For my profession, if one reads all of the "graying statistics" that abound, I am young. Compared to the majority of my classmates in library school--I was extremely young. I recognize this, I've tried to capitalize on this in interviews (connected to the younger generation and all that.) However, I find myself more and more insulted when professionals that I meet blatantly refer to my age. It always begins with "So...you're fresh out of library school?"
I spent the first eight months out of library school looking for a professional position, went into publishing for a year, and have been doing database design for four months. I've been out of library school for two years and I find myself extremely annoyed at this automatic assumption.
It's not a question anyone would ask of the majority of my classmates. Most of them were beyond 35 and many were in their late forties. I don't hold this against them, I understand (and witnessed) many burnt out professionals seeking to do the part of their job that they actually enjoyed (information work). They could walk into the exact same situation, though, and not be given this question--merely because they have a few more years of maturity in their faces.
Age is a funny thing to guage any way around it. At the theater and at my publishing job I have had people assume I was much older than I am. (It's hard to be told you look nearly 10 years older than you are...). When discovering my age, everyone then stumbles about, apologizing with astonishment and mentioning something about my poise and maturity. It's amusing and painful to realize that a little common sense means I'm old. On the flip side, I'm four years younger than my boyfriend and we have siblings inbetween us (my older sister/his younger brother). Drives him bonkers. Doesn't bother me much.
It starts me out on the wrong foot though to have someone assume I'm incompetent because I'm young--and that's always implied with the fresh out of school assumption. How do you know what my background is? I might have worked in libraries all through high school and college and know what's going on in them nearly as well as any new professional. I might have been in another professional position but be relocating due to any number of family, personal or other reasons that aren't readily apparent.
Please don't make an assumption because I don't have a lot of gray hairs (there are a few floating around up there...). Please be professional and give me the opportunity to volunteer my background, rather than have to defend my background based on the wrinkles or lack thereof in my face.