Is Ageism Keeping You from Getting Hired?

ISR guest writer, Sidney Rose, shares his thoughts on ageism in International Education.

Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice.  Many of us would like to believe prejudice is a problem of the past, but this is clearly not the case. Incidents of prejudice and discrimination occur every day, including ageism, as practiced by International Schools and recruitment agencies.

I have been involved in international education for more than 30 years. I rose through the ranks: from teacher to Head of Department, then Deputy Head, and finally School Principal. I have been the Founding Principal of international schools in Sweden, Qatar, India (twice), China and most recently, Vietnam. I am an “expert” at obtaining Cambridge and IB accreditation and all things related to setting up a new school, to include acting as consultant to a few start-ups.

Finding a new assignment used to be relatively easy. I was in demand and commanded a good salary. Now that I am over 65, I can’t find a job. Suddenly no-one wants me! Recruitment agencies won’t even let me sign on with them. This, despite my credentials, experience and expertise.

I’m lively, energetic and enthusiastic about international education and in better shape than many younger men. I still have much to give, but my date of birth is a problem. If I remove my DOB from my resume, I get great responses from schools and recruiters… but when my age is finally revealed, everything suddenly goes quiet. You would think they would at least want to meet me and access my overall fitness to serve.

ISR covered this topic several years ago and perhaps it needs revisiting. Recruitment agencies are becoming ever more difficult.  Ageism is rife and stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people based on age is ever more widespread in international education.

I would like to reopen a discussion on this topic. To participate please scroll down and share your thoughts.


Sidney Rose

See the ISR Visa/Age Chart

Feelin’ Like I Don’t Fit In

I’ve been here since September, yet … I just don’t feel like I’m fitting in. I love living overseas for all the obvious reasons & thinking about my new school I couldn’t ask for better. So, what’s my problem?

Recently I’ve noticed 2 things that unify our staff:  Drinking & kids. If you’re a drinker you’ll fit right in & always have someone to hang with. If you have young kids, play dates at the park will yield an instant bevy of friends who also have children. As for me, socializing around a bottle has long been a thing of the past. And kids? I don’t have any of my own, so hanging out with families who plan activities around kid-type stuff never quite works for me.

I am about 10 years older than most of our staff, something our director didn’t mention during the recruiting process. Years ago, if I was speaking with someone 10 years my senior, I’d feel as if I were in the presence of my parents or one of their friends. Could it be this is how our younger staff see me?

I decided it’s time to look outside school for social fulfillment. I love dogs, cats & pets in general so surely there must be a group of pet owners in this cosmopolitan city who meet to share interests. I like hiking & scuba diving (no ocean here, though), reading, board games, the gym, museums & I’m open to trying new things.

I discovered not long ago & it’s been a good start. Through MeetUp I joined an expat book club & an art appreciation group that visits different museums around the area. There is life beyond bars and playgrounds! (I checked out but it’s mostly for expats who are just passing through town.)

Moving outside my comfort zone & saying ‘yes’ to things I might have said ‘no’ to back home has helped me meet people & initiate some budding friendships. For example, taking dance lessons is something I’d never, ever consider back home. But, forcing myself to try activities outside my comfort zone has opened up a new world for me. We have fun at dance class–we laugh at ourselves & at each other, all in good fun.

Are you currently, or have you been in a similar situation? Do you have some insights to share with me & other International Educators?

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion Board

How Old is Too Old to Teach Overseas?

birthday cake with the lot of burning candles

In most Western cultures, there are scads of people in their 50’s and decades beyond who are strong and athletic, accepting new career challenges, following a “clean” diet and becoming, in some ways, younger than ever before. They’re enjoying a thoroughly active lifestyle. Are these seniors fit, mentally & physically, to teach? Yes!! If a teacher feels up to the task, they’re welcome to head up a classroom and their experienced worldly perspective is appreciated. However, in some parts of the world, the perception of age carries very different connotations and limitations.

If you’ve lived in the developing world you have  probably seen that “40 is the new 70.” Life isn’t easy in these places and people appear to be aged far beyond their chronological years. In many such countries the mandatory age for retirement is set low and we as international educators are subject to those same regulations.  I was turned down for a position due to my age. The interviewing-director looked twice my years but apparently the date on his passport said different. Fit or fat, vibrant or over-the-hill, it’s your birth date that matters when it comes to getting a work visa.

One would think developed nations might welcome, older, more experienced educators to their shores. Unfortunately, most fear that older educators will face health problems and quickly become a financial burden on their system. Then there is the increased cost to a school that hires an older person because they generally cause health insurance costs to soar. Although most international school Directors will state they like to hire older educators because of the experience they bring to their school, it is apparent that due to other factors it may not always be feasible.

If you are over 50 and having trouble landing an overseas teaching position, don’t despair! You can still live your dream. ISR offers two valuable resources to help members of the “graying” population find overseas teaching posts. We invite you to visit the ISR Work Visa vs. Age Chart and the very informative Blog, Overseas & Over 50 with nearly 600 Comments from aging International educators around the world.

Work Visa vs. Age
Overseas & Over 50

Career Changers – Follow Your Heart, But Not to the Bottom of the Salary Scale

Posted by ISR Guest Blogger

In sour economies like the current one, teaching becomes a popular refuge for its high job stability and, especially among international schools, easy mobility. After a training program, laid-off workers can enter the profession in relatively short order, and certified teachers, who may have been working in other professions, can re-enter teaching when they see their prospects dry up elsewhere. The economy can even be the final spur that motivates people to change directions and act on a long-held desire to teach.

The trade-off is, of course, money. Would-be teachers considering a switch from a higher-paying profession balk, or at least should balk, at the idea of taking a $25,000 starting salary at a second-tier international school. Poor economy or not,  such numbers are insulting to any serious-minded professional. Recruiters will never fail to emphasize how much you can save given the cost of living in many countries. Still, some quick math, generally corroborated by reviewers on ISR, will show that the savings are rarely all that much when working at the bottom of the salary ladder.
So what can career changers or those returning to the profession after a long absence do to sell themselves? First, let’s consider the advantages older candidates bring to international teaching. Those in their 30s and 40s (hopefully) bring a greater reliability to their duties. It’s less likely that these will be the faculty members coming into class bleary-eyed after an all-night binger. Second, older candidates have probably already withstood significant job stress which can make them less likely to become “runners” when things don’t go as planned abroad. Most importantly, older candidates can bring related professional skills with them that school heads would be wise to note. For example:
Candidates with management experience often make great leaders at the department or administrative level. Those with athletic prowess can be inspiring coaches. Those coming from IT are likely to be far more agile in classroom technologies than the average instructor. Those who have experience in foreign languages, or with a specific foreign population,  should highlight how quickly they would adapt to X, Y or Z country or situation.
How much related skills are worth in real terms is anyone’s guess, and many school heads have blinders on to everyone but the most experienced candidates, but whatever added value you can communicate in your profile might give you a step up on what would otherwise be a very tall ladder. Career-changers and others,  ISR invites you to share your thoughts on this topic.

Overseas and Over-50: Ask a Question, Share Experiences, Advice and Support

over-50-2512686International Educators aging on the circuit report it’s becoming increasingly difficult to land positions. Age-related visa limits, health insurance restrictions, schools that hire less experienced teachers to cut costs and a variety of other unforeseen obstacles are factors affecting aging international educators.  Here’s the place to  share experiences, advice, support and ask questions on being Overseas and Over-50.  Also see our Visa/Age/Country Chart.

Please see the 2019 Update to this article:
Is Ageism Keeping You From Getting Hired?