Have you ever wondered what it’s like—or maybe you remember—being the youngest member of a company? And how does the generation gap present itself, particularly for interns?

PurpleAsia is a company with more than 20 years of experience. The team comprises in-depth experts in their fields, so it might be easy to understand how I identify as the youngest in the company.

The generation gap here is actually quite vast; as a new intern in the company, I trail the next youngest person by six years. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is welcoming and kind, but it still took me about a month to really find my voice. I constantly asked myself whether I should join conversations and how I could get to know team members better one-on-one.

Luckily the team is quite friendly—everyone enjoys lunch together, and ordering teas/smoothies is like a ritual. It wasn’t long before I felt I could easily integrate and be part of the team, further proof of how friendly and welcoming the environment is and the inspiration for the second episode of my series, ‘Agency Life’.

A few tips I’ve gathered since interning at PurpleAsia:

  1. Be polite! Politeness should be the bare minimum, regardless of age or language gap. Don’t touch personal items on your colleague’s desk; if you feel compelled, ask first. Say good morning; it helps people start a conversation with you. Never interfere in people’s stories—it’s weird.
  2. Stay positive, and don’t skimp on smiles. Being positive, willing to listen, and ready to learn are the fastest ways to make headway as the youngest person on a team. Further, smiling makes it easier to start a conversation and brings people’s guard down; it’s also much more friendly than being silent and appearing emotionless.
  3. Listen more. Listening helps you understand your new colleagues’ personalities. Whether it’s small talk or during an important meeting, choosing to listen first helps with long-term communication and avoids repetition or embarrassment for all involved.
  4. Be yourself. Wasting time being anyone other than yourself is exhausting. No matter your personality, a little silly, slow to react, or the tiniest bit mischievous, being yourself helps people understand the real you and will give your colleagues an understanding of how to interact with you and give direction. Besides, who wants to be loved for being who they are not?

Any new work environment, especially where a significant generation gap exists, may seem difficult, but what we get in return is immeasurable. Despite the age gap, I’ve received so much insight into my field (often more than at university), interest from my colleagues, and support when needed, all because I was open and ready to learn but also stayed true to who I really am.

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