By Molly C. Ziske, PHD

Ask anyone – there is that one birthday that makes you feel old.  Turning 30, 35 or 50, for example.  As I write this, I am only days away from one of those birthdays – 47.  There is no real reason for that number bothering me and making me feel old, but there it is. On top of the birthday, many of my thoughts these days are job-related, having just celebrated my first full year employed after being out of work for 20 months.  I’ve managed to find a job I love and work with lots of great people of varying ages.  However, getting older and working in a diverse workplace has me thinking of the differences between young workers and people like me (let’s call them older and wiser, shall we?)

So, below are things I wish people would have told me when I was younger and some are things I wish people would tell today’s younger employees.  You decide which is which but hopefully one or two will inspire you regardless of age.

  • Take some time to learn the environment of a new job.  What is acceptable dress, behavior, conversation?  Take the first few days to be an observer.  I’m not suggesting you change how or who you are, but learning the culture can save you plenty of embarrassment and headaches in the future. 
  • Listen, listen, listen.  To everyone – those above you, below you or at your level.  You never know who you can learn from. Try to stop that annoying habit so many of us have of attempting to formulate our next really clever thought as someone is talking.  Stop thinking about what you will say next and focus on the person speaking to you. 
  • Underpromise / overdeliver.  Think about this in personal terms.  If you order something online and are promised delivery between 4-7 days, you will be invariably delighted when your order shows up in 3 days.  However, you will not stand for delivery at 9 days, for example.  Put in the context of work, if you are the boss and work is consistently delivered after it is promised, there will be a problem. 
  • “Please” and “thank you” are still the magic words. “You’re welcome” is pretty magical, too.   These don’t come and go – they are consistent signs of respect at any age.
  • You have things to learn from all of your co-workers.  Unembarrassed, I’ve gone to young co-workers and asked what the heck does #FF mean?! 
  • If you are going to ask a very select group of people to lunch and exclude others , do it on the down-low.  Remember the rule about birthday parties in grade school?  If you don’t invite the whole class, be discreet about handing out the invitations. Even as adults, we still have feelings and can feel left out.  True, we might not even want to go out to lunch with you but we also don’t want to be publicly excluded.

The following tips are from friends that I think work for most everyone who has a job:

  • It’s not all about you.  It isn’t about me either – it is about doing our best job for the company. 
  • Take pride in what you do not matter how mundane your job is.  This is so hard some days, especially if you see your job as meaningless. Try to find some meaning in your job that makes it worth going in every day. 
  • Be thankful you have a job and quit complaining about it.  Or at least be sure to complain outside the confines of the office. 
  • Just because I need reading glasses, does not mean I can’t see you rolling your eyes at everything I say.
  • You were hired for your knowledge, not your “I’m smarter than you” or “I dress better than you” attitude.  Lose any such attitude in a hurry.  Unless you are going for the Guiness World’s record for enemies. 
  • Yes, there is 20 years difference in our ages.  That does not mean either of us should give the other one the “once-over” look upon greeting the other in the morning.  Yes, we dress differently and always will.      
  • Please think before you talk.  We’ve all done it, said that really, really stupid remark that neither we nor our audience will likely forget any time soon.  The remark can be professional or personal but if it will insult anyone it does not belong at work.  The three second delay in speaking an appropriate comment will be forgotten while your inappropriate comment will be long remembered.  (and never, ever, insult someone’s college or university!)
  • Finally, stay Spartan humble, Spartan proud and Go Green!


Molly C. Ziske, Ph.D. is many things – mom to the most fabulous three teenage girls on the planet, Consumer Insights Manager for Autoweek Media Group and Super Spartan fan (she was once heard saying in a meeting “I just hope they invent Spartan coffins before I die”).  BA (Advertising) from MSU ’87, MS (Advertising) from U of Illinois ’91 and Ph.D. (Mass Media) from MSU ’03, Molly’s two remaining dreams are for her children to forever be happy & healthy and to one day meet Javon Ringer.  You can follow Molly on Twitter. Go Green!


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