As mentioned in earlier posts, Dr. Ruth Useem did research on third culture kids by collecting 700 questionnaires from TCKs living in the US. Through her research, she found that Third Culture Kids had a ‘prolonged adolescence’: http://www.tckworld.com/useem/art3.html. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that before reading more into it. Basically, she found that after moving around so much, a TCK in his or her late teens and twenties is out of ‘synch’ in comparison to non-TCKs of the same age. This is when TCKs try and figure out their career, their social network, and whether or not they want to settle down into a relationship. Dr. Useem explains that Third Culture Kids usually take longer to make up their minds in terms of the job they want, the person they want to be with, and the friends they want to surround themselves with.
Do you feel that this is true? I am torn about this finding. I think that quite a few people in their twenties are trying to find the right job that fits their personality and values, TCK or not. I thought that’s what your twenties were for? Also, don’t non-TCKs also question settling down, especially in their twenties, when they are still figuring out their career and trying to work up that ladder? Is this truly TCK-specific? Or is this twenties-specific?
I mean, yes, personally I went through this sort of thing. (Although I still maintain that a non-TCK could go through the same pattern). It started during high-school. I was sure I wanted to work hard and make something of myself in the corporate world. Even though I had no idea where or for what company yet, I was ambitious and ready to work my butt off to get to the top. I went to Business School in Boston where I did a concentration in Finance. With this, I decided I would apply to banks and some other corporations in London. Not surprisingly, I was jetlagged for both my first and final interview at Bloomberg. Although, let’s be honest, as TCKs, we are very familiar with jet-lag, from traveling to and from places visiting family or old friends. So I did my best to overcome the fatigue and managed to get a job in Sales and Account Management at Bloomberg in London. Up until that point, I’d say this was maybe un-TCK if we believe Dr. Useem’s view of a prolonged adolescence to be true.
I loved working at Bloomberg for the first two years. The company was diverse, international and very young at heart. Since the clients were from banks and asset management companies all over the world, Bloomberg needed people working there who spoke those different languages and could easily adapt to different backgrounds. During my time there, I met some wonderful people. I was working hard and traveling three weeks a month to Paris to see clients. The challenge and stress of working in financial services was exhausting but also thrilling. However, after two years, I realized I didn’t like the sales role. You had to impose. I wanted to help people and listen to their problems. And although sales was partly about this, it was also about imposing your time, your presence and your product.
I would say that this was when I got into what Dr. Useem calls a ‘prolonged adolescence’. I was trying to figure out my passion. I didn’t want to feel as if I was wasting weeks, months of my life. I wanted to do something that was meaningful to me. I had no idea where to go from here. What would feel rewarding? What was important to me? What did I want to spend my time doing? I had never had to think about what I wanted to do. I had always sort of known where I was going. And now I was lost. Confused. And scared to leave a path that felt safe. Was it time to move to a new city again? Would I be escaping and avoiding the issue altogether? Catch my next post to find out how I figured the next part out and started feeling more settled (well, as settled as we can be as TCKs…).