career

"The four lessons I learned when I worked for a boss who was ten years my junior."

I had a husband who was 21 years older than me, and the relationship worked brilliantly for years. So, it’s safe to say that I never cared too much about age – that is, until I started working at a place where everyone on my team was five to ten years (at least) younger than me; including my immediate managers.

Even then, I wasn’t worried as such about the age gap – but I was conscious of it. Spending my working days being managed by younger women didn’t make me feel old as such; but it did make me feel older.

Because, well, I was older.

It was a fascinating experience, and one I’m so glad I had, as it changed my perspective on a few things.

And yes, I mean I was wrong about a few things.

Work wives: What happens when there’s cake in the kitchen at work. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

1. Life experience doesn’t beat industry experience.

I came to media and journalism late in the game; and my job at Mamamia was my first permanent position in the industry.

I started in the office when I was 41 years old. Despite my constant attempt to dress and act like the cool kids, the fact is I was middle-aged.

One thing that made an impression on me immediately is how much my managers understood the game; especially digital media, and all the technical stuff it entails.

They were guns when it came to all the systems they were using, and, especially at first, I was…maybe a Nerf gun. Or a water pistol from the $2 shop.

I might have been older, with life experience and a million life chapters behind me, but they had something I couldn’t have for years: industry experience.

 

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They knew what they were doing so much more than I did, and I’m the first to admit it.

Having said that, I’d be lying if I didn’t share that sometimes I would think an idea of mine would be “something they’ll understand later”.

But I’d also be lying if I didn’t acknowledge I sometimes sounded like a pain in the arse know-it-all about life in general. Probably smug, cynical, and dismissive at times.

If any of my former bosses (and workmates) are reading this, I guess I should say thanks for putting up with me!

2. They didn’t treat me like the ‘freak’ like I expected.

I’ll admit this was some age bias from me; I fully expected to be made to feel that I didn’t understand some things because I’m too old.

That probably came from the fact that my own 12-year-old treats me like this sometimes!

But not only was this not the case from my managers, they also expected me not to use that as an excuse to hide behind, either.

Yes, I was new to the industry, and so I had to learn like everyone else. Even all the digital era stuff that I hadn’t grown up with, as they had. I wasn’t a geriatric being given special treatment.

 

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3. You could still have common interests.

How we spent our non-working time differed greatly, depending on our life stages and priorities, but there were some common interests that trumped all those differences.

There was plenty of office conversation about online purchases – which I could always weigh in on. To me, fashion is a universal language, no matter your age.

One manager I had bonded with me over our penchant for glamorous shoes. Another often called my outfits ‘bougie’ in the nicest way, and I would have to explain to her that if I went to work in sneakers and jeans, I would fall asleep at my desk by 11am.

Even my last ever meeting with one manager began with a discussion about how I had joined animal print boots and a shirt with a metallic green pleated skirt.

Yep, we got the important stuff out of the way first!

4. They understood what it is like to be a working, single mum.

This is something I wasn’t expecting. Here I was, new to Sydney with no family, and these young women, some of whom didn’t have children, somehow understood the logistical issues that raised for a single mum who worked full time.

My son was permitted to come into work when I needed him to. One manager even let me come in a little later on Thursday mornings so I could take my son for his favourite food before school at the local market.

What I realised later is that yes, these managers may have respected my position as professionals, but also, just because they were younger, didn’t mean they’d never met a working single mum before.

Would I do it again?

Yep! I love that the experience taught me so much about working not only with, but under a different generation.

Ultimately, what I learned is that age is just a number – not just in your head, but in the workplace, too.

Nama Winston has had a legal career (paid), and a parenting career (unpaid). She uses her past experience as a lawyer to discuss everything from politics, to parenting. You can follow her on Instagram: @namawinston and Facebook: @NamaWinston.

Tags: boss , career , news-stories , work
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