Looking younger than you actually are is on the surface a good thing to most people. Striving to stay looking young is an aim for a lot of people. Some are lucky enough to achieve it. Some not. For anyone who has met me, you’ll know that despite being 28 on Sunday, I look far younger than that. Great, you might think. Well yes and no.
There’s a novelty in looking younger, but during my time in work, it’s not been smooth sailing.
I began working in this industry at 17 years old, selling to the general public for our family run installations business. Back then I was eager to get going. I passed my driving test, I left Sixth Form a year early simply because I didn’t enjoy it despite having Uni-worthy grades. I was set to go. But I did look massively young, way off 17. Looking back on it now, I wonder how I even got any sales? There’s not many people that would have taken a 17 year old all that seriously.
As the years rolled on a bit, I got older, but the gap between my actual age and the age I looked got bigger and bigger. By this time I was getting used to being ID’ed everywhere I went. I have to accept that even when I’m 30+ years old that’s likely to continue to happen. I have a joke with the bar staff and ask them how old they are as they check my ID, I’m older than 99% of the people that work in bars now. It makes them feel a tad silly!
In the work environment though, it’s always a bit of a struggle for me versus others when I first knock at that door when I arrive for my arranged home visit. You can see the home owner looking me up and down, wondering who the company have sent to try and convince them to spend their thousands of hard earned pounds. In fairness to myself, I know a lot about my product, and my approach is professional and laid back. By the end of the visit most home owners are fine with me.
Still, it doesn’t always go that smoothly. I remember two instances specifically where people’s personal thoughts on me went beyond what was reasonable. The first instance was a few years ago when I went to pick a cheque from a customer where the work had been completed but the home owner wasn’t forthcoming with the payment. We offered to pick up the final payment from their home, to save them a journey, which they let us do. I got the honour of going to pick it up. When I got there, the door opened up to a woman who looked almost disgusted at my being there. She let me in, eventually, after telling her who I was and where I was from. She didn’t seem convinced. So much so, that she told me she didn’t believe who I said I was, said that I was far too young, and rang the office to confirm that I was really who I said I was. She did not do it in any polite manner. I just kept quiet, thanked her for the cheque and went on my way.
The second instance was when I had to step in for a lead for my Dad. It was his previous customer, but he was pulled away urgently so he asked me to step in and take the lead for him. So, as is my normal practice, I turn up on time, knock on the door and introduce myself. The disgust on the faces of the home owners was evident. I didn’t get any further than the porch. They demanded to know where my Dad was as they arranged to see him and refused to deal with me under any circumstance. The appointment was for a single back door by the way. So I politely explained the situation again to them and why I was sent. That didn’t seem to help matters. They then went on to question me. Asking me how long I had been working as a sales person. If was qualified enough to talk to them about their requirements. They asked me how old they are. And then told me that the ten years at that point I had been working as a sales person was nothing. Naturally, at that point, my inclination to be polite to them had up and left. I got my phone out and rang the office in front of them and told the office that they are refusing to deal with me and that the office interrupts my Dad from the important thing he had to get done and to get down here to deal with this couple for their highly important back door.
Manners cost nothing, whether you have faith in the person sent to do the job or not. How they handled me and that whole situation was wrong. Perhaps when I was younger I would have kept my temper. But these people were so rude, to my face, that I didn’t believe they deserved my manners back. I finished the phone call and left the house.
Failure to be taken seriously
All of the above boils down to one thing. I don’t get taken seriously. It happens in daily life and it happens in the glazing industry. You can see it in the faces of people I talk to. They see this lad who can’t be older than 20 years old, what can he know? Why am I even bothering to talk to him? It doesn’t help that I’m short either. It all adds to the mix. In fact I think the industry is generally unwelcoming to young people. The impression I get is that there is an old guard that is resistant to change. But in order to facilitate change, you often need young new blood. In practice, when I speak to older members of our industry, you can tell they’re not interested.
It’s also one of the reasons I don’t go to many industry functions. Yes, they don’t really float my boat, and they’re mostly exactly the type of meet ups you’d expect them to be. But in the few I have gone to in the past, I have encountered some fairly unpleasant people who, when speaking to them, make it very clear of their opinion. So why would I bother going to any more?
There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you’re speaking to someone, with authority on a particular subject, and you know that all they’re thinking about is how old I look, figuring out how old I really am and why they’re even bothering to talk to me. Not everyone is like that, but it happens often enough.
This will sound like a moaning post, and in reality it is. Looking as young as I do, despite now being 28, throws up daily frustrations that go untold and unnoticed. The novelty of looking younger for longer is negated when people don’t take you seriously.
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