Work

I have been unemployed an entire year. More of you count the months post surgery in 18/19. The financial burden is beyond stressful but I had committed to myself I would get through to January before making drastic changes.

While the job market opened up again in my industry in late August, I have had virtually no luck. I have had a lot of interviews but they tend to stall. Some go so well I can’t believe I never hear back from the company. Recruiters are rude and don’t answer emails once you are off their radar. I always ask for feedback when I follow up and I never get it. Not once.

I interview very well. My resume and LinkedIn look great. I know how to search for jobs. I have an underlying suspicion that during my nervous breakdown in 2018 between Tony and the job – I also created a bad reputation for myself. I’m unsure about this but people talk and I was not myself or at my best in 2018. People who know me prior to that last role always recommend me into their companies – and I always get the interviews that go well – and then, they just stop. No follow up from the recruiter (internal recruiters) or the people I spent time interviewing with. Nothing. Silence. I have convinced myself there is something out there I don’t know about regarding my reputation. I just can’t fathom how this keeps happening over and over for roles I am more than qualified for.

In addition, I never thought my experience and title would work so hard against me. I keep bumping up “overqualified” which I also believe is code for ageism, particularly in my industry. When I apply for any role behind one level down from where I was, the companies insist I am overqualified and wouldn’t be happy with the job. They don’t understand why I would take such a low level job.

I have exhausted all opportunities and companies on the East Coast that would be in my wheelhouse. I have applied and interviewed for roles with salaries at a level I haven’t seen since my late 20s/ early 30s. I am willing to take any role that gets me working again in an effort to keep my home for another year so my youngest can graduate high school. I am not fussed about title or level but I do have a minimum salary, which frankly, is a steal. I am willing to relocate.

Nothing is coming up. So many people think it’s easy enough to find jobs at the salary level I could accept – they know me and think it’s impossible “someone” wouldn’t want to hire me. I become frustrated almost instantly when someone tries to talk to me about alternative careers and how to go about getting into them. I have found there seem to be two camps of people. The first is people who have never left their industry, have a career in a very flexible discipline (education for instance) or have never been an executive. The second are the entrepreneurs who have always been the kind of person to chase something and make it happen and have a talent for being able to be successful because of a good decision earlier in their life (for example someone with an engineering or financial degree who leaves their original corporate job to start their own business – again, a flexible discipline). My background is very specific. Sure I have tons of skills that can work in other industries, but you need to know someone to open those doors and have them take a chance on you when you have no direct career correlation.

In other words, it’s bullshit to switch careers at 53 without the right educational foundation or some SPECIFIC skill set that can cross disciplines. I have tried multiple times and failed – even within my own industry. The one shot I had was because a friend opened a door for me and her boss was very engaged with me and willing to take a leap of faith (and then, covid). My entire network (personal and professional) doesn’t seem to have any contacts to help me. I’ve even networked in my fitness community and, while I had offers of help, none amounted to more than suggestions on how to approach a job search.

I’m tired of hearing from people with advice on how to change careers at my age. Yes, I know it’s possible but you need time and money to train and educate yourself for a major career overhaul and I am out of both. I do not have enough specific transferable skills. I cannot seem to get in front of anyone to convince them I could do a job where I don’t have the specific career grooming. One of my greatest skills is my ability to speak and hold an audience – once I learn a product I can master the rest. I’m not talking sales, I would be a horrible sales person, think more along the lines of product development. I know how to build product from the ground up and I believe the product itself shouldn’t matter – but companies do. And so many people are unemployed that the talent pool is massive.

Late September into early October I engaged with 3 large companies on the West Coast. One disappeared and fell off the radar and I don’t know why. One wasn’t ready to move forward due to their own reorganization. And one offered me a job. The one that offered me a job was at the lowest level and salary of which I’ve interviewed for and is clear across the country. Nothing about this role is ideal. But I accepted it and sit on a plane to go visit a city I’ve never been to.

I had no choice. I needed income and I need to be working. Right now the role is virtual so it buys me time. The people are just so lovely and wonderful but I never see myself being satisfied with the company and location. Had this same role been in any other East coast or even Midwest city, I would be probably in a totally different frame of mind.

The stress of being unemployed and then in accepting this role has created the worst migraines. I don’t like to play games – these are good people. I’m sure I can do well with the role (for fucks sake I should be able to do with my eyes closed). I want to do a good job, that’s just my DNA.

I am also heavily influenced by what other people think of me. In my head “look how far she’s fallen” keeps repeating itself. I know none of that should matter, the people I love are just happy I found a job finally. I don’t want to move to this place across the country. If I leave my kids I may never see them unless I travel back and the salary they are paying me won’t allow for that more than once or twice a year. I am sick with grief over thinking about selling a home I’ve lived in my entire life and upending my kids. They don’t even have a full home to go to since their Dad lives in his mother’s basement and the upstairs home only has 2 bedrooms that won’t fit 3 adult kids.

I realize this is a rant but I get angry when I think about my entire career going to waste like this. I did what I had to do by taking this role. I will continue to do what I need to do to remain employed. I’m just miserable. And if I have to actually sell my home and move, I worry if I’m just heading myself right back into another break with reality.

Job Search Frustration

I’ve got about 10 posts in drafts and can’t seem to complete them. My mind is all over the map and my anxiety is through the roof. I’m currently sitting on my couch with coffee and writing this because I’m avoiding my long run today.

I signed up for the Chicago Half in 3 weeks. Lord help me. I couldn’t even run 1 minute, never mind 1 mile a year ago – yet here I am about to attempt a half. I signed up for it because I’ve been so stressed and aimless that focusing on intense training is good for me. Last week I did amazing. This week I’m being an idiot. And there’s so little time between now and October 11th I can’t afford to miss training days and long runs. I’m going to get it done today even if I take my damn psyche into it kicking and screaming.

Why did I need to overwhelm my central nervous system with such intense training? Because I am in a complete panic mode. It’s coming up on 1 year with no employment. I am feeling scared and sick almost every day. I wake up with a migraine. I’m having persistent hot flashes all night long and up every 2 hours. I’m eating too much and gaining weight again. I feel like I am at the end of my rope and I’m terrified of a relapse of a depression I won’t be able to climb out of this time.

The short version is this: the last 6 weeks many, many relevant roles have opened in my industry. More than I’ve ever seen in my life at one time. At first I was hopeful – with this many jobs I’m sure to secure one of them. Then the interviewing started and kept rolling and the same thing kept happening to me over and over. I continue to hear I am overqualified for many roles. If I’m not overqualified and it’s a good match, I don’t seem to hear back from the recruiters. I have only made it through 3 interviews that got me close. 1 was perfect and I was excited – but they chose another candidate and the recruiter never got back to me with feedback (despite the fact I was an internal recommendation). The second I am now on my 8th round of interviews with about 15 people for a role that is so far beneath me and across the country in a city I don’t want to live in. If I wasn’t so overqualified they would have offered me by now but I know they are worried I will accept and then leave when a better fit comes along. The last was a fabulous interview for a role I want but in a location I definitely do not want. This last company is going through a major reorg so I won’t formally interview further for a couple weeks.

There have been many others. Some at the right level, some not. I never really know why I move forward and why I don’t because recruiters do not communicate any form of feedback which really sucks in this market. Every role except one required significant relocation and salary cut. I have my story down to a science for why I would move and accept a lower paying role or a less significant title/role than I’ve held previously.

I interview well. I know this. I research and practice before every interview no matter what the role is – I never wing it. I approach any interview as if it’s the best role in the world.

Yet, nothing is happening. Anyone who knows me is incredulous. they don’t understand either.

And the kicker is, I don’t have a back up plan. I’m too old to pivot to something entirely different. I’ve tried multiple times to move into adjacent roles with compatible or transferable skills but because the market is so flooded, no one is interested in me. While it seems I should be able to use my skills in other roles, it’s clear no companies believe the same and my frustration level with anyone telling me “it’s possible to change careers this late in life” is through the roof. I’m sure it’s possible with a different skill set than mine, or even with the right connections and someone who believes in you so strongly they are willing to train and take a chance.

I have looked into real estate and insurance. I don’t want to do either but it seems that real estate will be more accessible for me. I don’t have the money to take classes and I can’t teach as I don’t have a bachelors degree. I don’t know where else to turn for alternative jobs. It would make more sense to take a lower paying role within my own industry if I could obtain one.

The roles that are well below my experience level have consistent feedback: you are overqualified. Every single time. I expect part of that is ageism, I am considered pretty old for my industry unless I am an executive.

I’m so stuck. I’m sick every day. I’m stressed beyond belief. I’m going through my life savings. I committed to myself that I have to sell my home by January just in order to survive without work. I do collect minimal unemployment and that will run out in November. I do have my reasons for staying on unemployment – I need healthcare and I will qualify for a lower rate with no income. I am also trying to negotiate forgiveness on all the medical bills from my surgery. Once I have the healthcare squared away I will find a customer service or retail job if possible. At least it will reduce the amount of $$ I’m drawing from from savings.

My retirement saving withdrawals currently come at no penalty thanks to covid. But I have to pay myself back in 2 years or I will be hit with the significant taxes for pulling my funds before retirement age.

It’s all a cluster fuck.

I am losing all hope that I am employable. The only way I have found to stave off utter hopelessness is running myself into the ground. But, sooner or later, that won’t work any longer either.