A bit of History,or more accurately, Herstory.
When I was a teenager starting out on my own, I had a hard time getting a job because I had no experience at anything.
“How do I get experience if I can’t get a job?” I asked. No one had a really good answer, but I was told to just keep trying things until something worked out.
My dad thought he could get me a part-time student job where he worked. They had a program where staff members with high schoolers could get their kids jobs during the summer to get some experience and a little cash. Apparently, that did not apply for the Building Maintenance Manager, aka The Janitor, or his high schooler. Although I had suspected as much, I didn’t really think class discrimination was an issue until this happened. My father was embarrassed that he didn’t know he wasn’t included, and ashamed that he couldn’t help his child when everyone else was helping theirs.
I felt enraged at the stupidity behind this kind of treatment. My father was a brilliant man, but life circumstances had put him in the position of working at a job where one is treated as if one is just not smart enough or good enough to do any better. Yet, he was so much better than they knew.
After that incident I took a left turn in life and it took many years for me to get a decent paying job. I never felt that I deserved my good fortune in landing a “decent” job, and that someone would find out that I really didn’t belong to this class of fortunate people and take it away from me. In reality, I know I was a good, hard worker and was very good at what I did.
After many years of putting my heart and soul into my job, I started to notice some weird things once I turned 50. Bosses came and went, but I was always there, holding down the fort. My bosses were getting younger as I was getting older, and for the first time in my career, I felt like I was always doing something wrong even though I wasn’t. Little things started happen…such as my getting left out of an email that went to the rest of the team. The parts of my job that I liked started being handed off to new people on the team and I was being given less responsibility and more mundane mind-numbing duties. Was I just imagining this?
By the time I turned 55, it was very apparent that my newest boss did not want me on his team, however, labor rules being what they sometimes are, he could not fire me or lay me off. Instead, he systematically made my work life so unbearable that when the company was doing some major layoffs, he offered me a job he knew I abhorred with the hope that I would take a voluntary layoff rather than do that job. His plan worked and I took early retirement rather than work at a job designed to make me slit my throat.
I wasn’t worried about getting another job. I’ve never had problems getting hired as an adult. What I found when I went on the job hunt took me apart brick by brick. By the time I was 57 my self worth was nowhere to be found. I didn’t recognize myself and I didn’t know what to do.
Try to get a job in your field after age 55. Go ahead. Try it. If you can do it, kudos to you. You should write a fucking book.
I’ve talked to a lot of people my age who have also found that after becoming jobless, there is no place for them in their chosen field. Those of us that have tried to get a job even half as good as what we had, have become desperate enough go to places like Home Depot, K-Mart, Target or anywhere just to get some form of employment. Reasons for not getting hired: I was over qualified, would probably have to move appliances, they were looking for someone with lots of energy (perky), would probably get bored too easily, (add any other excuse here). That’s if I even got an interview. Mostly, I just got rejection letters or emails.
I worked “tech support” in a call center for 6 months…it was actually a sales job with a tech support component. Places like that are geared toward entry level employees, and they treat you as such regardless of your experience and background. It was a real meat grinder. They hire anyone who is breathing and can use a computer. When I was starting my young adult life this type of job might have been appropriate. Not so much now.
So what does one do for satisfying work at my age?
I’ve been able to get a tiny bit of freelance work in my field. Not enough to support my basic needs. So I decided to research how I could work for myself doing something I could actually live with. After a lot of soul searching and researching companies, I decided to get in on a ground floor opportunity as an independent advisor for a new jewelry company that sells on a home party plan. Not anywhere near my normal choice of work, but I’m no longer normal. I have to find the new me. What better way to do so than by dressing up, putting on makeup, jewelry, going to fun events and watching as people ooh and aah over this fantastic line of quality jewelry. Smiles are good.
It’s harder to get people together for these types of parties than it was I was a kid. Back then, when we didn’t have any way to keep in touch besides phone calls, letters or getting together in person, home sales parties proliferated. I remember my mom having parties and attending parties…I lurked in the background and took mental notes about appropriate social behavior while munching on party treats with the women-folk.
Now with social networking the norm, some of us have lost our knowledge of hospitality, courtesy and real conversation, and some of our children have never experienced something akin to these social shopping events. Although I love my network connections and would never give up my electronic gadgets, I see the home party plan making a comeback as one way to bring back some of the social graces we’ve lost in shuffle of progress. Also, it gives me a reason to get up, get dressed and out of the house. I’ve got a new energy and direction and I’m saying ta-ta to my old self.
Can’t find your way back into your career? Can’t find a job? Heading into the 4th quarter of your life and feeling a bit dazed and confused? Consider doing something you’ve never considered doing before. Do the research, discover what you can live with, find a product or service that you like, and become the new you. There’s no test to pass, there’s no one to tell you why you can’t do it (unless you live with some asshole) and there’s nothing to lose by trying. From my perspective, there’s a lot worse things than selling high quality fashion jewelry at home parties (and I’ve done those things) and there’s no where to go but up!
And who doesn’t like beautiful jewelry?
Update: August 2012
My jewelry thing is not going as well as I had hoped…I’m not much of a sales person. I continue with it, but have decided to open a store and office, to sell needful things and my technical services. We’ll see how this goes. Still piecing it together, but surviving. Hope you are, too.