I recently had the pleasure of hosting a pot luck dinner for a bunch of young adult Third Culture Kids. Alaine Handa and her dance company were in town, performing at the Toronto Fringe Festival and they came together with several others connected with the local TCK community.
As we chatted the conversation naturally turned to these young people’s careers. All were at some stage on the path to establishing themselves in the working world and several were living outside their home country or not in the same country as their parents. Anyone with a 20-something child knows how difficult it is these days for young people to get a start. Getting any job is hard, and there are often many false starts and changes of direction. From my own family’s experience I know it is hard when kids can’t tap into their parents’ network of contacts, friends and colleagues. Many TCKs haven’t held part-time jobs through high school and trail competing candidates when it comes to local work experience.
Watching my own son look for his first job, together with my own job search upon repatriation, was an eye-opener for me on how much the working world has changed in recent years. Internships and contract work are the norm, as are many more part-time jobs with evening and weekend hours than used to be the case. Employees, even freshly minted grads, are expected to perform “out-of-the-box,” with little or no training and flexibility is key.
While TCKs may lag their contemporaries when it comes to contacts and experience, many of the common characteristics of TCKs will stand them in good stead in this new environment.
- The ability to adapt quickly to new situations
- Willingness to relocate
- A sense of urgency (let’s do it now, before we move again)
- Self confidence and independence
- Observational skills
- Fluency in more than one language
- Cross cultural skills
- A global network of social contacts (which may eventually turn into business contacts)
- A big picture view
Far from being at a disadvantage, I suspect that today’s TCKs have a significant advantage over their stay-at-home counterparts. Certainly these particular TCKs seem to be taking it all in their stride.