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Same old same old, and a great friend dies needlessly

I apologize for not blogging for a few days. Another good friend of mine has passed away. He was full of life, a gifted athlete well into his forties who set new standards for his sport that still stand today. A talented artist and analyst, he was the full package, left and right brains hitting on every cylinder. Successful at everything he tried, this guy founded and ran two profitable businesses for more then 20 years after graduating Sigma Cum Laude from the Lone Star version of an ivy league school with a design engineering degree. But in the wake of the Great Recession, those businesses collapsed. He hung on for a few years, unable to find even a living wage, slowly losing everything. Finally, he took his own life, completely alone and no doubt feeling utterly abandoned. It sounds like they didn’t even find the body for awhile — I could be wrong but from what I can piece together, they only found him because the landlord checked his cheap, shitty apartment after August rent didn’t show up.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, the grisly details, but I might know how he felt. I know it every day and I get emails from people who feel it too. It just goes on and on for those of us who are middle aged, out of work highly trained professionals. It happened to me again in the last few days. Two weeks ago I interviewed for a job, an easy job well within my skill set and track record. And I still have no idea what happened. Because that’s how it works nowadays. Just for fun I sometimes try to imagine what might have happened to a job I thought I had.

Imagine you’re me or any of the millions of those like my friend who’ve been relegated to obscurity, placed on the economic version of the no-fly list; you don’t know how you got on or how to get off. It may not be easy, but try. Imagine that despite suffering a fluke widow maker heart attack and life threatening complications that took a year to over come, you’ve fought back by sheer grit. You busted your ass to get in shape, you had the discipline to follow a Spartan diet and consistent workouts, losing over forty pounds, getting buff and turning a beer gut into an abs cut like segments of a Hershey bar at age fifty. You did this mostly on disability pay, less than two-thirds of 12 bucks an hour, and eventually lost even that due to the grueling recovery process, landing without any health insurance, a stent in your heart, and no money for critical prescribed meds or follow up care.

You are tech savvy, a blue-chip experienced software and network support guru plus a veteran sales exec who has sold over a billion dollars worth of product over the phone. You apply for a job that only requires a high school degree and “some sales experience preferred.” After learning about the job you realize it’s so easy it will be like shooting fish in a barrel. Your competition mostly consists of kids who might have a semester or two of community college at best and were in middle school on 9-11. You are the highest rated producer in your last two jobs — with years of high end sales success — in the entire company and most of your competition maybe worked a year or two at Verizon or AT&T customer service. You ace the phone interview and are given praise, you then score a 100 on the preemployment test. They call back all smiles and happy faces; it’s clear they want you. You know and they know they would be lucky to get someone like you. All that stands between you and employment is merely a formality, a face to face interview to make sure you’re legal to work in the US and a simple criminal background check.

But then you walk into the interview and the person conducting it is another 24 year-old kid. She doesn’t even make eye contact with you, the entire interview lasts all of seven minutes, during which time she’s messing with her phone like a ‘tweener. She takes no notes on you, doesn’t seem very engaged. But she does ask if you have your residency documents and confirms you would be available starting Monday the 11th. You agree, she says everything looks great, she’ll contact you on Monday the 3rd, Tuesday at the latest, and confirms your email and phone. And of course Monday rolls around and you hear nothing. Tuesday goes by, nothing. So Wednesday you send a friendly email and hear … nothing. You call the next day, twice, and are transferred to voice mail both times, leave a message, and hear … nothing. And now it’s Sunday, the day before you were supposed to start, almost a week after she was supposed to contact you, and you haven’t heard a peep. So what happened?

I can only guess. But my best guess would be this person didn’t even remember me. She didn’t make any notes on my file and had a dozen or more interviews that same day alone. Later on when she went back through her prospects’ files, she didn’t know who I was and skipped right past me, sent offers and received acceptance from those she did notice, and by the time I jogged her memory it was too late. She just hopes I’ll shut up and go away.

Or maybe they don’t want to hire someone who had a health issue. Which would be odd because I stated it all clearly on the original app and discussed it at length in the phone interview before being told I was exactly what they were looking for, before being set up for an aptitude test, and before being invited in for the interview. And you have to be honest, you have to assume they’re going to check and you can’t have it come back that you lied or downplayed the reason you left one of your recent jobs.

Or maybe she just didn’t like me; she’s a kid and kids have a hard time relating to older folks sometimes. Or maybe she thinks a 52 year-old must be a loser for applying for an entry level job making $18 to 20 an hour. That would suck, because it would mean the mere act of applying for the job automatically disqualifies you from getting it.

She doesn’t have much to lose by screwing up or missing a great pick. No matter how many people she hires who can’t hack it or stop coming to work after a week or turn out to be a heroin addict or convicted felon, in this labor environment there’s always more applications in the queue. If she’s incompetent or over-loaded at doing final interviews, who’s going to know? It’s not going to show up visibly in any obvious, measurable way.

But this is what happens, over and over to people like me. And it may have happened over and over to my good friend. The difference being he apparently hit the end of the road, he had no more money, no margin for error left, no family to speak of, or maybe he just lost hope and gave up. As best I can tell, none of us, his friends, knew how bad it was for him, maybe he didn’t want us to know, or maybe we made it way too easy for him to conceal it by not wanting to know. Either way, now we’ll never know, he’s dead and gone.

Comments

  1. foreverunemployed says

    Hi, I recently commented on your similar post from last August (recall I was a graphic designer rendered “permanently unemployable” at 46) — and I can’t believe the timing of this post after what I just experienced. A few weeks back, I applied for a design job in with a local company (am I allowed to give the name?). They sell a pretty dumb product where you make an appt to go shopping (how many people want to do that???). I received an email from their HR rep telling me the marketing manager would like to schedule a phone interview with me. She included a link to an online scheduling system, and I picked Friday at 10am for the call. Friday at 10 arrives and I’m waiting for the call…and waiting…and waiting. At 10:15 I sent her an email saying I’ve got another appointment at 10:30, do we need to reschedule…? She finally replies at 10:30 with “sorry I was stuck in another meeting.”

    I really don’t know why this sort of behavior still baffles me, but, seriously, she didn’t have the brains or decency to send me an email a little sooner as soon as she saw she wasn’t going to make the 10 am call??????? Everyone has their mobile device with them in meetings these days for just such a reason so there’s NO excuse for this IMO. I guess she just assumed she could call me when it’s finally convenient for her and I’d be ready and waiting, to heck with my schedule. Imagine if I was the one who went AWOL at 10!

    But, I took a deep breath, and accepted her offer to reschedule the call, which we had the next Monday. Now, overall, telephone interviews are pretty useless, but as always I did my best to demonstrate my experience and knowledge while their conference phone made an annoying echo as I spoke (there was another girl present, who wasn’t even introduced to me). After the call, I spent an hour or so creating a custom 3D animation just to show them a quick idea of what can be done with their brand. I attached this to my thank-you email which I sent the next day. I received NO response to this. The next day I sent a follow-up email just to confirm she had receive the previous one, because sometimes “odd” attachments can trigger removal by corporate antivirus programs. That’s all I asked for, did you get that email…and, again, NO response.

    On Friday I received her rejection email.

    According to StinkedIn, this “marketing manager” is a whopping 25 years old. I find it overwhelmingly disturbing that this unprofessional clueless dimwit not only enjoys having a job while so many smart talented people don’t, but also that her job is to decide who gets hired in this world…

    It doesn’t end there. I then broke the cardinal rule, and sent a nasty response to that email (I know, my bad…but hey, my career is over, I’m finishing up my TEFL certification and am then heading overseas to teach English, to heck with burning bridges), “I think this is for the best. You were incredibly unprofessional in keeping me waiting for half an hour with our initial phone call, and you couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge the video I sent you. Good luck finding the ‘perfect’ candidate, whomever that may be (I’m certain they’ll be well under the age of 40).”

    She wasted no time shooting back, “Thank you for confirming I made the right decision in choosing to not make you a member of my team.”

    I have written a nice little letter to the CEO and will be mailing it tomorrow, explaining how I was treated in this scenario and concluding with: “I remember twenty years ago when hiring managers held themselves to a standard of service and respect towards all candidates. Of course, twenty years ago your ‘experienced’ recruiting representative was five years old. What you failed to realize was that I was not just a potential job candidate, but a potential user of your product as well. Yes, I may be ‘old’ at 46, but I do shop! You can be certain that after this unprofessional display I encountered in this process I will never come near your product, and that I will be sharing this story across my social media network, from Reddit to Tumblr (that’s right, this ‘old’ woman has a Tumblr blog with 170 followers! In the future, you may want to be a bit more careful and try to avoid alienating potential customers as you did with me.”

    I really don’t see how this country can continue down this path. I know I shouldn’t care anymore, if all goes well, I’m outta here in a few months, I’m aiming for either France or Germany but won’t rule out South Korea, Taiwan, etc. And when I’m gone, I’m NOT coming back!!!! This whole situation is incredibly sad, infuriating and just plain crazy. Too bad nobody cares.

  2. says

    That sounds right. If you’re 25 and you want to be treated like an adult, you need to do the job like an adult. And my experience is many of them don’t do that. Probably because they tend to be more restricted in peer awareness and used to helping older relatives, so based on that short experience, they’ve generalized that young people are more computer literate than older people. Which is total bullshit, if anything it’s the opposite. Just because someone’s mom or aunt or grandmother isn’t PC savvy does not translate into someone with 20 years of PC experience knowing less than someone with two years of PC experience. Not just that, and there are certainly exceptions, but lo and behold, on average, your typical 20 something year old doesn’t have the same track record of responsibility — hell simply waking up and being consistently on time can be a struggle for a 24 year old compared to a 44 year-old — and proven success learning new technologies that the 40 something year old has.

    Related to that is sometimes a sense that The Youngs own the Internet, they live there, while us Olds are lucky to get to visit once in a while. When in fact, we conceived and raised the fucking thing.

  3. says

    Two weeks ago I interviewed for a job, an easy job well within my skill set and track record. And I still have no idea what happened.

    and

    All that stands between you and employment is merely a formality, a face to face interview to make sure you’re legal to work in the US and a simple criminal background check.

    Do you know what is will turn up on a background check? You are entitled to a free credit report every year. For a criminal background check, you can usually get you DOT license report and see what is on your driving record (for WA State it’s $13 admin fee for 24 hour access). Also check with your Police Department to see how to check for any “criminal’ activity on record.

    Being a victim of ID theft, I had to fight collection agencies and flag credit bureau entries for several years, proving my innocence over and over again… Fortunately for me, the ID thieves (who had my driver license info) never used (or caught) using my ID when arrested, ticketed or while committing other crimes. I did suffer through them attempting over several years trying to open CC accounts, passing counterfeit Checks and opening a Sprint mobile phone account.

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Awful situation. My sympathies for whatever little they may be worth.

  5. magistramarla says

    It’s been two weeks since Stephen posted this. Is anyone in touch with him? Is he ok?

  6. catlover says

    Stephen is fine — whew! Just heard from him. He says he has been really busy,. (I e-mailed him a short time ago and he got right back to me.)

    What a relief he is OK!

    Stephen — lI ove this blog! Write when you can. :)

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ catlover : Thankyou. Very glad to hear that.

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