By Chris Mykrantz
Lest anyone think I’m not willing to shoulder part of the blame for this experience, there’s been more than enough self-doubt thrown around to disprove that notion. It tugs at me every day. Did I not call enough people? Enough of the “right” people? Did I skip applying for the one job that should have been mine? Do I not have enough keywords in my résumé for it to get past the software gatekeepers? Did I not turn over the right rock? Did I make a mistake by deciding I couldn’t afford New York or California? Did I somehow screw up the one interview that could have landed me a job? I second-guess myself all the time. The disconcerting thing is that I never used to do that. Being rejected more than 400 times takes its toll.
Some folks have told me I should throw in the towel … find another career. That seems like a daunting task to me. There’s a scene in the movie Up In The Air where George Clooney tells one of the guys he’s laying off that he should have been a chef. Middle-aged and he’s been in the wrong career all his life. So he urges him to follow his dream and go find his next career as a chef. Easy for him to say. He’s not the one being forced to reinvent himself at age 50. If I can’t get a job in a career I’ve invested more than 25 years in, what would make someone think I’d land an entry level job in a new profession … at more than 50 years old.
After all, we’re talking about a career here, not a job. I could probably get a job tomorrow … in a convenience store or a fast-food restaurant. A job means maybe paying some of the bills and not much more. It wouldn’t yield any of the things that go with a career—benefits, advancement potential, challenging work … esteem. I used to take those things just a bit for granted. I’d see men my age working the counter at Speedway or Circle K, selling gasoline, burned coffee and lottery tickets, and wonder what mid-career disaster landed them there. Now I’m just a job application away from being one of them.
Much as it might seem the easy way out, I’m not sure I can move on just yet. It feels too much like turning my back on the person I’ve been for nearly 30 years, and maybe worse, conceding to myself that the last 30 months were a wasted exercise. It’s a pretty big cliff to step off of without knowing what’s at the bottom. So I keep looking. Keep applying. Keep networking. Keep waiting.
Maybe next week, who knows?
I'm happy to get e-mails—writing boots at gmail dot com—from anybody who happens to be interested in talking to Chris about a job. Circle K and Speeedway need not apply. —DM
Peter Dean says
He should consider being self-employed. I think he is too stuck on getting the same kind of career as before, for which he is over-age and over-qualified in the eyes of most companies. There are agencies which will place mature executives in companies on short-term assignments but basically I would suggest he try to make a switch.
Easy enough to say, I know…
Is he truly “stuck on getting the same kind of career as before,” or simply seeking meaningful work? In my small market there are very few opportunities for experienced communicators and little opportunity for consultants (qualified candidates and consultants outnumber available positions/clients). I’ve re-tooled to an extent and continue working to find the fabled niche.
Someone who cares says
He Is not stuck. Chris sounds like a proud and brave man who does not want to give up the fight as so many do. That in its self tells you alot about a person that you dont find anymore. And what is “over-aged”? Because the 20-30 age group that I see on a daily basis alot of them still live at home and use “Mommy and Daddy’s” money. Few even work or are going to school. Good luck to the companies that are looking to hire that. Chris keep the fight up!!!!!! I admire what you are doing very much.
Peter Dean says
“Over-age and over-qualified” is not my assessment but that of many companies. Personally I think they are mistaken but companies are very frequently mistaken and there is nothing much to do about it. And it is surely possible to find meaningful work which is not the same as that one has done to date. I remember a hedge fund manager who quite profitably switched to making chutney. The skills which a communicator uses can easily be transferred to other kinds of work.
Peter Dean says
PS> There’s absolutely nothing to stop him pursuing several career options at the same time- continuing his existing approach but at the same time exploring other, more radical, possibilities.
David Murray says
Along these lines of radical possibilities: Chris, I’d encourage you to think about–as if you haven’t already–what the truly enjoyable bits of employee communication actually were, and figure out a way to do that stuff, even if it’s for free (maybe even while you’re working for the Circle K).
During a time when I thought my freelance work was drying up, my reaction was senseless, yet consistent: “Fuck you world. I write. And I’m going keep writing, whether you pay me to do it or not.”
And I did a lot that year for the Huffington Post and poured a ton of energy into this blog. I kept my skin in the game, and my name out there, and eventually when the economy bounced back, opportunities presented themselves.
So whatever you loved doing for employee comms–writing, helping organizations think about comms strategy, whatever–find an organization or a politician or a movement of some kind that needs a volunteer to do it. And kick some serious ass for them. (Just make sure it’s a nice liberal cause.)
Chris, thanks for putting your story out and thanks for choosing Writing Boots as the place to do it. I hope you’ll agree my thoughtful readers treated you well. So thanks to y’all, too.
Yossi Mandel says
The job market stinks. It definitely stinks since 2008, maybe it stank a while before.
David’s advice seems best, it’s advanced networking. Don’t bother applying for jobs you haven’t networked your way to, you’ll be wasting energy and getting yourself down. 400 applications!! You must’ve been ready to take a bat to your head.
Your experience is now the norm. Some companies will only hire people who are currently employed. Some will only hire people who live in the same city already, not planning to move. A glut of over-qualified candidates allows companies to hire formerly high-level people for lower level positions – If you were a comms VP, might have to apply for manager positions, if you were manager, for associate or specialist. Anyone else doing comms out of HR seeing recent recruiting restrictions?