How to Show Employers You Can Work With a Younger Boss

If you are an older worker trying to land a job in which you will have a younger boss, there are a few ways you can keep your competitive edge and demonstrate that you can bridge the generation gap with professionalism and ease. While most professionals don’t have issues working for folks of all ages, it’s undeniable that hiring managers still have bias against older workers, especially at younger companies. If the company you’re applying to has a generally younger staff, it’s a good idea to go out of your way to prove you can work well with someone who’s younger than you, right from the start. Let’s dig into why this is a smart strategy, and how to actually show you can work with a younger manager through networking and in the hiring process.

Why multiple generations in the workplace pose a challenge

Age discrimination in the workplace is never okay, and there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t miss opportunities because of your age. Older workers bring so much to the table, from their experience to their loyalty to their robust contact lists.

But sometimes hiring managers can spend their time worrying about how workers of different generations might have trouble communicating effectively. They want to avoid a culture clash between Gen Xers and Baby Boomers with younger bosses. This is especially a concern when older workers will be reporting to a young boss. It turns the expectation of working one’s way to the top over time on its head. Hiring managers may worry that people with bosses younger than them could come to resent the power dynamic or won’t want to listen to someone with less life experience.

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These assumptions may not reflect your outlook at all, but you can gain an advantage by expressing your willingness and enthusiasm to work in a mixed-age environment, even one in which you will be reporting to someone who was not yet born when you took your driver’s test.

Explore any personal biases toward your younger coworkers

We would all like to think that we don’t bring any biases to the workplace. But even the most professional of employees can harbor certain judgements and misgivings that can pose problems if left unexamined. Take a good look at any biases you might have when it comes to working with a younger boss. What are the assumptions you might make about this person? How could those assumptions block the way to a healthy and productive working relationship?

Be specific and concrete when you examine any potential biases, and figure out how you might overcome them before your job interview and onboarding process. For example, you might have a bias toward your younger boss in which you assume that they don’t have the know-how to tell you what to do. Realize that although this person may not have the years of experience you do, there is a reason that they hold this position at the company you’d like to work for. They have likely proven themself to be fit for the role.

Remember, everyone always has something new to learn! And sometimes that knowledge comes from someone younger than us. You may be pleasantly surprised by your new boss’ innovative approaches and expertise!

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Tips for how to present yourself as young-boss-friendly

As an older professional on the job market, there are several ways you can show hiring managers that you are well equipped to work well alongside young managers and coworkers. Here are a few helpful tips for positioning yourself to land a job with intergenerational workplaces:

  1. Networking: Volunteer and network with younger folks. Look at local networking events in your industry taking place at trendy hangouts where there are likely to be many younger professionals. Rubbing elbows with these new contacts will help you feel like you know the ins and outs of your industry from both a seasoned and modern point of view. Plus, you may find that if you are referred to a job by someone younger than you, it will help your personal brand as a competitive prospective employee.
  2. References: Speaking of references, ask some of your younger coworkers if they would be willing to write LinkedIn references for you or testimonials for your professional website. If you are applying for a job that requires references, look to your younger contacts as possibilities for boosting your perceived willingness to thrive in an intergenerational workplace.
  3. Cover letters: Subtly address possible misgivings in your cover letter. For example, you might include a passage along the lines of: “I thrive in dynamic environments and look forward to taking direction from your talented team.” This can help hiring managers realize that you are the perfect candidate for working with a younger boss.
  4. Culture: Learn what you can about company culture and extracurriculars before you go in for your job interview. Does the company sponsor kayaking trips once a year for all employees? Do they hold a happy hour in the office kitchen once a month? Express interest in blending in with your office’s culture and getting to know your coworkers in casual, company-hosted settings.
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