It probably goes without saying, but we’re huge fans of young people in the workplace.
Not only do we know they make teams more progressive, innovative, creative, and open to new ideas – but there’s nothing better than giving young people their first chance to make a mark and learn about the wide world of work.
This is why it’s been pretty disheartening to read reports that during and following the COVID-19 lockdowns, young people were among the most significantly impacted groups in the workplace.
This International Youth Day calls for better awareness around the intergenerational make-up of our workplaces and how we must do more to ensure young people feel welcomed, supported, and guided to progress in their careers – pandemic or no pandemic.
What is International Youth Day?
International Youth Day is celebrated annually on the 12th of August. Each year, the day focuses on a different theme that’s relevant and timely around the issues young people face in the world.
The day aims to raise global awareness of these issues so that other organizations and support bodies can work to make improvements for the lives of all young people.
International Youth Day was first proposed in 1991 by young people gathered in Vienna, Austria, for the first session of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System. It wasn’t until 1998 that the day was officially adopted by the first session of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth.
The theme for 2022 is Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages.
What is Ageism?
According to the United Nations:
“Ageism is an insidious and often an unaddressed issue in health, human rights, and development, and bears on both older and younger populations worldwide. In addition, ageism regularly intersects with other forms of bias (such as racism and sexism). It impacts people in ways that prevent them from reaching their full potential and comprehensively contributing to their community.”
International Youth Day addresses how young people are left behind, ignored, or prevented from accessing areas of society – including the workplace – simply because of their age.
Young People & Ageism: What’s Happening?
Young people continue to report age-related barriers in their lives, such as employment, political participation, health, and justice.
Some research is even reporting that it’s the youngest team members bearing the brunt of workplace ageism right now, potentially impacting their careers. But ageism goes beyond your career progression; it can also knock your confidence, motivation, and willingness to show up in your total capacity and potential in the workplace.
Solidarity across generations is critical more than ever as we approach the workplace with a ‘build back better’ motto following the lockdown and losses of the pandemic. Everyone – no matter their age – has a lot to offer in the world of work right now.
What to Do if You Experience Ageism in the Workplace
Hopefully, it’s not something you’ll ever have to deal with directly, but it’s common to hear the odd comment or two as a new young person in the workplace.
It’s important to know where you stand and what you can do to address this if it does happen so that it doesn’t end up escalating into a more significant conflict.
Here are our top tips:
- Know your rights.
In the workplace, there are things called protected characteristics. One protected characteristic is your age. You cannot be discriminated against these things in the workplace, as they have no bearing on your ability to do your job or learn new aspects of a new role.
If someone says anything about your age negatively, whether at an interview or in the workplace, you should report it to HR where appropriate. If it makes you feel bad, know that it is not okay.
- Politely ask them what they mean by that.
We know people will often say things in jest, and making comments about someone’s age – whether younger or older – is easy to target. There’s nothing wrong with having a laugh at work, but it shouldn’t be at someone else’s expense and shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable.
If someone does make a joke about your age, and you don’t like it, calmly ask them what they mean by it. A lot of the time, the person will feel embarrassed and realize the joke isn’t okay to say. Make it clear you don’t enjoy those types of jokes and politely ask them not to make them anymore.
- Remember: you wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t do the job.
It can be easy to forget if you’ve got other team members poking fun at your age or making rude remarks about your experience, but the truth is you wouldn’t have the job if your employer didn’t think you could do it.
It’s completely normal to be learning new skills as you go, and of course, someone who has been there longer is going to know more. Don’t let this get you down, and stay focused on working on your skills so you can be the best at your role – your employer already knows you will be.
- Get support if needed.
Don’t handle ageism in the workplace alone if it’s getting too much or upsetting you. Remember, just because someone says they didn’t mean anything by a joke or comment doesn’t mean it’s okay. It needs to be addressed if it causes you to worry or feel upset.
Get help from a trusted team member, or speak with HR or your boss to let them know what’s happening so they can help you resolve things.
Addressing the Issue Together
You’ve probably heard the expression “need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience” – it’s that circular problem that so many young people face when trying to break into the workplace for the first time.
At Explore Careers, we have no time for this type of outdated thinking.
We push our employer partners to stay open-minded, engaged, and curious bout EVERY young person’s potential that applies to their business.
And it’s why we only partner with employers who wholeheartedly embrace this mindset.
Look out for the inclusion and diversity badges our employers proudly showcase on their profiles to help you get a clearer idea of the inclusive practices they are promoting.
We’ve got your back this International Youth Day – and every day.