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  • Writer's pictureSally A Illingworth

Age Isn't Ability: 3 Principles for the Naysayers

At the age of 16, I joined the workforce with the deliberate intention to become financially independent. Three months into my career I took on a second job within the same brand, which involved managing a corporate store. Circa 95% of the employees were older than me so I was belittled quite a bit due to an assumption that I wasn’t competent enough to complete the task at hand because I had only been alive for almost 17 years.

“Who am I kidding? I can’t fix this business” I told myself.

When I finished year 12 at school, about 8 weeks before my 18th birthday, I took on a full-time position, relocated to the Gold Coast and started managing 6 store managers. One of the newly appointed managers had the audacity to tell me, whilst she was completing her induction training, that “I’d rather work for someone older than me so I know that they know what they’re doing”.

“What the F am I doing here?” I asked myself.

One year after completing year 12, I was in Darwin opening my own business within the brand. I recall scouting for fresh produce suppliers, one of which I met with who had the audacity to define me as ‘not eligible’ to comment on the weather trends because I hadn’t even been alive that long. Let’s just say, he didn’t get the contract.

I even got a phone call from someone who, at the time, was allegedly a friend asking “What are you doing? Aren’t you nervous? You don’t even know what you’re doing!”. Word for word. No joke.

“Maybe he’s right” I thought to myself.

Without sharing all of my trials and tribulations surrounding age over the past six years, let’s just say that I’ve had my unfair share. Yes, that’s right – I said ‘unfair share’. Although the common term of phrase is ‘fair share’, in this case that is certainly not the case considering the theme of this discussion is surrounding occurrences that are not subject to luck or chance and are instead subject to how an individual chooses to treat another person.

At times throughout my career, I’ve second questioned my worthiness of being in any position at the relative time because of how others have treated me due to my age. Since opening my business, I’ve politely told myself “No f**king way” every time someone has treated me poorly when they realize my age and I subsequently get tempted to second question myself.

There are three principles that I now actively acknowledge to highlight why Age isn’t Ability:

1.    Value Your Ambitions

Age bears no relevance to ambition. If you’re ambitious, value that and don’t let anyone ruin your ambition because of his or her perception of your age.

2.    Credit Your Progress

If your ambitions have turned into actions and your actions have turned into achievements, give yourself credit.

3.    Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

No two people are the same. Don’t compare yourself to other people your age. And better yet, don’t tolerate someone else doing it.

None of us should allow stereotypes to cloud our judgment of others. We should value each person for who they are. We should not make assumptions about an individual’s ability based on their age.

P.S. I did fix that business. I did know what I was doing. And I did figure out how to open a business.

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Sally A Illingworth


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