I had a conversation with a guy a while back, that he didn’t seem to get. Young guy. Actually the youngest guy we had working with us. He didn’t like being called a kid.
He was 19 and pretty well convinced he knew as much as everyone else. He felt like he deserved respect from the other guys. He got an attitude when someone messed with him over his age.
I told him that everyone is the kid when they start out. Even the owner of the company, the guy with the gray hair and thick wallet, was the new kid once. The older guys always mess with the younger guys about how inexperienced they are. It’s gonna happen.
How did they even become the old guys? Because they didn’t get upset and quit when they were the kid. They made up their mind to stick it out and work. They took opportunities to learn and grow instead of getting offended and demanding to be treated better.
Someone once said that they were able to take the stones thrown at them and make steps to go higher. Yes, corny. But that’s what you have to do. Yes, it sucks having the old guys mess with you, but it’s part of life. Deal with it. Learn from it or spend your life going in circles.
If you are the new kid now, play it better that most of us did. Learn something, learn to see opportunities and take them. Learn how to survive without getting offended and running away. These are the people that we need. Not crybabies who give up and run looking for someone to protect them. Grow a spine and get back to work.
My first week in construction was amazing. I was 17 and started the same day as a 19 year old punk. He took the opportunity to undermine me. He told the foreman that I wouldn’t last till Friday. Found out he was trying to get in with them, by trashing me. Didn’t work too well.
This was grading and paving. Moving dirt, making roads. Sweat and hard work. Nothing else for the new guy.
Our first week involved flat nosed shovels and a mile of rounded curbs on a new residential development. My job was to stay with the grader and shovel mountains of dirt off the curbs, as he graded the road. I wore an inch off the end of a new shovel the first day. The handle looked new, the shovel looked ten years old.
I was trained to run heavy equipment and work in the shop. I was taking out my own crew by the time I was 18. Worked there over two years before moving to a machine shop full time. The other new guy quit by the first Friday. Never saw him again.
It’s not a good idea to act like you have experience when you don’t. The old guys can see right through all that. Just do the work, take the correction, control the attitude and keep moving. Unless you are training to be an actor, don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. You might be the kid forever.
How do you escape from the aggravation of being the new kid? Grow up. Running away, demanding fair treatment, arguing and complaining only prolong your time as the new kid.
Take initiative. Learn your trade. Ask questions. Take advice. Show respect to the guys who already did all that and are now your superiors. Your age doesn’t always have the biggest impact on whether or not you are treated like a kid. It’s more your level of experience and attitude.
Even in the audio and production world, it’s there, too.
When I started out, the old guys were annoying. Always telling me what to do. Criticizing the way I did things. Always knew a better way, than me, to do everything. Always had some random story of how they learned or did something. Alway expecting me to work harder than they did. Always making me prove myself. No respect.
It’s a miracle I survived at all. I did a few things right, but not many. I missed a lot of opportunities because of my attitude. Learned an awful lot the hard way. My life would have been very different, less bad examples, if I had been more patient and teachable.
Now, hear this, too. Not all the old guys are trying to help. Some are more than willing to use you up and run you ragged. Keep your eyes open and pay attention.
One guy offered me the opportunity to work in a tv station and learn to run it. It was a local show, small time, but it was in a legitimate tv studio. I was trained on all the gear and techniques of tv production there. I ended up doing all the production for this show.
It was good for me at the beginning. I enjoyed learning new stuff. It was a good experience. Didn’t take long to get stressful, though. He ended adding more and more responsibility to a volunteer position. I was getting worked like a dog. All this and I still had a family and a full time job.
I was learning to manage it. Keeping my eye on future opportunities with these new skills. Learning the value of really strong coffee. I was actually ok with it until I found out what his real motive was.
After a few months like this, I walked into a room where he was talking to another guy. I heard him bragging about how long he had been on TV without ever paying anyone a dime. He was proud of his ability to use people.
That was my last show. Never worked with him again. Just told him that I had too much only plate and his was the only one that didn’t benefit my family or pay the bills. He wasn’t happy.
I had benefitted from the training and experience, but it was obviously not going anywhere. Know when to walk away from people like that.
Other guys worked me just as hard. Some were users, some weren’t. I took the training either way. I wanted to master something. I didn’t want to be the kid forever.
I wish I could tell you that I made lots of great decisions and ended up as the king of the universe. Didn’t happen like that. I made a lot of really bad decisions and learned everything the hard way. I quit jobs i should have kept and kept jobs I should have quit. I argued and ran when I should have listen and learned.
As a husband, I had someone who was just as involved in my success and failure as I was. She tried to help me make decisions and I ignored her. She saw things I couldn’t see. She had the ability to make rational decisions over things I was justifying and imagining. My mistake. Should have listened.
As a church member, I had a pastor who tried to coach me. I ended up repeatedly sitting in his office, telling him what I was going to do, instead of asking for advice. Time after time, I went in with all the answers and he just listened. Then I ran out and did more stupid stuff.
As a father, I had people depending on me. I should have considered how my decisions would affect them more. I gave away a lot of good years to people who didn’t mind taking them away.
As a son, I had a father who was only interested in my success. He had no ulterior motives for his advice. He wanted to see me successful and I ignored his advice. Had to do it myself. Had to figure it out myself.
My time as the kid was dragged out repeatedly. Every time I got an attitude, or quit a job, or ignored solid advice, I added more years to my time as the kid.
Take responsibility for your success. Take advice from people who care about you. Ignore the insults and teasing. Learn from the old guys. Watch for opportunities. Grow up.
The school of hard knocks is one you graduate from whenever you are ready.