The oddest thing about being a young professional.

January 10, 2012 · 32 comments

Being a twenty something, in a land of “older-somethings”, is pretty stinkin’ interesting. I’m the youngest (not newest) agent in my field office and many of my coworkers have done this job longer than I’ve been alive, literally. The coworker I went out to dinner with last night has 27 years under his belt (plus eight as a police officer before that).

Even though I am treated respectfully by my colleagues, I rarely get that same respect out in the field. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve introduced myself as Special Agent (Insert my name here) to someone and had the person say something to me like, “Aren’t you a little young to be working for the government?”

It’s a pretty awkward question.

Being repeatedly asked “How old I am” during my work day is pretty weird. But nothing, I mean nothing, fascinates me as much as people who let my age convince them that they no longer need to act professional.

Basically, I’ve noticed people seem to use a lot more profanity in their vocabulary when I’m interviewing them than they do when my supervisor or an older colleague is.

I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended by people who casually drop the F bomb in mid conversation with me. Maybe my youthful appearance makes them feel comfortable and like they can be themselves (good thing)? Or perhaps, they have zero respect for me and could care less if I find their potty mouth inappropriate (bad thing)?

It’s possible I’m just being hypersensitive to the situation. I gave up profanity many moons ago, as have most of my friends, so I’m not around it all too much. Maybe I’m just caught off guard by the way many people throw the “F word” around like its going out of style?

Let me see if this example helps…

My everyday vocabulary consists of some pretty juvenile words; epic, sick, freakin’, and tight to name a few. I use these words when talking with friends and even some of my coworkers. But I never, ever, ever use these terms when I’m out dealing with people on a professional level. If I did people may not take me seriously.

Just as though you may not take me seriously if I drop the word “radical” in to a conversation, it’s extremely difficult for me to take you seriously when every other word out of your mouth is a four letter one.

I’ll never understand why people thinks its okay to curse in front of complete strangers. Is there anything about your professional life that just makes you scratch your head and go “Why”?

p.s. I should make it clear that I could care less if people swear in their personal life. It doesn’t bother me when some of my friends curse, nor do I think I’m better than them for not cursing. Just like I don’t think I’m better than my wife for not drinking alcohol. I’m simply trying to say I’m surprised by the situations in which people are comfortable cursing (during a federal investigation), and not necessarily by the curse words themselves.

1 slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com

I used to have this problem until I started looking old. :-)

The thing that really makes me scratch my head in a professional context is judgmental little sh*ts who fail to realize that employees’ choice of words is often a function of their corporate culture and has nothing to do with the age of the self-centered dweeb they happen to be talking to. j/k

2 Ninja

When was the last time you dropped an F bomb during a job interview, or when you met someone’s parents for the first time? Probably never. Because it would be inappropriate.

The people I’m talking about have never met me before. There is no rapport built and there is an expectation of professionalism (I am wearing a freakin suit and identifying myself as a federal agent, badge and all).

I’m not venting about some dude at a bar or restaurant that asks me how my F’ing day was.

3 John

As harsh as the OP came across, he makes a valid point. Your post was not referring to a job interview. When dealing with clients, I won’t come in, guns ablaze, dropping f-bombs on them. But after building rapport, I make a judgement call and I’ll start to slip some profanity into the conversation. I find that when someone uses it with me, it makes me think that they feel comfortable with me and the conversation relaxes a bit.

As I said before, I wouldn’t approach it as the OP did, but you are coming off as somewhat judgmental in the post. I commend you for not cursing as that is an honorable choice, but judging perfect strangers based on how they act is less commendable.

4 Ninja

Not judging. It’s possible to disagree with one’s choices without judging said person. I don’t like alcohol, but I don’t judge people that drink, just like I don’t judge people that curse. I could care less if you curse, nor do I think I’m better than anyone for not cursing. Just dumbfounded by the situations in which some people choose to do so.

5 slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com

“Even though I am treated respectfully by my colleagues, I rarely get that same respect out in the field.” When I read this, I think you are judging it as disrespectful.

6 C

He is pretty self centered.

7 Iris

I just in awe that people would curse during an interview… with anyone! That is madness…

8 Larry

At the small software company I work out, we had a VP once whose every other word (at least when he was with me) was “F—.” He was a little more circumspect with the company owners. Do I use that word, ever? Very rarely. Can’t say I never have, but the fewer times it’s used (and only to peers), the more impact it has on the rare occasions I choose to include it.

“Is there anything about your professional life that just makes you scratch your head and go ‘Why’?”

Is there anything that doesn’t . . . . ? The way people dress often cracks me up. Our company’s implicit dress code is always “neat casual,” though I’m not always sure about the “neat.” Jeans are fine (though I always wear decent dress pants and shirt). Ties (thank God!) are not necessary; even the president doesn’t usually wear one. Basically, nobody really cares what you wear so long as you get your work done, though one kid was sent home because he came in wearing shorts one day. Yet there’s one guy who always dresses as if he’s going for an interview at a Fortune 500. And another who always wears a half-decent shirt, a really nice silk tie, ratty looking jeans, and worn-out brown loafers that he never seems to change. Now if that doesn’t justify an occasional F-word, what does.

9 Larry

“At the small software company I work out,”

– work at
I do not work at a gym.

10 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

There’s a lot of cursing in my job, but I find it’s only when the older guys forget I’m there. They tend to be more respectful around me and the younger people, I think because they feel like we are going to run to HR or our mommy if we hear a bad word.

11 StackingCash

People tend to have problems expressing themselves. For me, my coworkers tend to drop the f bomb quite often, which causes me to do the same :/ I never really noticed my problem until one of my old friends pointed it out to me. Funny how society tends conditions your language. I think you shouldn’t take offense because I think they are just trying to emphasize their situation with the f bomb.

12 Ashley

While I haven’t been subject to constant swearing (even though I curse like a sailor and have since about 6th grade. I’ve accepted it’s a personality trait, probably having to do with parents / living in Boston), I have definitely noticed older colleagues act differently around me. It’s weird: I’m not so much offended by it, because – as lame as it sounds – I think they’re just trying to be “hip” because I’m the age of their daughter or granddaughter, so they let loose a lot more. Still working on just gaining that respect as just another co-worker, but it’s tough.

13 SP

I regularly get asked about my age as well, and find it extremely frustrating & annoying. No, it is NOT flattering when someone replies with “Oh, I thought you were only like 23!” That is flattering (maybe) if I’m out on a Saturday night, not in a Tuesday morning meeting. But people never swear around me (and vice versa), but this probably is also because I’m a woman and have a generally innocent seeming vibe. (I’m not quite as innocent as I look, but I really don’t get swearing, so I guess they are right on that one.)

What I also find frustrating is that my older coworkers like giving me “life advice” that worked for them (or that they wish they would have done). Like “buy a house ASAP” (even though I don’t know where we’ll live long term), advising me to save for retirement (duh!) and telling me that since my husband is in grad school, he’s just a slacker. And that one day I won’t care about visiting my family back home, so I hsould just get over it now. Uh, no. Just because I’m younger than you doesn’t mean I don’t have my own ideas on how to live my life.

14 kim

Sounds like a good thing – hopefully it works to your advantage, like the person drops information they normally wouldn’t to a seasoned (let’s call it grizzly) professional.

15 Brian

It depends on who I am dealing with. I deal with a lot of people from all over the world and for some of them (read the Irish) profanity is just what they do and many of them don’t even realize it. I try to stay as professional as possible, but sometimes you just have to know your target audience and go with what they do.

16 Matt

I find that people use profanity more when their guard is down and they feel comfortable around you. They think that you’re a lot like them and feel like they can express themselves in that way. I don’t think it is professional by any means, but that is my experience.

17 Kristin

I never swore in high school. Then, when I went to college, my school was majority male and my major was 2/3 male with a lot of ROTC people, and a lot of them swore like sailors, and I fell into doing the same around my peers, probably somewhat in rebellion of my more conservative upbringing and in an attempt to not be seen as uptight. Now I try not to do that at work, a kind of separation of spheres so to speak, but it does happen around the people I work most closely (who happen to be on the younger end of the spectrum), when something goes wrong. (That happens often in engineering.) But I would never curse on a job interview or my superiors, and I try not to in front of my family. I cringe when I realize I’ve let a nasty word drop in a public place with small children around.

18 Catch!

Did I miss it somewhere or did you get a new job? I tried to go back and find it but I couldn’t so I’m just asking….wasn’t this Federal Agent job the one you were debating and you said no in the then or do I have it all wrong? The one that sounded super cool on paper….?

Also, I get the same thing all the time at work, being 27 and looking younger. The funny thing is, I have more senority than most of my collegues (over 7 years) and I’m a rank above a lot of them. But I still feel weird about my job all the time….age is a weird thing.

I was going to say about your job, what kind of Federal Agent are we talking about here? I assume since one of your co-workes is an ex police officer then it’s along those lines, but I don’t know. If tha’s the case, I find that in that type of work people tend to think swearing is normal, and maybe that’s why others are so free with it?

19 Catch!

Also forgot to add, I assume when you say you’re interviewing people, it’s not for a job, it’s as part of YOUR job…like an investigation. So that’s a bit different, and it seems a lot of the population don’t really have that much respect for authority figures in the first place, let alone younger, less experienced ones. Not saying it’s right, just saying that’s my experience.

20 Ninja

I have always been a federal agent. The job you are talking about was a different position (still a federal agent) that I ultimately turned down. I can see how you got confused if you didn’t know what my full time job was. Hopefully this clears things up.

21 This Guy

Pretty sure there is SOMEONE younger than you in the field office…..

22 Ninja

whoops should of said “team” haha. second youngest in office :)

23 C

My, someone thinks a lot of themselves.

I don’t care if people swear. It doesn’t make you unintelligent, it doesn’t make you a bad person. I curse like a sailor and if people have a problem with it, too bad. I don’t care what people think of me.

Then again, I’m not uptight about every little thing, don’t think people are naturally monogamous and believe that people should stop popping out brats, so maybe I’m just full of it, to some people’s thinking.

24 classier than you

When you curse like a sailor in any situation that’s not enormously stressful,
you communicate a few things.
1. You have no respect for the people around you. Many of us DON’T want to hear your f bombs and ranting.
2. You have very low standards, and limited self-control.
3. You are vulgar, and don’t know any better, or don’t care
4. Your intelligence is limited, because if you were smarter and more creative, you could think of a more articulate (and less profane) way to express yourself.

25 krantcents

As a teacher, I am amazed how my students use those words so casually. I make a point that they can express themselves better, but it is not reinforced at home. I have a command of all those words in English and Spanish and never once used them unintentionally. I have discipline and self control or is it maturity?

26 C

Why are you so uptight about swearing? It’s just stupid. Swears are just words, like any other words. Are you American? Americans make everything taboo. I should know, I am one.

27 Mo D.

To impress my then boyfriend’s (now husband’s) Croatian Mom and Hungarian Dad (who are now my in-laws), a co-worker (who married a Hungarian) taught me some basic words and phrases in Hungarian; problem is she taught me both the list of things I SHOULD say, and the list of things I SHOULDN’T say… and I got my lists mixed up. In a nutshell, I told my MIL to “F-Off”… THANK GOODNESS she had a sense of humour about it!

28 C

Oh yes, to answer the question.

I work as a cashier at Walmart, and what baffles me is how people think they can speak to me. I’ve had people:

Make fun of my name
Call me a bitch
Tell me to fuck off
Raise their voices at me
Report me to my manager for “not looking happy” while being on my feet all day dealing with the dregs of society for not even $11 per hour
Ask invasive personal questions about my life that had no relevance to me scanning their shit and sending them on their way
Tell me to smile, presumptuously and rudely
Tell me I should be grateful for my shitty job

There are more, but I can’t think of them. My job baffles me every day. I have no idea how the f*ck I got there or how the f*ck I’m going to get out…

29 jessica W

I TOTALLY hear you on that. I got my first college degree at 17, and my second one at 20. I was a paid lobbyist at 23 (but I was a volunteer lobbyist for may organizations from 18-23). Talk about awkward. Everywhere I went, someone would stop me and ask me to carry a file to the mailroom or Representative Whoever’s office….

Just like picking up the phone and having the caller ask “is your mom home?”

30 jessica W

And for what it’s worth there is NO reason to use profanity in the workplace. My husband works in a prison.. they don’t even swear there.

31 Chariot

My husband has one of those jobs where you start to think everyone in the world is a horrible human being. He’s a claims adjuster and has to deal with people and their money and contractors who want money. The worst thing he’s been called -to his face- was “Son of the devil.” A common misconception is that he makes money from denying people’s claims when the reality is he makes more money when a house has damage. He WANTS a house to have hail damage. IF it’s there he will write up for it.

He gets asked a lot about his age and experience when people don’t agree with his assessment. Most of the people in his field seem to be 10 years older and look down on anyone with less experience (although not necessarily less knowledgeable).

32 Katy

I’m with you Ninja. The only difference is I do judge people who swear. I think it makes people seem ignorant, but like you said, not because of the words themselves but because of the situations in which they think it’s okay to swear.

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