The Pressure of Staying Young: Why Professionals Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Age

Regina Johns

Would it come as a surprise if you heard that young professionals struggle with their age? The trend of age discrimination is alive and well, but maybe not in the way we commonly expect. While nearly two-thirds of American workers age 45 and older have seen or experienced age discrimination, some experts argue that age-related biases are a slightly worse problem for the young.

Reverse ageism is essentially a view of younger workers as entitled, disloyal, or even lazy. They’re not taken seriously, but are expected to climb the corporate ladder in workplaces that prize seniority over competence. In other cases, employers assume younger employees can stay on-trend and energetic all the time; more is demand from them because they don’t have children or mortgages yet. Eventually, these harmful assumptions and expectations push young professionals away from their jobs.

Young Professionals and Age

So where is the age-related conflict coming from? One factor is that younger generations place a higher value on work-life balance and mental health. If a challenging job or a pressure-filled role is unfulfilling, they don’t think that it’s worth the effort. Another reason could be the so-called imposter syndrome. Many young people struggle with feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, or unworthiness; they attribute their success to luck, rather than competence.

Eventually, however, young professionals come to realize that they need to step up in their roles. While older generations should definitely address their ageist biases and adjust to new viewpoints, young professionals should also actively embrace and cultivate workplace maturity.

Here are three specific reasons why young professionals shouldn’t be afraid of maturing:

1.) Maturity lets you roll with the punches: We’ve seen the pandemic change the traditional work environment rendering a $31 trillion industry redundant in the process. Organizations have only managed to react rapidly and strategically pivot away from older systems because employees remained have flexible and productive. In light of all of this, younger employees can take a step towards maturity by allowing the difficult experiences they’ve had to inform their career growth. Continuing to work towards excellence, accepting responsibilities for mistakes, and learning to manage problems that arise can show what you’re made of — even if you’re not yet a “seasoned” worker.

2.) Maturity leads to new skills: A positive learning culture is actually a key point to boosting employee retention. Young workers are in search of knowledge through mentors, articles, books, videos, and podcasts; they want to upskill for business needs and further develop their capabilities. Some are also working toward taking on advanced business administration degrees that give them vital knowledge in fields like economics, finance, management, marketing, and operations –– and position them better for leadership roles. All of this goes to show that years of experience don’t necessarily correlate with skill and competence.

3.) Maturity allows for emotional growth: Studies tell us that emotional health and regulation improve with age. Older people are considered more stable and “less volatile” in their emotions, but this doesn’t mean young professionals have to stay emotionally boxed-in. Commit to fight the stereotype that young adults are flighty or immature. Practice staying cool and composed even in frustrating situations. Not only will this prove to be a valuable skill throughout your life, but it will also secure your own wellness. You don’t necessarily have to lie about how you’re feeling, but you don’t need to react dramatically to each situation either. An emotionally mature person sets their feelings aside and lets reason resolve their issues instead.

Reverse ageism ultimately demands change from workplace leaders and older employees as well. But that doesn’t mean younger workers can’t make changes to improve their own situations. Maturing in the ways outlined above can lead to greater respect, a more satisfying work experience, and even a more successful career.