The Benefits of Hiring Third Culture Kids in Organizations

I am the daughter of Haitian immigrants to the United States. I was raised by Haitian people in a Haitian household though I grew up in a small town on Long Island. I am a Third Culture Kid. It makes me great at my job, and I will gladly explain why. 

Merriam-Webster describes a third culture kid as a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which their parents grew up.  Another definition of Third Culture Kid, or TCK, includes children who spend their formative years in a place or places other than their parents’ homeland.

Third Culture Kids can be the children of immigrants growing up in a new country. They can be the children of military parents who frequently travel internationally. They can be children living and studying abroad for primary and secondary school. There are so many ways in which one can become a TCK, and there are so many things they have in common that make them great colleagues and leaders.

Cultural Intelligence

When discussing the cultural iceberg, we often see what is above the surface. This includes attire, hairstyles, food, language, music, and other easily observable aspects to culture. However, what many tend to miss are the parts of cultures that are not as obvious including speaking tones, eye contact or lack thereof, modesty expectations, facial expressions, or belief systems. TCKs are often able to use their experiences of immersion in more than one culture to know what to look for to best understand their colleagues.

Sensitivity to Diversity and Inclusion

We are products of our unique experiences. Too often, we can be ignorant to the experiences, struggles and triggers of those who identify differently. Third Culture Kids who have experiences interacting with people who they may not necessarily relate to. As a result, they have learned at an early age, about the realities of other cultures. A TCK living in the United States may be more sensitive to language and accents than someone who grew up surrounded by people who spoke English as their first (and sometimes only) language.

Problem Solving Skills

Exposure to various cultures allows one to learn and understand different perspectives.  Over time, it enables TCKs to actively seek other perspectives during a decision-making process which is an effective trait when looking to hire for a team or organization. They understand that they may not be able to see the full picture and connect with those who can help.

Adaptability

Third Culture Kids must often navigate the different worlds in which they live. These worlds could be countries they move to or cultures they interact with.  For many, the different worlds can simply be within and outside of their household. In the home, another language may be the primary form of communication. In the home, foods and traditions may closely align with those of the parents’ homeland. In the home, certain rules of engagement may be enforced. Whereas, outside of those walls, TCKs may have to switch to a new language, new societal expectations, and new cultural norms and traditions. Similarly, they can interact with a wide array of colleagues, vendors, customers, and leaders, and do so seamlessly.

If you are not a TCK, there are still opportunities to gain these invaluable skills.  Social media has had an undeniable impact on Millennials and Gen Z, in particular. Members of these generations, whose association in the workforce quickly continues to grow, have been raised with the world at their fingertips.  They can log onto Instagram, Twitter or TikTok and be immediately connected with people from across the globe. Social media has enabled us to experience and interact with countless other cultures without leaving our homes.  Next time you want to learn more about another culture or fine tune that DEI lens with which you see the world, grab your phone.

centricorg