This morning, I read an article about a man at our local YMCA who is a lifeguard. He is in his 70’s when most of the crew is in high school. I loved reading about his choice to not led his age be a factor in his application (and ultimate job offer).
If you’re thinking about or actively looking at the field of international education for employment, you may be concerned about how your age will impact your application. If you are nodding your head or sighing out loud, please know that I SEE YOU!
Legally, your age shouldn’t matter one bit. Yet after coaching hundreds of people who seek work (or to be promoted) in international education, age is an increasing part of the conversations I end up having.
You may be thinking that you won’t find an int’l ed job if you’re straight out of school or are over 40. THE TRUTH is that when you have the right strategy, no matter your age, you can still be very well positioned to break (or advance) in the field.
Here are a few tips if you’re fresh out of school or feel “too young” (whatever that means to you):
- If you are a recent grad, re-frame how you list your internships or volunteering on your resume. Don’t lead with “Intern” as your “job” title. Put it in parenthesis after your role.
- Don’t currently have a full time job in the field? Volunteer somewhere across cultures to open your resume. It shows hiring committees that even if you’re paying your bills in retail, you are dedicated to cross-cultural engagement. For example, you can volunteer as a language partner for non-native English speakers are your local US library or put your hand up to volunteer at a re-entry gathering at your local college or professional association event. Current experience is key to being “seen” in the field of international education.
- Think about what makes you unique at your age. Is it that you can dance around my generation with your tech skills? Is it that you can imagine yourself being able to travel extensively for work because you don’t have full time commitments at home at this juncture? Is it that your recent degree gives you current information on the field (in depth!) that someone who has been working full time hasn’t had time to study to the extent that you have? Make a list of what makes you a valuable candidate and sell it!
Here are a few tips if you’re over 40:
- Don’t remove your graduation date(s) from your resume. It looks like you’re hiding something or embarrassed about your age! After all, if we look at your work experience dates, we have a pretty good idea of your age anyway.
- Practice embracing your wisdom! Think about what experience it has given you and how you can parlay that into some great storytelling. Make a list of cultural incidents you have managed over the years. They are ideal for not only cover letters, but interviews which tend to ask situational questions.
- Remember the value of culture. In many cultures, having some gray hair and lines on our faces demands respect from our partners and other stakeholders. This is particularly useful when working with international students as many are from regions of the world that value elders differently than we do in the US. Use that to your advantage!
Age IS just a number after all. Some of the greatest colleagues I’ve worked with and learned from have been decades older than I am or decades younger. Having the ability to do the job and ideally work across diverse teams (including age!) is critical to succeeding in this field.
If you’d like other tips about the international education job search, follow along here. (You’ll also receive a free PDF that cover 5 myths about seeking work in international education when you do!)