Updated: Sep 17
Don't let political perspectives or demographically fueled campaigns convince you that the job market is strong and the problem is you. If you're doing what you're supposed to, then the problem is not you.
Speaking purely from personal experience, you are not alone if you are out of work for an extended period of time. After 25+ years as a director of eCommerce, my steady climb up the corporate ladder had its usual ups and downs until the company was sold and consolidated with another. This, coupled with a side-gig of eCommerce consultation for some business clients that I was sick of (spent more time chasing receivables than providing services), I was ready to start anew and took a local job with a startup as a manager of eCommerce, web development and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization).
Unfortunately that position didn't last long, as it was new territory for the business and the impending downturn in the economy scared them into cutting positions and entire department. So I was out, but no problem, right? I'll snap up another job in no time and figure out what I want to do with the next 20 years. Piece of cake, or so I thought.
Reality #1 - Not So Easy
Eight months later.
Eight months of applying to hundreds of jobs on ALL the different job sites. Each application accompanying a customized resume and cover letter. Paid for professional reviews of the resumes being sent. Took advice. Watched as hundreds, sometimes THOUSANDS of other applicants applied for the same jobs in upper management. A few interviews here and there--one or two of them causally mentioning that there's an enormous pool of talent out there, and by far not enough jobs to fill the applications. Practiced my interview skills. Spread my search to lower positions on the management scale. Lowered my standards on what I would be willing to accept again and again.Nothing.
Yes, in case you were wondering, I was applying for in-office positions within an hour drive in all directions and remote positions, equally.
Reality #2 - Growing Fear Of Remote Work
I spent the last fifteen years working a hybrid work week. Some days is various offices, others at home. While working at home I made it a point to remain disciplined, have specific hours and not to involve myself in "home related activities" whenever I could avoid it. It has been my professional experience in management that not everyone can do this.
As someone at the director level, I dealt with a lot of people in various business structures. Those on my remote teams had a far greater turnover than in-house team members. That's just the reality. I know there are a lot of studies out there and opinions that remote employees are more productive and more accurate in their end-results than in-house team members. I have found that this is simply not the case--most of the time. I found that people were great in the beginning, but as their comfort levels grew, less productivity was obvious. Less preparedness for meetings was obvious (and I was not the type to hold endless meetings), and far less camaraderie was achieved in working relationships between team members, which lead to less productive teams. While your mileage may vary, I saw this time and again across several industries and types of businesses. Some are even making the argument that working from home is representative of a growing trend of lazy, white-collar workers who feel that they should be held to a different standard than those who must go into a physical workplace to do things like fix your car, cook your take-out, or show up when you dial 911.
“People building the cars, servicing the cars, building houses fixing houses, making the food, making all the things that people consume. It’s messed up to assume that, yes, they have to go to work, but you don’t," he said in an interview . “It’s not just a productivity thing, I think it’s morally wrong." – Elon Musk
Reality #3 - Do What You Gotta Do
Regardless of your age when reading this post, know that middle age is coming for us all. If you are one of the unlucky bunch who loses a job at mid-life, especially an executive or managerial/supervisory position, you may find yourself in this perpetual loop of frustration as ageism (a very real thing) and salary requirements push you into this holding pattern of applying for positions that result in no results. Personally, I had to go back to consulting work for some old and new clients to bring in some money. Some I have chatted with find themselves willing to take any work to make ends meet. It really sucks as a lifetime of expertise and experience feels like its going to waste, but sometimes the reality of a situation necessitates harsh introspective decisions in deciding how to move forward. Me? I'm considering buying a business that's up for sale.
Reality #4 - The Stress
If you are new to the job market, it can be frustrating finding that perfect position that you've studied or practiced or been trained for. But, if you are a professional of a certain age then the reality is very similar to losing a loved one. Truly, it is proven and greatly discussed by mental health professionals that losing a long term position, especially one that you developed or help develop, has the same effect on the mind and body as mourning a deceased person who was important in your life. Depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, questioning your abilities and second-guessing all your decisions is completely and factually normal.
Reality #5 - You Can't Give Up
Despite the realities of the current job market indicated in #4 above, you cannot give up. Been out of work for six months? A year? I would advise you to start thinking outside the box. Seek professional mental services assistance if you need to, but at the same time, put your skills to work on your own. Look for alternatives. go into business for yourself. It is possible and you can do it. Fight. fight as hard as you did climbing that corporate ladder, or as hard as you worked to get that small business up to profitability for someone else. You CAN do this and become successful all over again.
Like I said before, I am considering buying a local business that is doing marginally well and owned by a gentlemen looking to retire and understands what people our age have to go through. Personally, I believe that with what I know how to do in the world of eCommerce, marketing, and managing teams and team members, I can potentially turn this business into a fortune. Ten years ago in my forties, I would have called you crazy if you said I was going to be reinventing my professional career once again. Not with my tenure, not with my skillset. It's a changing world and if you find the alternatives then you can find success again... don't give up. Ever.