I stood there at a conference networking event, bright-eyed and excited to be shaking hands with some of the best in the industry. And then, out of nowhere, it happened.
I crossed paths with an older man and asked how he got started in his career. I guess this was where I went wrong. "Well, you're too young to understand this, but when you were in diapers, I was already on to being CEO of a big company."
Um, what? I'm pretty sure everything that followed could have done without that compelling introduction. To make things worse, this wasn't an isolated incident. Whether it's at happy hours or individual meetings, I still get jabs about my age with references to how it makes me inexperienced or unfit for my current venture. In the beginning, it really ticked me. I'm always tempted to follow back with comments about how it's great they are still working in their geriatric age, but I have yet to follow through on that one. It feels a bit mean. But, how is that any different?
Young people are bringing fresh and innovative ideas to the table. They call us disrupters or forces of unnecessary change, but it's with these steps of courage that we create movement in the world.
Mark Zuckerburg started Facebook when he was still in college, becoming a billionaire at only 23-years old. At 32, he continues to change the way people connect. Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss were only in their 20s when they launched and raised millions for Rent the Runway, an online service that allows women to rent gorgeous couture dresses at an affordable price.
According to the latest Kauffman Foundation's study on startup activity, young entrepreneurs aged between 20 - 34 and 35 - 44 have increased since 2015, but have ultimately decreased since the beginning of this study in 1997. With a combination of student debt, rising living costs, and slow cash flow, young people have big ideas they want to contribute to the world, but can't always afford it.
With that being said, the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report also says that millennials are now starting their own companies earlier than their baby boomer counterparts. Yes, that number may not be on the total rise, but the handful that do approach entrepreneurship are doing a darn good job at it.
So, what does this all come to? We can agree that perhaps a young person may not have as much experience as one who has mastered the industry, but that does not mean they should be out for the count. Especially in an era where it's not easy to give up a steady and comfortable job for a risky hypothesis, entrepreneurs should be supporting each other's vision to change the world, especially someone who's decided to venture off a bit earlier than the pack.
We all have so much to bring to the table regardless of our age and just like gender, race, and sexuality - age should not be pointed out as a disadvantage when discussing work. Professional success is independent of how old or young someone is and it's things like determination, hard work, and tenacity that will lead us far. The next time you encounter someone who wants to judge your success based on your years on this Earth, take a breath, and let your company speak for itself. You've got this.