Larry Lefkowitz is a writer. We know that because he has written several excellent pieces for BoomerCafé. But right now, he finds it hard to make a living as a writer, so he is trying to “make do” as a wage earner at any level. But even that, he finds, is difficult once you have reached Midlife in America.
For those of you who have reached the vague time zone of middle age, career crisis might be a very real and singularly important thing to you. Some of you who have read of my trials and tribulations have told me in emails that you can relate.
I have been a writer, mostly a technical writer, for most of my career. During the last couple of years, while I continuously have heard that the economy is picking up, I have been with several companies that either went out of business, or were bought out and disbanded. This has left me with virtually a constant search for employment, and I have been somewhat less than successful. Recently I completed a six-month consultant job for which I have not received compensation for the final month. Why not? I strongly suspect lack of funds (though they have offered no reason). My attempts to land another short-term contract have not been terribly successful despite more than 20 years of experience. Sound familiar? I am willing to bet that it does to many of you.
People 50 and over are generously referred to as “middle-aged,” though I doubt many of us will live to see 100. However, it is much better than being called “old.” However, being “middle-aged” has negative connotations to a great many human resource “professionals.” For one, it indicates high salary, though I, and many like me, will gladly work for less than our peak earnings. For another, it is strictly sheepskin, as these usually young college grads have no clue about how to evaluate talent except on educational qualifications. Yet another way our age hurts us is the perception that we are not flexible enough to learn and master new applications when the truth is that we are probably more adept at picking up new tools than our fresh-faced competition. So with this “middle” age come wisdom, pragmatism… and limited opportunities.
I have reasoned that my field has, at least temporarily, left me. Maybe I need to try something completely different. I went to my local chain pharmacy and applied for a job helping behind the counter. “Any retail experience?” No. “Pharmaceutical background (do those monosyllabic high school kids that hand me my prescriptions have that)?” No. “You know we can’t pay you anything near what you were making.” Yes, I know that. “Well, we are looking for entry-level people for this position.” Stop. One of the obstacles I know I have encountered in applying for less-skilled positions is the business’s fear that an investment will be made in me and then I will leave. But these Mensa hiring supervisors would rather hire a high school kid, pay him minimum wage, and see him leave before the third paycheck. Yeah, I guess I understand that.
After many futile attempts at retail employment (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.), I decided to apply for a job as an Internet Sales Consultant for a local mega-car dealer in my town. I was given a battery of psychological tests, which were evaluated by a psychiatrist, and a physical examination, which was laughable, and I was hired. I was sent to two weeks of training and then put at my desk to sell cars over the Internet.
The problem was, no one ever told me that the commission on such sales is minimal and that the only way to supplement the poverty-level salary is to move an insane number of cars out the door as quickly as possible, with as much junk tacked on as you can schmooze the unwitting buyer into taking. Worse, the veteran Internet sales guys already have the shortcuts down and know how to snipe the sales leads before anyone else knows they are there, leaving me with approximately one-tenth their volume. Given that I had to supply my own wardrobe and office supplies and tools, this job was actually costing me more than it was paying. For only the first time since I was a teenager, I quit a job with nothing else lined up.
Next, because I am a car nut, I will attempt to work in a parts store and make deliveries, hoping to earn enough money to support the mortgage while praying for a writing job so I can do what I do best. There is no doubt in my mind that I will find this all amusing at some point, but while you are treading in molasses, it sure gets sticky.
Category: Boomer Lifestyle