PHOTO: ING Image
Whether you’re 22, 27, or 35, being the youngest (non-intern) in your office can be a strange, sometimes awkward experience. From being babied, to accidentally embarrassing your colleagues when you reveal that you have never heard of their favourite band, everyone who’s ever been the youngest among their colleagues can relate to the following:
1. You’re mistaken for the new intern during your first week of work
While it’s flattering – sort of? – that you can pass as a university student, you’re this close to showing up in black pantsuit so that people stop calling you a “xiao mei mei”. You seem so young, in fact, that the actual interns have no qualms talking to you like you’re one of them. Hey, at least they understand your pop culture references.
2. People constantly ask you for help with their computers
As the youngest person in the office, you have taken on an unofficial posting in tech support, assisting your colleagues with everything from recovering data, to sharing files on Dropbox, to helping them install Chrome on their computers. (They will also come to you when they need help attaching their phones to “those new-fangled selfie sticks”, even though you very well that they can figure it out themselves.)
3. You need to ask the rest how to help you use a fax machine
On the other hand, you will gamely admit that you don’t know how to use fax machine, organise a Rolodex, or convert the contents of a tape recorder into a digital file. You feel so embarrassed not knowing how to do any of these things that you end up turning to Google instead of asking for help.
4. All the talk about babies and school enrollment makes you shy to admit how you’ve been spending your weekends
Your colleagues spend their weekends driving their children to enrichment courses, watching movies as a family, or picking their in-laws up from the airport. You, on the other hand…..slept until noon on Sunday and went day-drinking in town. Your colleagues stayed up until 2 in the morning feeding their babies, while you stayed up until 3 am catching the midnight premiere of your favourite movie franchise (followed by a late-late-late supper, of course). When they ask you how you spent your weekend, you simply answer, “hanging out and eating”, lest they judge you for being irresponsible or “too free”.
5. Your colleagues don’t take you seriously when you complain about feeling unhealthy after an especially huge meal
There are three reactions you will get when overdosing on fast food.
First, the indignant one:
“This is my third time eating fast food this week,” you say. “I feel so fat”
“Aiya, no need to worry!” your colleagues tut-tut. “You’re young. You can afford it. Wait until you’re my age.”
Second, the one from someone who is overly concerned for your wellbeing: “Fast food again? Have you been very stressed? You should wake up earlier and pack lunch. You won’t be so young forever.”
And last of all, the one from someone who is overly concerned for the wellbeing of your targets: “KFC again?! You better eat healthy next week. I cannot afford to be shorthanded next week.”
6. You’re the only person who knows how to sing the song you selected for office karaoke night
Nothing screams “awkward” like having the song you selected for KTV finally come up on the screen…only to sing alone because no one else knows who EXO is. Or how to sing in Korean. A word from the wise: stick to stuff that even your colleagues who are significantly older would know, like Westlife – and if you don’t know any Westlife songs, then why the heck are you even reading this, you are clearly too young (or old) to be on the internet.
7. People try to give you “life advice” on buying insurance, getting married, or saving for a flat
Your bosses will inevitably baby you a little bit when you’re the youngest on the team. They might even treat you like the child they never had. When they find out that you’ve been single for three years, they’ll offer to set you up with their perfect, Ivy League-educated nephew. When you take your third overseas vacation in a year, they’ll joke that you should start saving that money for the future. And any time you get sick, they’ll tell you that you should sleep earlier instead of staying up so late to surf the internet (“Er, what about just giving us less work?”).
8. Your colleagues will assume that you’re free to be on standby 24/7
Unmarried, childless, and under the age of 30? Clearly, whatever you have going on outside of work pale in comparison to commitments like spouses, children, housework, cooking, or car maintenance. To be fair, though, you probably do have more energy and control of your time, meaning that you should pay your dues and step in to help when possible (being a team player counts for a lot when you’re just starting out). But do take note and consider moving on if your colleagues habitually take advantage of your availability.
9. Your colleagues will think twice before offering you alcohol
Even though you’re clearly old enough to drink, they have this idea “youths” like yourself will end up sprawled all over the floor when tempted with alcohol. So prove them wrong. You might be the youngest on the team, but you’re too classy to get drunk in a professional setting (even if, by professional setting, we mean Happy Hour).
But – BUT – occasionally, you will come across a colleague who is so convinced that you’re a young and innocent youth, that he’ll make it his mission to show you the ways of the world. The more you refuse to take another shot of tequila, the more insistent he will be that you can tolerate one more. Our solution: accept it graciously, then dump it into your empty water glass when he’s not looking.
10. You’re mature beyond your years
Even though being called out for your age can feel a little embarrassing, there are two major advantages to being the youngest in your office. Firstly, being around people who are older than you are can help you grow up faster than your peers. And secondly, being significantly younger than most of your office mean that you can offer a unique skill set, even if it’s as mundane as helping your 50-year-old boss create a Facebook fan page for your product. Anyway, being young won’t last forever. Before you know it, someone younger than you will come along, and you will start wondering with the rest how that person has the energy to party on weekdays when you want to do nothing but sleep.