Getting Older: A Gen Xer’s Take on the Age Gap in the Workplace

There are key moments in my life when I became acutely aware that I was aging. The first time some kids called me “ma’am” (I was 17.) The night a bartender told me he didn’t need to see my ID before sliding me a drink. And the moment I realized I was one of the older employees in the office.

Yes, for the first time in my life, I’m one of the older people on deck. Many of my co-workers are under 30, while I am, well, older. Some were born when I was in high school, probably listen to music I’ve never heard of and grew up using technology I have yet to master. (Yikes, I really do sound old.)

In all of my past jobs, I’m worked with mainly Baby Boomers (I’m Gen-X!) who were sending their kids off to colleges and had worked at numerous companies. Some were jaded, others remained ambitious, but all were willing to impart the wisdom gained from many years in the workplace. Those perspectives helped me understand the environment in which I worked and plan the career that I wanted to have—as well as the one I didn’t want.

When you hear so much talk about ageism in the workplace, it stands to reason that one might feel unnerved by all this youth that I’m surrounded by now. But that’s hardly the case with me. First, everyone in my office is highly competent, driven and enthusiastic, which makes this a really engaging office in which to work. It’s also interesting to witness people at earlier stages in their careers, seeing them make decisions, be strategic and truly look forward to the trajectory that lies ahead.

And while I know I’m not that old, I’m still on the other end of age spectrum in the office for the first time, so I find all this energizing. I’m reminded to remain thoughtful about my career, willing to learn new tools and skills, and most of all, excited about the future.

Have you ever worked in an office where most of your co-workers were either older or younger than you? If so, how did that impact you?