A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about this woman I observed at the Panera Bread store where she was meeting a man who was interviewing her. She was easily in her 50’s (perhaps I am being generous describing her that way) and he was still learning to grow a beard.
He was the one doing the hiring, she was hoping for the job.
I was so moved by the experience I’ll never forget it. The way she humbled herself and made him feel important, the desperation in her answers, his almost blatant disregard for her situation. ( read article here ) The outpouring of stories and experiences I received after this was astounding, it really opened my eyes to what people go through and how incredibly fortunate I am.
Since then, I’ve increased my compassion towards people immensely. She really opened my eyes to inequality and judgement and discrimination.
That single moment made me a far better employer honestly.
I’m asked easily ten times a day for a job. I receive calls and emails and resumes every single day, seven days a week.
At first, I didn’t know how to handle it.
I hated getting them and felt used and upset, like people only wanted to be close to me because maybe I could somehow help them. But over time, I’ve found ways to compassionately say no mostly, yes occasionally and yet still try and treat each person with as much compassion as I can.
I’ve realized what people do in desperation and I don’t take it personally anymore, mostly. Plus, I’ve found some insanely awesome talent by paying attention even just a little bit.
My dear friend is 61 years old and looking for a job. I see her often and she reminds me so much of the woman I wrote about in that article. What blows my mind is how much love I still see her adding to the world, even though she’s suffering and struggling and so humiliated.
I love when I see someone’s authentic spirit still shining so bright, even in those darker hours. It reminds me of the importance of faith and spirit and an inner life.
Her spirit is sturdy.
I think that’s something to really be proud of.
I asked my friend to write and share her experience, not because I want to help her find a job (although, hell yeah I do!) or to bring anyone down or anything. I just really do believe we need to be so conscious of the deep wisdom people have and be very cautious of the new shinny bling that can fool us and lure us into overlooking the skills and compassion and more intangible vibes of people who really do matter.
And, mostly, I believe the more compassion we can give each and every one of us, the more we get back.
Here’s her story: send her some love, would you?
I Am Too…
Too old, too experienced, too inexperienced, too expensive, too old fashioned, too wrinkled, too fat. Too not aggressive enough. Too not the “right” image. The skills I’ve spent years developing, practicing and being rewarded for – who needs them? Certainly not any employers that I’ve encountered.
Finding a job at sixty one sucks. I have a master’s degree in training and development, a basket of letters from hundreds of people whose careers I helped launch or grow. Too bad someone hand wrote them and they aren’t yelp reviews.
Hundreds of applications sent, contacts made, and hours spent researching companies and what I have to show for it is seasonal work at a department store for minimum wage. At sixty one I spend my day saying, “What can I help you find?” and “No, I’m sorry that coupon does not apply to today’s sale.” And I’m grateful for the pay.
At 61 I am unemployed, what an embarrassment to have to admit it. I have been out of work for most of the last 18 months, through circumstance, bad luck and some bad trust choices on my part. Daily, I have looked for work. I have kept a list of the places I have applied; there are over 500 companies on the list. I have spoken to my contacts, have visited the unemployment office. My online applications have been judged over and over by algorithms designed to eliminate those not worthy of a call, an email or an interview. It’s clear the algorithm clearly reads that my college degree was granted in the last century. And the graduation dates are ALWAYS required fields on the online applications. For fuck’s sake, the last century! Who wants someone that old? Someone whose fingers do not endlessly text, who doesn’t hourly check face book, who doesn’t tweet and who maintains some control over their private life. Someone old.
The few interviews I’ve been granted, one look at me and the interview is over before it begins. This time the algorithm must have missed the college date. The interviewer asks, “Do I know how to create webinars, and on line learning?” Not how effective have you been at teaching humans new skills, not how profitable did you make the agents you worked with? No, what the Interviewer wants to know is how to reach thousands, not hundreds. I worked for someone once who counted how many people attended her webinars. The corporation promoted her because of her numbers. Not one person ever asked if the people attending actually learned anything, not one. It was simply a numbers game. No one wants to read the letters from learners I’ve touched that thank me for helping to create their success and their careers. They just ask, when they bother, what programs do you use?
Here is the unfortunate fact. According to the actuarial table my life expectance is seventy eight. I have eighteen more years of food and shelter to provide for myself and my family. My career has been in real estate during the last recession, the one that I’m told, is over. The one that has left an unofficial 18.1% unemployment in the state where I live. The one that stole financial security from many of us. The one that will leave me depending on social security, and whatever charity I can find to live. The one that guarantees I will need to continue to generate income for years more if I ever want to go to the movies or buy Christmas gifts for my grandchildren.
The funny part? I was once in demand. There were years I was regularly head hunted, valued for my skills at teaching adults to perform their jobs with skill and success. So what changed? Apparently not me. I am a dinosaur, someone who wants to teach humans human skills in person, not from a computer screen. I understand it’s cheaper and more easily documented if a learner clicks through screens, I get it. When the company is sued for sexual harassment the lawyers can say with a proud straight face, “All our people have been extensively trained to avoid this behavior. We are not responsible. And we have the numbers to prove it.” All their people have been dutifully trained alright, they’ve been trained to click the screen while they continue to work on other projects at their desks.
My good friend always asks, what are we supposed to learn from a situation? So what? Empathy for poor people? I grew up poor, I get receiving turkeys from the church at Thanksgiving. Education is a joke? I struggled my way through college and grad school, made good grades and did the right things. Apparently that doesn’t count for much when you are old.
Humility? I am humbled alright, humiliated by my plight. Taking cold comfort from my friends who are sitting next to me on the same boat, skilled but old, talking to their contacts, watching Linked In for opportunities, and bravely sending yet another application to an algorithm. Humbled when finally granted an interview to be denied by someone in their twenties, straight out of college. I keep reading that 50 is the new 40, and 60 is the new 50. Someone should tell the companies I’ve applied to that.
Fury? That’s my big one right now, certainly not politically or spiritually correct, but I recognize that’s what I’m feeling. Furious at the insult of it, hearing the soul-destroying words, again, “We’ve decided to go in another direction.” The unsaid, “You are too old.” It’s a bitch to be too.