Today’s feature is a guest post by Nick Tucker. Nick Tucker is a current Praxis participant, writer, and aspiring entrepreneur. He writes regularly at nicktucker.me and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the greatest obstacles I’ve experienced as I’ve begun my career in the professional world is my age. People really don’t tend to trust kids. I don’t even mean people my age – I mean people up to the age of 22 or 23. But I’ve found that depending on the situation, industry, and how you approach it, your age can be your greatest advantage if you know what to do.
How To Work With More Experienced People
In my work at my Praxis business partner, Allegheny Crane Rental, I deal with a lot of older gruff construction and mechanical contractors. These people are not thrilled off the bat when they schedule a job site visit and I show up. I talked about this with my boss when I first entered the world of sales. He laid it out for me pretty plainly. People in this industry don’t like kids. They don’t want to cut you any slack and they don’t really have any reason to root for your success. Their first reaction when I step on site is going to be an eye roll.
My boss told me there’s no way to fully get rid of this handicap, but that there were specific things I could do to make a strong impact early on. First, my boss explained to me that the project managers of these companies and really anyone in business doesn’t have a problem with just young people, they have a problem with incompetence. Because most people my age are still learning they are just accustomed to youth and poor service going hand in hand.
My boss said the key to changing the contractor’s immediate negative opinion of you is to make a firm impact in the first ten seconds of meeting. He suggested I approach it with the mindset that I am the experienced one. Whatever ideas I have in my head about the contractor being more experienced or letting him take the lead have to be washed away. Again, people don’t have a problem with young people themselves, just the level of abilities that typically would go along with them.
Every time I meet with someone on a job site, I make a conscious effort to do three things. First, when I’m walking up to the person for the first time, I’m the first to speak. I start off with an enthusiastic greeting and a firm handshake. It’s interesting to see people’s surprise when I do this. Apparently it’s not something people expect from young professionals, so doing this successfully differentiates you from others immediately.
The second thing is pretty basic but I make sure I know my stuff. I demonstrate this by asking the first questions when we get on site. Again, this jumps in and erases that predetermined opinion about unskilled young workers. I have everything I need to know down at this point, but I still prepare before job site visits by looking at google maps and getting an idea of what obstacles might be in the way of the lift.
The last thing I make sure to focus on when I visit a job site is to follow up very quickly. If the contractor needs an estimate for the job I just looked at, I try to have it in his inbox 10 or 15 minutes after I leave the site. I make sure to be extremely accessible from then on. If he emails me, he gets a response within 10 minutes.
This is just another cool way to set myself apart from the others he’s dealt with. This changes things from my youth being a disadvantage, to him seeing me as a young, earnest, well-prepared and dedicated professional. The fact that I’m young makes me stick out more in his mind and it ends up working to my advantage as it makes a stronger impact on him.
How To Make a Convincing Pitch
Aside from my work with Allegheny Crane Rental, I also go out and meet people that are interested in Praxis. My youth isn’t as much of a disadvantage here, but there are still specific things I can do to turn it around and make my age a positive factor.
When I’m telling people about Praxis I don’t really see it as selling them the product. It’s almost like I’m just selling myself and my experiences. I tell the prospect about all the cool stuff I’ve done, the experiences I’ve gained, and my options for the future. This shows them that yes, the product is cool, but it also gives them a real life example of the opportunities the program gives its participants.
In this industry, my age really does play to my advantage. I haven’t experienced the same fundamental resistance to young people like I’ve seen in the crane and construction industry. When I first pitch the idea of Praxis to someone new I immediately have credibility. I’m not just telling them about something cool that I could set them up with. I’m telling them about what I’m doing and the impact it’s had on my life. Doing something like skipping college and going right into an apprenticeship sounds a lot less scary when you have an example of someone who did it successfully right in front of you.
What You Have To Do
Whatever industry you may be in, just remember your age can play to your advantage. If you make an impression as a competent, intelligent and hardworking employee, you will stick out more in their mind because you are young. But you have to do it well. If you don’t really know what you’re doing people will pick up on that and become impatient very quickly.
By doing just a few basic things you can very quickly switch around the opinion of the person you are meeting with and make a lasting impression. It starts with an enthusiastic greeting and handshake. Be confident, like you are the best person who could be there. Learn your stuff beforehand and prepare with the specifics of your upcoming meeting. After that, be reliable. Give your client a consistent reason to remember you and keep on coming back. If you do all this you will not only make a stronger impact in sales, your age will also become your biggest advantage.