Thinking back to when I was young, maybe 5. I thought that my brother was old even though he was only 4 years older than I was. My parents were really old, even though they were both in their mid-thirties. My grandparents were ancient and my great grandparents were almost extinct.
When I was 12 years old, I applied to be a volunteer at our local fire department. The chief looked me up and down and said, “So you think you can help us out around here?” I confidently said without a doubt in my mind, “You bet I can!” I was the youngest member of their JR firefighter crew. That chief took a chance by letting me join the department a full 2 years before he let anyone else. I learned a lot during my years on the department and stayed active for quite a while. The thing that I liked most about being there, attending the trainings, going out and working the fires, was that on this department, everyone was glad to have help. It didn’t matter what you were doing they were glad you were there. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was learning how to appreciate everyone. I also learned that those “old guys” could out work me every day. It kept me humble in respect of age.
Later at the age of 18, I applied for a job as the manager at a rental car facility. The hiring manager read my resume and immediately called me in for the interview. When I arrived, she kind of looked me up and down and said, “Your resume made you seem much older, sorry but I just CAN’T hire someone so young.” I walked away a little dejected but knew that God had bigger plans for me. After the interview she swallowed her pride and told me to come back in a few years, she would love to hire me but corporate would not allow her to, I was too young. They allowed their corporate mentality make the call for what society claims to be an acceptable age for leadership over rule their first impression.
This continued throughout my 20’s. Finally, I was hired on with an exceptional company. They immediately put me into a leadership role and I excelled. They asked me to move up and we accepted the position. Again, through God’s grace I was able to excel. Then our company was bought out. The new upper leadership loved my style and the way I communicated. Even though I was younger, they still pushed me to excel. Then all of a sudden, our department changed leadership. The new leadership went back to the “old school” thinking, you have to have a college degree and be a certain age before you can attain manager status. I was never allowed to advance after that and eventually ended up starting Eclipse DOT and went to work for myself.
If you’ve made it this far through the blog you are probably thinking that’s great, he just told me about how he was discriminated against for age several times. We all have stories that are similar to mine. The reason I’m writing this is so that we can step forward and make a change. As we move into leadership roles don’t overlook the younger candidate as a great potential in your company or organization. Also, don’t overlook the older person just because you believe that their ideals might not align with yours. Take every person as someone who can and will get the job done. Don’t look at the color of their hair, or how young they look.
As people, we have the opportunity every day to look in the mirror and see exactly what we want to see. If you see someone too old or too young, then you are either of those. If you see the right person for the job, then you are the RIGHT person. Don’t get into your own head and disqualify yourself from the opportunity. It doesn’t matter if you are the youngest or the oldest person in the program. Own that. Be proud that you accomplished it and know that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to.
I’m a relativity young guy in my perspective, in my grandparent’s eyes I’m still kid and, in my kids, eyes I’m OLD. It’s all about perspective. If you think you are too old for the job then you are, if you think that you are too young to get that leadership role, then you are. Don’t let your mind be what stops you from applying yourself, don’t let your age be the determining factor for anything that you might be considering. Go out there and be strong, own your age because it is all in your head anyways.