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I am a 23 year old cis-woman in sociology. I entered college at 16 and grad school at 19. The program is in the US, so it is a five year program with a Masters along the way.

I have been reading a lot of advice about going on the academic job market (starting this year, ABD but with complete draft). Despite all my searching, there is one topic that I cannot find anything on: indicating or revealing one's age. I would never volunteer this information (like how women are especially aware not to reveal parental or marital status), but I am worried about accidentally dating myself with a comment. Would it be particularly bad? Would a committee be more impressed or wary? Any advice or insights would be appreciated.

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    I'd be surprised to hear a comment that could reliable distinguish a 23 year old from a 27 year old. – Azor Ahai May 21 at 22:02
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    Given the paucity of faculty under 40, I don’t think you have to worry about accidentally saying something that reveals your age. If for some reason it does come up I’d just say you went to college a little early, and I don’t think it’ll be a big issue. – Noah Snyder May 21 at 23:17
  • You'd date yourself using work history. – Owl May 22 at 22:32
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If you have well regarded publications and some demonstration of teaching experience at the collegiate level, your age may not be of significant concern to hiring committees. If I was a 45 year old on the hiring committee, is there really that much of a difference to me between a 23 year old and a 27 year old? (Okay, yes, there could be a difference. But how much? Some of that difference would amount to life experiences like graduating college, experiences you already will have attained, just at an earlier date).

Long story short, hiring committees are used to hiring new colleagues that are "young" and fresh. Being 23, 24 years old is likely not a point of concern.

I will add this: Anecdotally, many of the people I have run into in academia that are very young for their academic age (e.g. 19 year olds getting a PhD) have not gained the soft skills necessary for actually being a college professor. You can have a PhD and still have no clue how to deal with the guy who's 5 years your senior being a discipline issue in class. I know that when I was a graduate student in my early 20s and teaching classes, some students took advantage of my being very young. This is not to say this is your case. As long as you can demonstrate that you can be a mature instructor of a college class (letters of recommend and teaching ratings can speak to that), you will be fine. (And frankly, at 23, 24 years of age, you should be fine). Being a mature teacher is something that every hiring committee will look for anyway.

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    I'd like to add age and maturity are weakly correlated; I know people in their 60s who would be unable to deal with people and maintain discipline. OK they might find it easier being older rather than younger but it would only be a matter of time before people realised that they couldn't maintain order (or would participate in the chaos) – MD-Tech May 22 at 9:07
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I would suggests you out the years you attended college and grad school, or at least the years you obtained your degree, on your application. This is pretty standard in the US. From this along with the assumption you started college at 18, people will potentially think you are 2-3 years older than you are. Starting college at 16 is rare, but not all that impressive. The same with finishing in 3 years. So there is nothing really to brag about.

Given the gender bias that exists in academia, being perceived as older at your age is probably better. I wouldn't suggest you go out of your way to point out that you are young, but I also wouldn't worry about it.

  • +1. Presumably Amelia is a woman, and being a woman AND young is cumulating things that tenured faculty may object to privately. It's easier to fudge your age a bit than your gender – user104070 May 22 at 21:27
  • @GeorgeM not presumably, she says she is a woman in the first sentence. – StrongBad May 23 at 0:47
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Personally I doubt it is a big deal.

Like others: difference between 23 and 27 is minimal. If anything, perhaps it's a mild positive in that you are precocious.

Your resume normally won't have your age on it. Perhaps applications may have a birthdate. If so, just fill it in. Don't volunteer or bring it up in interviews as that might seem immature. But I would not refuse to answer the question if asked, either.

I would avoid dating yourself or saying things that are seen as immature (e.g. parents taking care of car insurance).

This advice would be different for a job changing mid-level professional who is 40 but looks younger. In that case, being perceived as still moldable and growable is helpful. (Not saying this is true...just the world we live in, in terms of how companies/people react.)

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    No, do not give birthdates on academic job applications. Graduation dates only. – paul garrett May 22 at 14:56
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    Not a lawyer, but you can't ask about age in an interview in the US unless it directly pertains to the job (e.g. bartender). It is illegal. – Chris Schneider May 22 at 15:15
  • @paulgarrett there might be some HR paperwork that requests race/ethnicity and birthdate, but they would be hyper aware that it is protected information. – StrongBad May 23 at 0:46
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I think you should use it as a way to promote your achievements.

In my case, which is slightly different, I might write in a job application something like

I published X papers from my PhD, while completing it at a younger age than 99% of US science PhDs (reference to NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates).

This shows I am very productive.

Keep in mind the typical age at which a PhD is attained varies by country and discipline. Note that I did not mention my current age (20 when I got a Bachelors, 25 for PhD, much older now...) because that is not relevant.

In any case, there is no need to worry about your age. Some institutions prefer to hire younger faculty because they are cheaper. Others will only hire faculty who are already famous (and therefore older), in which case new PhDs do not have a chance anyway.

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    I would suggest caution with this for the academic job market, although sociology may be different than my field of computer science. Hiring is very competitive and concrete; I would be surprised if this moves the needle. The downside is it might imply you feel your CV is not objectively strong, or you deserve a handicap, rather than wanting to be evaluated purely on the merits of your CV (which hopefully will be the case). (Edit: However, I also wouldn't worry if it comes up in conversion or can be easily inferred from your CV.) – usul May 22 at 10:52
  • Chronological age ought not be disclosed. Age since PhD is ok. – paul garrett May 22 at 14:57
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    I would avoid even bringing age into it. It's not a race. I spent several years living abroad as a volunteer for my church while I was in my early 20s. This meant I did not finish a PhD until I was a bit older than "normal." But is someone who finished a few years before me a stronger candidate for a job? – Vladhagen May 22 at 15:02
  • Yeah, bus sociology is not exactly a science.. – user104070 May 22 at 21:28
  • Thank you all! I certainly don't want to frame it like I think it's a bragging point! More so that I am concerned about how different things can add up (age, marital status, gender, etc) to affect one's candidacy, and how one can control these variable. – Amelia May 22 at 23:20

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