Doubling Down on Speaking Out
A recruiter friend (not so much) of mine contacted me and strongly suggested that the experiences I've shared and columns I've written for Leaping the Chasm have hindered my own search for a regular income. This recruiter believes that outing myself as an over-50 woman who's been forced to navigate long-term unemployment paints me as a poor job candidate.
I beg to differ.
If anything, my ability to survive long-term unemployment makes me an intriguing candidate. I'm resilient, clever, determined, open and more than ready for whatever comes next. (Not to mention the strong experience and massive skillsets I bring to the table.)
This recruiter said that potential employers will judge me as "undesirable" because of my gap years. (Yes, years, plural.)
First, any company that would decline to hire me because of gap years without looking for the transferrable skills I've gained in those gap years is not a company that I want to work for.
During this gap, I've taken time to build an advocacy for women in my same position; I've volunteered my skill and experience to non-profits; and I've taken on a number of interesting and fun contract jobs. While it's true that a regular income is ideal, I've gracefully, if outspokenly, survived because I'm very tightly budgeted. Let's just say socks are a luxury. My life has become much smaller than it once was, yes. I don't eat out or go to movies or drive to see my friends. All of that costs money. But I have more clarity than I've had in years. My life is more in order than it's ever been.
Today, I'm able to appreciate myself and my life in ways that weren't possible while working 50-80 hours per week for a company that cared not a whit about me.
This recruiter went on to tell me that being a "controversial" woman (now that's cool!) was only going to invite negative opinion. I was advised to take down the potentially "offensive" (now I'm offended!) columns I've written so they won't be seen. It was further suggested that I stop speaking out about the hardships of women in their 40's, 50's and beyond who are struggling with tough life transitions. I was told to "hide" my connection with Leaping the Chasm.
Full disclosure, she also told me to defy genetics and change my appearance. Apparently, I'm not attractive enough to get hired either.
All of this left me with one question: Tell me why being an accomplished woman of an assured age who cares about the life struggles of others and advocates on behalf of millions worldwide while surviving well on a shoestring budget is so unappealing in an employment candidate?
Why I'm Doubling Down
If you're a woman in your 40's, 50's or beyond and have been passed over for interviews or job offers, it's likely that you've considered age or gender or appearance might be a problem. While it shouldn't be true, any inkling that a female candidate is of an assured age is often a trigger for recruiters to pass over a resume, an application, or even a LinkedIn profile. This kind of practice actually helps perpetuate long-term unemployment for women of an assured age -- one of the largest unreported percentages of unemployed people in the last decade.
Women approaching and over-50 are exactly the candidates that employers should be looking for. The poise gained from life experience, the accumulated skill set and work experience, the reliability and loyalty characteristics of this group are priceless. Any employer worth working for will recognize this. Neither age nor status will be an obstacle to employment.
I'm holding out for THAT employer. And until I find that employer, I will continue to write, speak out, and be honest with my audience about tough life transitions.
UPDATE: Since this editorial was written and approved for publication, I have found some work, but my stance on the subject covered in this column hasn't changed at all. Sooooooooooo…
To this recruiter I have to say, "Maybe you're in the wrong line of work. Feel free to visit our employment resources on the website. Perhaps you can find something more suitable to your narrow view and leave this wide pool of highly experienced workers to a shrewd recruiter who can place them appropriately."
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About Leaping the Chasm
Leaping the Chasm™ (LTC) provides candid conversations and social media engagement for women in their 40's, 50's and beyond who are undergoing the personal, physical, financial, education and employment transitions that often accompany mid-life. LTC shares experiences, transfers knowledge, improves outlook, connects people, and helps identify opportunities for this powerful demographic.