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Commentary: 50-something jobseeker in a 30-something world

By Charles Coursey, KERA 90.1 commentator

Commentary: 50-something jobseeker in a 30-something world

Dallas, TX –


That's what I used to think about the...ahem..."veteran employees" at the ad agency where I worked as a strapping young lad--human relics in their forties, still hanging on for God knows what reason. Ted had white hair. WHITE HAIR, for chrissake! And a white beard to boot! He was a lot of fun and surprisingly creative for an old guy. But, at the end of the day, still he was OLD...

Now I KNOW. It's true what they say: "What goes around comes around."

Example #1: I received an enthusiastic invitation to interview from one major local ad agency. This in response to my exceptionally well-crafted cover letter and resume--which has been described by more than one career adviser as "stellar."

I show for the interview, all spiff in business attire--as advised by the geniuses in Human Resources. I am greeted by three more appropriately-uniformed twenty-somethings: a male in a rumpled brown Mexican wedding shirt, a female in jeans and spikey hair, and the leader of the pack in a tight black T-shirt advertising motorcycles. He was buff. He wore it well.

Together they presented a unified happy-face and gave ten minutes to making chit-chat. Pathetically, I was still trying to show my portfolio as they edged me toward the door.

Now, in strict career terms, this particular position would've been a couple of steps back for me. I never heard from the agency one way or the other, but my guess is I was..."OVERQUALIFIED!"

But next comes my favorite "overqualified" story. I responded to a headhunter's ad for a second-banana creative position. I've been second banana. That was before I was top banana. But hey, by now ALL bananas look yellow to me. Anyway, I applied. And here's the actual note I received in response: "Thank you for your information. The client does not want to review candidates that have as much experience as you. They want someone they can mold over time."

Let's just think for a second now. We're talking about a supervisory position with a pay range of $80,000 to $90,000.

Seriously. Are you paying $80,000 to $90,000 a year to someone so wet behind the ears - or perhaps just so spineless, vapid and political - that they need to be "molded"? If so, then God help the clients who put their trust in you.

Unfortunately for us all, maturity and character--even decency and ethics--have been excised from the equations used to calculate today's business success.

Too bad for me. With full family baggage at 52, there's no practicality in my returning to the B-school womb, intent to spring out as a squeaky, shiny new MBA, ruthless and ready to dispense with every consideration that stands between me and my stock options.

Maybe it's for the best. I get to experience first hand the maddening subtleties of discrimination. I get to see what it's like to be disenfranchised -something that, as a member of the erstwhile privileged class, I NEVER, EVER believed could happen.

Surprise, surprise. Wheel of Karma: What goes around comes around, right? But, oh just wait, ye current corporate lords. EVEN YOU aren't getting any younger!

Charles Coursey is a writer from Mesquite.

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