Out on a Limb

I had another job interview last week. For the record, the last interview I had, although it seemed to go well and left me feeling hopeful, didn’t result in a job offer. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. The job was something that I really wanted to do. This time, I don’t want to get my hopes up.

For one thing, it only lasted fifteen minutes. Second, I kept getting brain farts every time I tried to ask a question. You know, that feeling of having your mind wiped clean of any coherent thought? That doesn’t happen to me very often, but during that interview I blanked out three times that I can recall.

Not great timing, that.

Job hunting is so much different these days than it was the last time I tried it. During my last search, I tracked opportunities on foot and filled out forms by hand. The questions then were fairly basic: make a list of your last four employers, education, job skills, and three references. If you went in for an interview, and the person on the other end could tell you within twenty-four hours whether or not you got the job.

Now, the process has moved online, and the questions are more intrusive, less obviously about the job at hand, and harder to parse for their meaning. It wouldn’t surprise me to see something in the fine print asking a prospective employee to open a vein in order to pledge fealty to the company. They already want you to pee into a cup before you’re deemed worthy.

Funny, I remember when that was still controversial. Something about violating a citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights. You know, the one about probable cause and unreasonable search and seizure. But that’s a rant for another time, and I’m dating myself anyway. I’m getting old.

Which is something that I hadn’t really considered before now. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the vibe I’ve been getting lately is that I’m a little too mature to be attractive to employers these days. At least that’s what my mother says, trying to be tactful. She related that my father went through the same thing several years ago. Of course, he was seventy and already drawing a monthly check from Social Security, while I still have a decade to go before I can even think about it.

“Once you turn fifty,” she said, “they don’t really want you anymore. And they won’t come right out and say so.”

They can’t, of course, or they’ll risk an age discrimination suit. But the chill is there in subtle ways, not so much in words as in tone. And the question “Why did you leave your last position?” sits there like a loaded weapon, ready to blow my head off at any minute. There’s really no good answer to that, despite the fact that it felt like the right thing to do at the time. It was one of the few times that a decision I made wasn’t riddled with self-doubt.

The self-doubt came along later, when it was too late to do anything about it.

Still, even now, I have trouble summoning any sincere regret over it. I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. Also how fortunate I am in the family that surrounds me. They’re still sending me checks, even thought they’ve run out of excuses to send them. My brother says it’s cheaper than traveling out here (we live four states apart) to fetch me off the street if that’s where I end up. My mother has floated the offer of the cabin behind her house if I have nowhere else to go.

I confess, if it was just me I would take her up on the offer. But I have four-legged roommates who are old and not in great health, who have hysterics at the mere sight of a pet carrier. I fear they wouldn’t survive the trip. So now I have to regroup and keep doing what I’ve been doing: fill out applications, keep learning new skills, and keep writing.

Above all else, I must keep writing.

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2 thoughts on “Out on a Limb

  1. It’s good that you are at least getting interviews! Even if they don’t go so great or lead to a job offer they are something. Think of them as practice. I would often go on interviews even if I was not all that keen on the job, or even if I knew it wasn’t the best fit.
    As for the age discrimination… yes it does exist and employers are doing it. But not ALL of them. The best thing is to keep highlighting your skills and the value and experience you bring to the company.

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement. 🙂 It’s gratifying to know that people are actually reading this blMy next project is to tackle the CMS-100 application to test for a government job with the state. It’s eight pages long…

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