experience right off the bat. That was, in fact, the biggest complaint I heard from a group of managers I gave a presentation to at conference a few weeks ago. So Office Newb has tapped into a more widespread, two-way frustration.

It's a conflict I see over and over again. Gen Y doesn't value or respect experience the way older generations do. That outlook is of course inherent to twenty-somethings of any generation, but it seems to be more pronounced with this one. And that causes a certain amount of friction for everyone involved.

There are a lot of fabulous twenty-somethings out there -- and thank goodness for that. At the same time, it's true that many of them have been raised to think they are more capable than they are at their level of experience, and that they deserve the benefits of experience right away. But life doesn't work like that. Those benefits have to be earned, and earning them often takes time. Not always, but often.

That doesn't mean that every person who is older is necessarily the best at what he does -- competition is a beautiful thing, and it's great when talented people of any age rise to new levels of responsibility. Talent is age-blind, but talent is not the same as experience. They are two totally different metrics. Age isn't just a number. Age means experience, and the working world still values experience.

Good luck Office NewB. I'm rooting for you. And you are right: patience is hard. At any age.