After being unemployed for the last 4 years, I will soon be facing homelessness. Lucky for me, I still have a roof over my head for the time being because God gave me landlords that have looked beyond the profits that come with owning a tenement building, and display the compassion that many landlords do not have; however, I have no idea how long they will continue to stand by me…you see, I have been unable to pay rent for the last 2 years.
There are many others like me who have lost multiple jobs over the years, either by company closings, or relocations; we have become part of the 99ers that have exhausted all unemployment extensions, yet still have not been hired, after sending out hundreds of resumes to prospective employers.
Recently it’s been stated by our local government, that the jobless rate in the state of Massachusetts has decreased. I suppose if you have a degree or experience in the medical or computer field, people are finding jobs. (Although I know someone who actually took a course in Medical Terminology, and was told during an interview that they prefer someone with 2 years of experience!) But for those who don’t, we continue to wonder aimlessly hoping that one big break will come.
In the meantime, it’s been quite a journey…And in the past 4 years…yes, it’s been that long…I’ve learned several things:
1. Age discrimination is still alive and well in this country, especially in Massachusetts. When we have all the qualifications for a position, but still get a rejection letter without even an interview, they’ve pretty much figured out how old we are. What they don’t understand is that the older generations are “workers”…really hard workers! We don’t text on the job, we don’t visit facebook and other websites while working, and we’ve matured enough in our roles to know what teamwork, dedication, punctuality, and customer service is all about. But, what would they know about that?? Half of the interviewers are just barely out of college.
2. The amount of experience we have hurts our chances of getting the simplest of jobs. They just simply assume that we wouldn’t work for minimum wage, even though we make it clear in our cover letters that we would.
3. There are too many of us applying for the same position. With hundreds of resumes coming thru their door, or should I say “website”, we would be naïve to think that they are going to look at all of them. Therefore, the chances that they will pull ours up, after reading the first 50, are pretty slim.
4. They no longer want us to go to the business place and fill out an application. Instead of appreciating the fact that we took the time to visit with them, we are now directed to go back home and apply on-line. Managers simply no longer want to take an hour out of their day to speak with us. Therefore our chances of them ever seeing our resume is very unlikely.
5. Companies no longer are willing to train a new employee… it simply no longer exists. There are so many people still out of work that it is most probable that they will find someone who has had experience in the area they need, and they will require very little instructions or training.
6. Additionally the requirements that they are now looking for, seems quite over the top. At a recent job interview (2 in fact) at local Coffee shop I was told that they weren’t sure I could handle the drive up window, and because I never had experience in handling food, they needed to hire someone who had. Well, I’ve made plenty of coffee at home, have bagged many doughnuts while shopping at a local supermarket, and have put together many a sandwich; however, that wasn’t enough. Yet, their ads for job openings state that we have to be 16 to apply…Tell me, how many 16 year olds have had food experience? Sounds like age discrimination to me?
I recently pulled up another job opening for Housekeeping attendants at a local Country Club. I should be qualified for that, don’t you think? I clean house…actually I am quite the neat freak. Then I saw that it stated “Experienced housekeeping attendants needed”, and realized that my resume with years of office experience wasn’t going to impress them since I have never done any professional cleaning.
I’ve actually seen an opening for someone to wash public toilets, and desperate as I was, I read on, only to read that it required someone with experience.
Now a days, any type of Office work requires you to know their own particular programming system, they don’t want to train you anymore, and many years of office work doesn’t help if you’re not familiar with it.
But the search goes on…..
I am awed every day that to search for a job, we are required to have a computer; jobs are no longer posted in the local newspapers, except on Sundays. So we either look only once a week for an available position, or we devote each day to search on line. The latter is like having a full time job, except we don’t get paid for it. We get up early, pour a cup of coffee, and begin…one website after another, there are hundreds. When we find a job that we’d qualify for, we begin the tweaking of our resume. We have been instructed by the local Career Center to downplay our experience if we are applying for a lesser position than what we are used to. Apparently this is to eliminate an employer in saying, “This applicant won’t work for minimum wage”. But, how do you downplay 30 years of experience, when we were employed for 20 years in one company? I would think the potential employer would question why we were never promoted if we kept our entry level experience in tack, and got rid of our upper level history. Once the resume is tweaked, we go on to our cover letter, a letter that is only a bit short of begging for the position. Finally, we hit the “apply” button, only to find out that we have to do several things….take a 30-40 minute test showing our competency, fill out another profile outlining our job experiences (apparently our resume is not enough), or authorizing a credit check. A credit check, mind you! (If we had a job, our credit wouldn’t be a problem.) But the most shocking of all is to read that the company posted the job only so they could have a file of applicants looking for work, when and if a position comes up. Advertizing the job does not mean there is an opening. Equally appalling is to discover that the job we are applying for, was already filled, and the company never informed the website to pull it off.
This whole procedure, if you are serious in acquiring a job, can take an hour or more for each position you apply for on-line. And if all that doesn’t get you discouraged, never receiving a company response certainly will. We may be lucky to receive a returned e-mail, but they are only computerized form letters stating that ‘they have received your application and they will consider your desire for the position’; however, apologies are also given, explaining that with all the many applicants, it’s impossible for them to personally reply to all, if the position is given to someone else. But, hey, we are always comforted by their courtesy statement: “Good luck in your job search”. Keep in mind, if we are applying thru a job search site, and not direct to the employer, the only response we get is from the search site….not the company.
Equally discouraging are those companies who go thru our local Career Center to advertise a position. (This is done so the agency can screen the applicants, and weed out the bad ones). So in searching on the Career Center website, and finding a position that is well suited for us, we learn that the company is confidential and we are left with no contact or e-mail address for which to send our resume. To get that information we have to actually go to the center and sit with an agent there. Get the picture….We get up in the morning, and shove some everyday clothes on, get our coffee and muster up the hope and energy needed for the daily job search on-line, and then suddenly discover that there is a job on the Career Center website that is perfectly suited for us. We then have to rush to tweak our resume to fit that job, write that cover letter, get properly showered and dressed, and run down to their office. We then sign up and wait for the first available rep…which could be anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on the day of the week. If we discover that job on a Monday…it’s not worth going…the room is packed with those signing up for unemployment. The fact that we only want information about a company doesn’t make a difference. What do the reps do? They look over our resume and tell us what to keep in or leave out…if our resume doesn’t look professional, they tell us how to change it; they might even tell us that we don’t have enough credentials to apply for that position. While all this sounds good and helpful…we actually have to do this every time you discover a confidential posting on their website. So if we see 2 or 3 in a week, different days…we still have to go down. By the 3 ,4, or 5th visit, I would hope the applicant knows how to tweak a resume, or edit it to look professional…therefore, the gas we use to travel there, and the time it is taking away from our on-line search at home, doesn’t help any job seeker. I have a suggestion – after our 3rd or 4th visit to the center and having our resume critiqued, wouldn’t it make much more sense to be assigned a rep in their agency, where we can e-mail her the resume? By then the rep should be already familiar with us, our appearance, our personality and with our resumes, thus taking only a few minutes out of their day to look it over before she gets back to us with whatever changes she thinks we should make, or giving us her final approval.
Once in awhile we’ll get lucky and get called for an interview. In comparison to “back in the day”, this is another learning curve. We should actually know how to give an interview. It’s not enough for them to meet us or get familiar with our personality, we now have to answer ridiculous questions that have nothing to do with the job. Certainly I can understand in high profile jobs, or high salary positions, but to be an office clerk?????
After several interviews you might be lucky to be called to, and after several final rejections, we begin to wonder what we did wrong. Were we too friendly? Were we too quiet? Were we too honest with our answers? Or were we too vague? Were we too confident, or not enough? Did we not wear the right outfit? Or did our wrinkles on our faces give away our age? The companies are certainly not going to tell us, or if a reason is stated, it often goes like this “Thank you for applying for this position, but we have filled it with someone more suitable for the job.” (If you’ve done that kind of work for 30 years, I find it humorous that someone could be more qualified.) So, we are often left in the dark wondering, what the real truth is.
Keep in mind that some companies don’t even get back to us after the job was given to someone else. I was left in complete darkness after applying for a position for a Cafeteria Monitor at a local Grammar School…I was actually interviewed by the school principal. After 1 week of not hearing anything, I dropped her an e-mail, only to find out that the position had been filled. Funny how businesses expect us to be professional, yet they don’t reciprocate with the same courtesy.
And what about those temp agencies??? “Back in my day”, if they had a temporary position, they sent us there for as long as the job lasted…if we were lucky, if they liked us, we got hired by the company. If the company didn’t like our work, they called the agency for a replacement. That’s it! It was a way for them to really get to know us. Now we go thru an interview like any other job, and as usual we are up against a lot of younger applicants. Therefore, it seems we can no longer use a temp agency as a means for employers to see our work. Additionally, it is very apparent that most local companies don’t use local temp agencies, with the exception of day to day jobs in manufacturing plants. However, for any temp office work in our local town, as well the surrounding ones, we are sent out of the area just to sign up in their office. I would’ve thought that local businesses would support local agencies, but hardly is that the case.
So what has been my big lesson throughout this journey….I’ve learned that you can’t always blame your fellow politicians for lack of work. They seriously need to look at those who run the businesses and do the hiring as well…they need to ask them how much are they willing to extend a helping hand to give someone a job. They need to expect from them, the same thing they expect from us…professional courtesy. They need to stop age discrimination and they need to stop the media from pushing their on-line job searches…and allow people to get out each day and approach businesses for applications. The length of time we sit at our computers is certainly not physically healthy.
And they need to stop allowing CEO’s of many companies to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the multiple homes, and recreational toys they have, while their company staff is stretched to the limit, because they won’t hire more people. Most say…they earned their way, they worked for it, and they have a right to spend their money as they wish…but those statements often come from people who run their own businesses or are financially okay. (Furthermore, what makes some people think that those who are poor or in the lower middle class, haven’t worked all their lives?…or tried just as hard to prosper as they did?)
How am I surviving? My son who is mentally disabled is now the one who is supporting me… With his small disability check, and my part time job that pays me 50.00 a week. Neither one of these pay checks will continue to put a roof over my head and pay the heating costs, keep a car running to go on interviews, pay the telephone and electricity bills that is required to keep an internet going to search for jobs, buy stationary, stamps and envelopes to send resumes out, and ink for our printers, laundry detergent to wash our clothes…all of these things that is required to even acquire a job today.
After all this, we still continue to hear numerous attacks on the unemployed, that the general population is only looking for handouts, for the government to support us. Do they know what it’s like to get up every morning with no place to go, having to start a new day sending out resumes that we know we won’t get a response to. I have finally reached the lowest place in my life, I no longer know how it feels to be positive and have hope…some days I just don’t want to get up in the morning. There seems to be no reason to.