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Making Age A Non-Issue When You're A Young Entrepreneur

Tips to help you get taken seriously despite your youthful appearance

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Your public image-and maybe even your entire business-depends on your appearance and the way you carry yourself. Don't let your age paint you as any less qualified. Here are six tips to help you act the part of a professional and gain respect without reservations to age:

Dress the part. Make sure you're as professional as you can be and that you blend in with the people you're meeting with. For example, if you're in the advertising industry, dress fashionably. If you're a techie, ditch the banker's suit and bring on the khakis. If you look really young, bring props like a briefcase and a professional organizer.

Get some street cred. Earn references, experience and connections by working with key figures and organizations in your industry.

Use your youth as an asset. If you look genuinely interested in being there and you present yourself properly, your age can actually be an advantage.

Get bossy. If you're still in college or even in your 20s, your employees are probably going to be older than you. Win their respect by showing your respect for them. Be willing to say, "You know more about this than I do. What's your opinion?" Show them you respect the age difference.

Avoid schoolground chitchat. Leave talk about school, your parents or what happened last week on Dawson's Creek behind when you enter the office.

Redefine your peer group. Consider looking to a bigger circle of acquaintances to find business peers. Find those people in your peer group who are doing something a little bit different. Then look to your parents' friends and your family. Or find peers by joining industry organizations and groups.