I entered the Foreign Service as a second career. That means that I am considerably older than the average age of entrants to this career (31 years old is the average age of new hires to the service). Before I arrived in D.C. for training, I was a little worried that I would be the oldest person in my cohort, a 40-something surrounded by a bunch of “kids” barely older than my own children.
In fact, there are at least two people in my cohort of 87 who are only 23 years old. When I learned that, I had two reactions. Of course I was impressed that someone that young could have made it through the very rigorous selection process. I don’t think that I could have made it in when I was that age. I barely feel qualified at my current age.
The second reaction was a confirmation of my original fear, that I would be the exceptionally old guy in the group.
As I’m getting to know my cohort, though, I see that we represent a pretty even distribution of ages. Plenty of young singles, and many who are married with young children. I suspect that the ages of this cohort would probably fit the average of 30-something.
But I was really pleased to learn that I am not the oldest person in the group. I know for sure that one person is five years older than I am (I know this because he told me, not because I sneaked a look at his paperwork). After talking with some other classmates, I know that two others are older than me as well. Several of us have kids in college, and there is plenty of gray hair (and lack of hair) in the cohort.
Interacting with my classmates has been fun. Whenever we have some down time on training days, there is a lot of talking, a lot of interesting conversations. This is a good group. We’ve only been together for two weeks now, and we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to work together, so it remains to be seen how well we will get along professionally, but socially at least, it’s been good so far. I feel like I’m fitting in.
And I’m really glad that I’m not the oldest guy in the room.