The job I lost
I was swept out with a cleansing of Director levels after eleven years running a customer service contact center operation. The company off-shored their engineering department which displaced about 40 people of various demographics. Immediately following that, they displaced 5 of 7 Director levels in the organization. They laid off five males ages 56 to 62. The two survivors of the cut back were females under the age age of 50. The bulk layoff set them up to eliminate the 55+ males from the payroll and blended them in with the engineering numbers for a safe cleansing by the numbers.
What it's like being unemployed
I was unemployed for 363 days. Packing significant experience and a freshly minted Masters Degree in organizational leadership and quality I was stunned when it became apparant I was unemployable. There were two recruiters and two industry consultants I know who told me in April, 2011 that my management days were over. None of these four know each other and travel in different circles. All four indicated 45 was the magic number. Over 45 was out. 45 was still at risk and under 40 preferred. I would interview with 72 customer service management people in about five months. Using people search sites, Linkedin profiles, facebook and people on the inside I was able to determine that of that 72, 66 were female (that was obvious), but more imporantly 65 were age 40 or less, Two were in their early sixties and the other five between 40 and 45. There were none between 46 and 62. Being a 56 year old male, I quickly understood survival would now be the goal. For those familiar with DISC assessment, I am a "High I" which means high energy and fun to have around. I interview well because I engage people on a comfortable level and interviews become conversational, not like question and answer sessions. That's how I got in front of so many people, acing the phone interviews and packing a significant resume with numerical results, not just catch phrases. None of that could overcome the age factor. My most frequent perception was that of an animal in a zoo. I think the very young crowd looked at me with amusement. I'm not a 56 looking guy either. Athletic,no gray in the hair and polished, but I could tell early on that most of them were just curious at who was behind this resume.
I would do my homework for every attempt. I knew who I was interviewing with, learned about them and sometimes used that as a reference point for conversation, siting some of their history and similarities. I studied their market trends, corporate direction and could speak to it and how what I would bring to them fit their vision. I had many comments about the level of preparation, but it always ended the same. Second place to a much younger internal. Having outlasted the externals was not so comforting after a while. I made it to the final and the outcome of the five I know for certain were internal females under the age of 40. Enough said.
- If you've been out of work for over six months, start looking for contract work. Older workers especially. Employers coast to coast won't hire 50+ and it's not a coincidence. Find a niche you can fit and get in the door.
- Don't look for the perfect job for you. It probably doesn't want you. Look for skill sets you have that meet what they need and get in the door by contract labor or temp agency whichever presents itself.
- The future seems headed to contract workers. That probably won't change. Work with local agencies to find a fit. They will be your champion if you sell yourself to them.
- Aim small, miss small.