I am currently unemployed. I have worked since I was 15, with very few “breaks”. My first job was working the concession stand at a local movie theater. It had 6 theaters… and for 1989, in small-town Connecticut, that was HUGE. I remember my first day like it was yesterday. It was a Saturday morning shift and the opening weekend of The Little Mermaid. When the doors opened, it was a wave of toddlers and children the likes of which I have never seen. I thought surely, I would not survive. They came in droves. Army after army of them running, jumping, screaming and some even crying. Flanked by mostly Mom’s trying to keep the battalions of little people on course and mission focused. They came in waves all day, and I was steadfast in my counter-attack, tossing popcorn, soda, and candy at them like my life depended on it. At the end of my shift, I was war-torn, exhausted, surrounded by sticky floors and was pulling popcorn from my hair. I was exhausted, but hey, I survived. Not only did I survive, I did it again the next day! Glutton for punishment…? Maybe. But when I got my first paycheck, being paid the whopping $4.25 per hour for my battle skills, I tasted freedom. That check signified being able to go buy those jeans from Fashion Bug that I wanted so bad, pizza with friends, movies, or the mall with friends. It represented my being in control, and not having to rely on someone else if I wanted something. I could earn it, and get it my damn self! Freedom! I have never looked back.
Of course, there have been jobs I did not like, that did not make me happy, but mostly, I have never minded working. I never wanted to be home all day as a housewife and mother. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids… but the thought of being home all day with no adult interaction, never appealed to me, and still doesn’t. Some women long to be dutifully at home, cooking, cleaning and rearing children. Good on you! To each his own. That is so not for me.
I have slowly and steadily worked my way through experiences. I was a mom at a young age (20), and a single mom by my mid 20’s. No college degree and small children meant I had limited options in career choice. I worked in retail. I worked as a receptionist in a law office. I toured and leased luxury apartments. I was a waitress, a bartender. And eventually managed in both restaurants and country clubs. I tried on a lot of hats. Some out of necessity of hours, or money, and some I actually had interest in. But I enjoyed something in all of them. And even if I had no experience, I had drive and if given the opportunity to speak with someone, I was offered nearly every job I ever sought.
I have been functioning for the last 15 years or so in an administrative management role or as an “Executive Assistant”. Slowly and steadily growing my experience, my references, my reputation, and my salary. No, I will never be wealthy (unless that lotto ticket I haven’t checked yet pans out) but for a girl with no “formal” secondary education, I have managed to survive and do pretty damn OK for myself, and my children.
Fast forward to now. I took a position last year wooed by a high salary and no commute. I was feeling confident that there was nothing, or no one, at this point that I could not handle. I had worked with some of the toughest personalities out there and always came out shining. I had a pocketful of glowing letters saying just how great I was. Cue the need to knock me off my high horse! I could not get a handle on the personality I was to assist. And to put it diplomatically, it was miserable. It was not a healthy environment on any level and ultimately worked for no one. So here I am, 45 years old, unemployed, and trying to navigate the job search as it exists today. It is not about money so much anymore. I am married, and my husband makes a good living, and we can get by for a while if needed. For me, it is about purpose. It is my innate need for independence. My need to not RELY on anyone for anything, regardless if he is my partner and does not place expectations on me. I place them wholly on myself. It is part of who my mother raised me to be. My independence runs through me like my blood. I am way outside of what is comfortable for me.
Gone are the days of making personal contacts, most of the time you send a resume, you do not even know who is receiving it. This makes follow up nearly impossible. Now, it is wondering if you modified your resume enough to include as many “keywords” as possible so that you might actually get through the ATS (Applicant Tracking System), that filters the resumes out before they are even viewed. It is searching outside of the norms in hopes of reaching an actual person. It used to be that you were more than what was condensed to fit onto one page. You were able to sell yourself on not just your experience, but through human connection. That does not exist anymore and it makes the process difficult. I find myself scouring articles on how to work these systems, reaching out to friends, and mostly feeling a bit defeated. Now, I will say, I have only been unemployed for 3 weeks. You might laugh and think… give it time. I am not patient, and the longer I am stuck in limbo, the more it weighs on me. I miss the “old days”. I miss people. Not social media, not someone’s professional profile that shows nothing of who THEY are. I miss PEOPLE. I am a people person. Get me across from someone and I am coming out shining. But this new way of doing things? I am not so sure about.
I am trying to master the art of being unemployed and how to make myself stand out. Trying not to let the weight of all this “time” drown me. Trying to redefine my “purpose”. It seems that this is an uphill task, and I have never been one to not tackle a challenge. But I am open to suggestions if you have them…? I need to make friends with more millennial’s I think. This Gen X’er could benefit from a little youthful insight because I am feeling old! In the meantime, I will keep on keeping on, and keep searching for those little windows of human connection that still exist. I got this… I got this… I GOT THIS!
Joan Poirier is an Empath, a goddess, a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend. She is you, and she is me. Just a real woman, embracing her age and her wisdom, and not afraid of opening the dam and making some waves during her short time on the wild ride of life. She is on an ever-growing quest to live better, do better, be better and taking all the lumps that go with it.