By Angela Pascopella
I lost three things last fall:
- My job of 16 years.
- My mother to cancer.
- My youth (I turned 50).
I lost them in that order. I guess you could say I’m in full-on mid-life crisis.
My mother’s passing is the most traumatic, and has left a hole that will never heal. But being an unemployed woman over 50 in this job market makes every day more challenging. Landing a job in journalism or marketing at my age sometimes feels next to impossible.
I left my old job after 16 years. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. I was managing editor of a trade publication and enjoyed the work. But it became clear that it was time to go.
Over the past 28 weeks or so, I’ve applied for about 20 jobs, using Indeed, Glassdoor and creative circle sites. Of those, I’ve interviewed for about seven. No luck yet.
I really don’t know why I’ve been denied, why no one wants to hire me, but I have my hunches. I’m 50. I have “too much experience” for some jobs, but “not enough” for top editor jobs. I also sense that I’m limited in logistics. Commuting to New York City would be a long haul, but I’m willing to do it. I also want to leave the K-12 publishing industry, which has been my life for 16 years and where I have the most recent contacts. I’d rather not travel for work.
I recently started looking at other job sites, including CareerBoutique. That’s when the potential jobs sent to me started to get nutty. I’ve so far been “advised” of jobs in waste management, the U.S. Postal Service, mailroom clerk and a Lyft driver. I’m not knocking these jobs. I just don’t think my writing/editing experience fits.
Some might think I need to apply for more jobs, that it’s a “numbers game.” But I’m determined to find work that pays the bills and makes my heart sing. I’m striving to find editing or writing work that will make a difference – in social justice, the environment, law or health sciences. I’m also looking to work in communications or public relations at an independent school, using my extensive experience at a K-12 trade publication. I’ve sought out a head hunter agency for that position. I’ve had some phone interviews, but again, no job offers.
In my research for this piece, I wanted to find some facts about the job-seeking arena. I found a few stories on “what not to do” in finding a job, “how to build a stellar resume,” or “common mistakes” job seekers make and how to avoid the pitfalls.
Here is one I found, eh-hem, from the American Association of Retired Persons: “8 Common Mistakes Older Job Seekers Make.” (I refuse to think I’m even close to this cohort of people. Some would call it denial.)
Here are some mistakes, according to the AARP story: https://www.aarp.org/work/job-hunting/info-2015/job-search-mistakes-photo.html
Kicking back and taking a break.
Not me. I’ve been freelancing for Discovery Education, writing a few blogs for another K-12 technology company, and most recently, started taking a course to potentially pursue patient advocacy in a hospital. [This idea surfaced after my mother was in and out of three hospitals over the last two weeks of her life. Two of the three were horrible experiences – as my mother was neglected and pretty much pushed out, without getting the proper treatment.] The world, or at least the United States, needs more patient advocates! I figure that my 30 years of work experience and my communication skills would benefit me in this position.
Using dated email accounts.
Right. So this was something I didn’t realize until my sister-in-law, who works for a non-profit for children and families in California, advised me that my very old “Yahoo” account was an “Absolutely NOT” sign on my resume when I sent applications for jobs. I immediately created a gmail account, which seems to have made the difference between no bites and some bites.
Missing a digital presence.
I have bolstered my LinkedIn account, have done some tweeting (though, I could do more), and have reached out to writer friends.
Lacking salary flexibility.
Nope. I’m fully aware that I need to lower my expectations in this area. However, the tricky part is not sounding too desperate or refusing to value my own worth. When I interviewed for an associate editor position with a national consumer publication last fall, the editor was quite impressed with my skills and knowledge. He essentially told me that I could “do this job, no problem.” But he worried for me – how considerate! – that it was too “low” for me. I tried to reassure him that it certainly was not, that the work would be fun and challenging, and that the publication was something I’ve always wanted to write for! Even as a child!
But after a writing and editing test, he told me they changed their minds, and they were not going to hire anyone for the job after all.
I didn’t know if he was being honest, but I did start to see the same job description on a jobs site on a “freelance” basis. So maybe, it’s true. Maybe they didn’t want to pay the very costly health benefits?
I know I’m a good worker bee. I’m conscientious, thorough, detailed, intelligent, witty and knowledgeable.
For the next potential employer, I’d really like to include some of these qualifications, just for that shock value I like to throw out:
I grew up [in the 1970s] thinking I had to please everyone BUT myself. Translation: I will work so hard for you and, in turn, get the job done no matter what.
I was bullied as a kid. I was beat up once and a few adults/teachers took advantage of me emotionally. Translation: I’m one tough cookie.
I often resorted to playing by myself because my siblings were older. Translation: I can be creative and/or work on my own when given the freedom.
I rarely received awards or even a pat on the back for doing well in school or doing anything positive at all. Translation: I don’t need praise or encouragement. Just give me a salary and health benefits.
Upon reflection, maybe I sound too pathetic.
I still receive unemployment checks, thanks to the state of Connecticut. But it doesn’t even cover my and my husband’s health insurance premium costs every month.
So, some advice from that AARP story that I referred to above? The story mentioned how readers should check out the AARP’s Job Board.
Huh. Maybe it’s time to embrace that site now.
Angela Pascopella is a 29-year veteran of journalism, writing and editing. She is studying patient advocacy via the Beryl Institute, hoping to find a job in helping patients and/or finding full-time editing work at a worthy organization. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and their adopted dog.