But this isn’t about a Dark Knight. And I'm not talking about chronological age. It’s about workers who get "old" before their time, and what they can do to stay on top of their game.
Many young people enter the workforce with giant dreams. Sadly, over time, those dreams often get the shit kicked out of them. In my profession, marketing, we see younger workers who are largely about getting it done “on time and within budget.” Sure, they’d love to hit it out of the park, but they're not swinging for the fences. When I asked one marketing guy about his interest in innovation, he said "We’re just trying to get all this stuff done."
When you're mainly about doing mediocre work, you're already “old” — even if you're 30 years of age.
The biggest barriers to business success are often internal rather than external. Organizational and cultural factors keep many companies, departments, and teams from where they want to be. Great workers often find ways to do great stuff — even in organizations not known for greatness. But many workers at an impressionable age become creatures of their corporate culture and pick up bad habits that keep them down for years or even their entire career.
Work in an environment where command-and-control is common? That doesn't mean you have to mirror that style in relationships with people who work with you. Have a boss who leads with negative reinforcement and fear-based tactics? You're free to choose positive approaches. Does the agenda tend to be about everything but what really counts, like product quality, customer relationships, and outcomes? Be the one who operates outside the norm and keeps her eye on the prize. But do it in a way that brings people over to your side and commands respect.
Finally, let's talk about bias. No, not that type. I'm referring to biases that interfere with good decision-making. In business, younger workers often choose what's familiar, what impresses people they’re out to impress who shouldn’t be part of the equation, or what's easiest: the path of least resistance. In marketing, we see newer staffers make speculative leaps rather than work with facts easily available through testing. Don’t be the know-it-all who doesn’t know it all.
Instead, be a perennial student. Operate by the Golden Rule. And never stop trying to rock the world. Because if you stay with it, you may actually do it.