Job search in old age


Looking for a Job as an Older Adult
or Darn! The World Belongs to the Young


When more and more people with graying hair and sagging necks were claiming to be my friends I realized that an unanticipated existential problem was creeping up on me.

A clock tick-tocks metallically; a yellow leaf falls from the tree, only to be joined later by its friends who share the same fate; children sprout teeth in sleepless nights. Time stops only for those who travel at the speed of light. But we – the mere mortals who came after the Big Bang and travel on the lonely highway at night at an average speed of 100 kph – we are destined to perish.

Father Time treads lightly, noiselessly and imperceptibly, taking us, willingly or not, towards the unknown. This brutal truth recently hit me mercilessly: my optometrist dared offer me a pair of multi-focal glasses on sale, the nursery nanny asked me if I was my children's grandfather, and the chances that I receive a response to my CV, which I have been sending out in commercial quantities, is miniscule. 

After losing my job, and being painfully tossed back into the realm of the unemployed, I found myself fighting a battle of the minds with the gatekeepers of human resources, trying to iron out the wrinkles on my resume and to make it fresher and younger. They, on their part, send out their feelers and apply their detective skills to discover my real age. They focus on any triviality to try and expose the naked truth which lies behind the protective cover of words on the CV.

I tried to alter my CV so that my age was not so apparent. For instance, I deleted the first 10 years of my career, so they began only a decade after I concluded my university studies. The only thing left for me to do, I thought to myself with uncharacteristic bitterness, was to add some childish, naïve drawings of flowers and butterflies to impress the other side with my youth.

But none of these efforts made any impression on them, and no calls for interviews came in. Until… One fine day after a long and frustrating wait, I get a call from Marina, one of thousands who got my CV. Her first question to me was: "How old are you?"

True, not everyone is in their prime at this time of life. There are those of us whose age has left its impression on them. I met him in New York, in the crowded, noisy and dirty 44th St. It was Saul, from the third wave of layoffs (I was let go in the first one). He looked different and pitiful. His once mischievous and cunning demeanor had become contemplative and worn-out. I couldn't believe this was Saul who used to have everyone wrapped around his finger; Saul, who had a bunch of female receptionists do his every bidding; Saul who did whatever he wanted in the company. Unwillingly, he told me about his job in a dusty old house-ware store in Hell's Kitchen, where he was working together with his cousin who had taken him under his wing.

Instead of an ivory tower with wall-to-wall carpeting and marble bathrooms, choice Italian coffee, gourmet lunches and a pampering leased car, he now spends his time in a dull shop, eats pastrami sandwiches which he makes at home and travels, together with the commoners, on the crowded, noisy bus that has the annoying tendency of driving away whenever you reach the stop. No doubt such a radical drop from the top of the world and hitting rock bottom is like slowly burning in the fires of hell, or like being caught in an avalanche. Just pick your favorite method of torment.

A wise old man once told his disciple to look out of the window. "See all those people?" he said, "In 50 years, most of them won't be here anymore. So why worry?"

Such an existential thought came to my mind when I was a student, and today I still think of it as the happiest thought of my life. All of the journeys, of the young and the older, of successful people and losers, all lead to the same heaven. That sounds like a cliché, but there's nothing we can do. Time goes by so fast.

"Mommy, Mommy!" I cry out with a dry throat, half laughing and half crying bitterly. "What ever happened with Rachael, the daughter of our upstairs neighbors in Newark. She used to beat up Isaac, my younger brother, at every opportunity. I wonder what grade she's in now?" "Oh, stop it," the mother says to her little boy who is now older than 40. He's running to catch the sun, but it's coming up behind him. "You and your nonsense. She got married, had four children, and recently got divorced."

"Unbelievable," I thought to myself. "If even Rachael got caught in the spokes of the wheel of time like that, nobody is immune."

It's lunch time in the city of no mercy, the stifling Midtown Manhattan. Sitting in a workers' restaurant with pretty good $6-a-dish food in the business district. The restaurant is populated mostly by very young people, who believe that it will never happen to them. Suddenly, an odd creature turns up. His skin is dry, his legs barely carry him, his back is hunched and his face wrinkled. Several white hairs grow on his head, barely covering his baldness. It didn’t take long to reach the conclusion. This was an… old man. It seems that he came from another planet for lunch. To my left sat a beautiful, happy-go-lucky young couple who also believed that time could not touch them. It was not making an impression on them and their vitality was still unaffected.

I thought of doing something obviously outrageous. "What would happen," I thought to myself, "if I turned to the young couple and asked them if they thought that they would look like him one day (and that that would be the better scenario, having survived so long)." I must admit that I decided to abandon my plan, because I knew what the result would be, and I wanted to get home in one piece.

As part of my research on the damages of time, and its tricks, I went to my uncle's house in Long Island, to check up on Jonathan, his wife's vibrant younger brother who had a weird haircut which covered his eyes. Ignoring my unexpected interest, my uncle's wife told me that her brother was no longer a boy. He is now all grown up and is a real success story today. After working as a senior security officer in one of the undercover government services, he became the owner of a box manufacturing company. "He has a nice house in the country, a wife and three adorable children," she said proudly.

I thought with satisfaction that this was a win-win conversation. She had the opportunity to shine a light on the family bourgeoisie, and I gladly seized the chance to prove again, like Einstein, the theory of relativity and its derivatives as they relate to the curve of time and space, all in the psychological realm, of course.

I will end with a message to the gatekeepers of the coveted Peter Pan's Never Never land. If you do not change your perception about those who are over the age of 40, if you do not demonstrate more openness and willingness to incorporate them in the work force, one day, General Winter-of-Life will catch up to you too, grab you by the neck, and in a glorious illustration of cosmic justice, will do to you as you have done to others, bringing closure.

We, the older people, the patrons of eternity, people of wisdom and counsel, with wrinkles around our eyes which we earned with merit, after silently working on endless excel sheets flashing on our screens, we will prove that we are citizens of several worlds, and that the world belongs to everyone, not just to the young, darn it!