We’ve all heard that line so many times that it has long since entered senior citizen status in the family of clichés. And, I would wager, we all heard it from the same source: our parents. I know my mother said this phrase often, but, oddly, she also indicated the very opposite was true. If I was diligent in my studies, earned a college degree, then earned at least one graduate degree, and lived an honest, giving life, I would be a success and good things would come to me because, well, that’s how life works.
My mother also told me, when she heard I was about to donate blood for the first time, to make certain that I ate a rare steak afterwards, so the blood I’d donated would be replenished. She was wrong about that, too.
And, yet, there are elements of truth in both statements. Eating a rare steak won’t replenish the lost blood, but bulking up on iron-rich foods—steak, for example—for a week or so after donating blood is a smart move as it helps build up lost iron. And the steps to success my mother listed aren’t necessarily bad steps to follow, but they are only part of what is required to reach success and a rewarding life. Attitude, opportunity, personality, and serendipity are equally important–in fact, more so–to have life smile on us. But the key thing to remember is this: all of these, plus education and an honest and giving life, end up guaranteeing bupkis.
This has become startlingly real to me since June, when the organization I worked for was forced to lay off a significant percentage of its staff and I was part of that number. At the time I said, and still say, another of my mother’s sayings (which I’m certain you have also heard): “When one door closes, another opens.” Frankly, I am anxious to see what is behind the next door.
However, finding that door in this economy, especially when I meet the definition of “older worker” (which, statistically, is anyone over 40), presents challenges that aren’t addressed by college degrees, an honest and giving lifestyle, experience, talents, skills, or even attitude and personality. Worse, yet, is that I reside in Connecticut which has a lower than average unemployment rate for older workers
I do most, if not all, of the right things. Pretty much, anyway. I have taken advantage of a goodly number of resources, workshops, presentations, and services offered by the Connecticut Department of Labor. My résumé has undergone more revisions than the movie script for “Gone With The Wind”, I scan the job postings and talk to almost everyone I meet, and participate in three formal networking groups (and will be joining two others).
One thing I have noticed is that at the networking groups it is clear morale is at its most vulnerable. I have been in some where there are as many as twenty-five people—all but maybe two or three are well past the above-defined age of 40—whose emotions run the gamut when discussions ensue. I have seen the résumés of people with C-suite work histories who cannot get their feet in any doors sitting next to career blue-collar workers who panic every time yet another business leaves Connecticut. Several have been out of work for more than two years and hope hovers near their souls, but no longer really perches.
Daily, I receive job search results from five Web sites and I apply for those that fit me. Or seem to. That hasn’t translated to many applications, thus far, as almost every job posting I receive, along with those I view in other searches, has very specific requirements that most often rule me out as a viable candidate.
In the old days—meaning before the economic debacle of 2008–we would be encouraged to apply to almost anything because, well, you never know. Recruiters would often review a résumé and evaluate it on face value; a candidate might look promising even if he/she wasn’t a perfect fit based on the job description. But now, résumés are submitted on-line and are most often screened by programs that look for a given number of key words. If one’s résumé passes that screening, a second one thins the herd further based on another algorithm. Those résumés that pass this screening are forwarded to a human who decides which ones are worth following up. Bottom-line: if one doesn’t meet the requirements of a posted position, don’t bother applying: There are less stressful ways to waste time.
When frustrated, it’s difficult to keep from thinking, “this isn’t fair.” When I find myself in that mindset I try to remember that fair is nothing more than a meteorological term. And yet, the word, as most people I know use it, is treated as a pathological absolute. A near-impossible goal. A higher-and-mightier something or other. A reward for being good (whatever that means). It is none of those. And it is all of those.
And, as with my mother, while we’re taught that life won’t be fair, we still get disappointed when that proves true.
Still, I don’t wallow in despair. At least not yet. Sure, I have concerns and doubts, and some days are a bit tougher than others, but, so far, I still believe deeply that I will find the right opportunity or will create my own. Maybe that opportunity will be related to the photos I have taken, and those I will take. But none of this has anything to do with life being fair. I will make my own “fair.” But for now, you’ve have to excuse me. I’ve a door that needs finding.