Respect the Noobs + My Experience with Disrespect

7633_559309866699_31800419_33146569_2513151_nLook at how young I look in that picture. Oh, those were the days. haha —–>

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This is a post that’s been brewing for a while. Weeks, months… perhaps even years. This is for anyone in any industry. Whether it’s AV, technology, media, social media, education, furniture, whathaveyou.

Respect the Noobs in your industry, no matter how ignorant they are (or think they are).

My reasoning for making this statement is three-fold:
1. You were new once, too
2. The “industry noob” may know more than you think they do
3. By disrespecting, or by showing disrespect to a young member of your industry, you’re not setting yourself up to make friends in the long run

1. You were new once, too
That’s right. Despite how “big” or “successful” you are now, you were once new in your industry.

I know. Shocker.

Sorry to burst your bubble. But how did you get to where you are now? You had to start somewhere. You had to learn from someone. You had to gain the knowledge, acquire the resources, make the mistakes, and get the experiences you needed to climb the industry/corporate/life ladder.

Think about where you started, where you went, and where you are. How did it all happen? What was the process? If I had to bet my bank account on it, I’d say hard work, blood, sweat, tears, mistakes, failures, triumphs, successes, and a pat on the back somewhere along the way.

2. The “industry noob” may know more than you think they do + 3. By disrespecting, or by showing disrespect to a young member of your industry, you’re not setting yourself up to make friends in the long run 

This story is from a personal experience.
Five years ago, social media wasn’t a thing people could “do for a living” – if someone who does “social media” for a living tells you they’ve been “doing social media for a living” for over a decade, they’re lying to you. Maybe they’ve been in “media,” or “have written a blog,” or “had a Geocities page” – but social media? No.

Shortly after moving to North Carolina, I attended a local social media conference. Now, this was 2009, so just a year or two into the “I do social media for a living” craze. I was unemployed, but had, in fact, been well versed in digital media from my collegiate years and was doing some freelance marketing consulting for small, medium, and large businesses (and had been doing so for over a year at that point).

Now, of course I was no expert, but I had enough real-life experience and real-life success stories to have somewhat of an idea as to what I was talking about.

Back to the forum / conference. At one of the panels at this forum, the topic turned from “how business can leverage social media,” to companies hiring young college or just-graduated-from-college people to “Tweet” or “Facebook” for them and how this was a poor practice and the “death of social media” and a “disrespect to experienced media professionals.” One particular panelist was very“anti-young-person-in-social-media.”

So, I spoke up.

I talked about the potential in those younger employees – how many of them were using the tools to begin with and might have a fresh idea or two for traditional, old-schoolers. And how their ideas, while they might not always work, can sometimes be innovative and exciting and add a new marketing touch to a particular company. That they were gaining valuable experience. Let them make mistakes. Let them celebrate successes. Etc. etc.

Now, this particular panelist, who shall remain nameless, immediately shot me down. He told me I was wrong. Told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. Told me that I was one of those “inexperienced kids they were referring to” who needed to pay my dues before getting a job like that.

And this was said in front of everyone.

And while not everyone agreed with him, some did. Some stood up for me. But others didn’t.

And this particular panelist, has shot to success since then. His blog is a top 50 blog on AdAge. He’s super successful. He speaks atSXSW. Toot toot.

Now, people call him an “expert.”

And although I don’t hold grudges and I am quick to forgive, there is still a part of me that looks at his success and remembers the day he embarrassed me in front of my professional peers and people I looked up to.

I felt defeated that day. I felt like no one would hire me. I felt like my age was a hindrance in finding a job that I loved. It was horrible.

But the fact is, sure, I didn’t have as much experience as he did, but I did know what I was talking about. I did and DO know how to bring value to people I work with and companies I associate with.

Three years later I’m the Director of Marketing for an AV publishing firm and I’m proud of what we do and I’m proud of the work I’ve done and the hours I’ve put in to get here.

I still have a LONG way to go and I am by no means, “successful” or an “expert” or “seasoned.” But I do know one thing, I will ALWAYS treat someone younger than me who is interested in what I’m doing with respect and dignity.

I will encourage them, rather than tear them down.

And, so often, I see blatant disrespect happen like that towards “interns” or “young employees” and it hurts me to see.

We should be building up and giving these people the experience they need. Heck, they could be our bosses some day.

What do you think? Have you ever had an experience like this? Was I wrong? Am I full of it? Share your thoughts, below.