How to be the Youngest Person in the Board Room


How to be the Youngest Person in the Board Room

If you’re under 40, or remember when you were, you’ve probably been there –
You walk into a board room and glance around, wondering if you know anyone. Wondering who to sit next to. Someone who won’t judge if you have to check your phone for that email you’re expecting.

Then it happens – you look around and realize, “I’m the youngest person in the room.” And not just the youngest by a year or two. The youngest by at least 10 years. There are people in the room who have already accomplished incredible things, like helping tons of people or creating meaningful change in their community. And they’ve done all these things over the past couple decades, not the last couple years.

How can you not feel intimidated? How can you not run through your own bona fides in your mind as you look for a seat? How do you not compare yourself to those others in the room?

Go through this checklist … take a sip of your coffee … and relax.

1) Don’t let the thought that you don’t belong gain any ground. Don’t even think it. It’s okay to recognize that the thought is there, but don’t entertain it. Having motivation to prove yourself versus thinking you don’t belong are two very different things. If you didn’t belong, you wouldn’t be at the table. Someone at the table thinks you belong. And YOU DO. So take your seat at the table and join the conversation.

2) Remember the night before a big test or a spelling bee or a sporting event, where you had to prove what you could do? Do you remember the best way to get a good night’s sleep the night before? The trick was to BE PREPARED. There is no confidence like the calm confidence of a person who is prepared, a person who knows what they know. Studying. Reciting. Practicing. Most times, we are nervous because we are unprepared, and we know we are unprepared. So, be prepared. Seems so simple, doesn’t it?

3) Don’t go to the table thinking the other people don’t want you there. That puts you on the defensive from the get go. And if you’re like most people, your defensiveness can’t really be hidden. Your mouth may not say it, but your facial expressions and body language are certainly screaming it. That’s not to say you should go in acting like you own the place, but go in knowing you have something to contribute to the conversation. You’re ready to become part of the team.

Remember – a good idea doesn’t have to come from someone who has hit a magical age. Or from someone of a certain gender. Or from someone who grew up in a certain area. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of where it came from.

Calm confidence is what you’re after. Just keep these tips in mind. You’ve got this.

Ashley Alford is President of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. Ashley is a Putnam County native and a graduate of West Virginia University with a degree in Public Relations and Business Administration. She is past Board Chair of Generation West Virginia and also serves on boards for the Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission and the Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is a 2013 Graduate of Leadership West Virginia and a 2015 Wonder Woman.

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