According to bloomberg.com, in May only 38,000 U.S. jobs were created. This is the lowest payroll increase in almost six years. But the jobless rate fell to 4.7% – which is an eight-year low. It’s usually good when the unemployment rate decreases, but last month’s decline, without significant job creation, is a result of people who have stopped looking for work or have dropped out of the workforce for various reasons.
I think I can be counted among those who have dropped out, and it’s not by choice. I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding freelance creative work recently and I am psychologically depleted by the growing stack of rejection letters I’ve received by employers who bother to respond to my applications. I feel it’s a much better investment of my time to work on finishing my novel than sending out my résumé to people who will ignore me or insult me. I find it ridiculous that I believe I am more likely to get a novel published than I am to find a job in the creative industry. That’s how bad the job market is in this country for people with creative skills, people in their 40s and up, and people who have taken an unconventional career path (like being a stay-at-home parent). I’m relieved that, as a result of the May report, people are finally starting to realize that the employment market isn’t as rosy as previous job report analysts have claimed it is. I’ve read frequently over the past year that the increase in jobs are in the tech, nursing, restaurant, and manufacturing industries. There are a whole lot more industries in our country that haven’t been growing and have been ignored by the media. I’m pretty bright, but I guarantee that everyone in this country is better off if I DON’T write your computer codes, try to draw your blood, attempt to serve your food, or assemble your vehicles just so I can have one of the available jobs. I personally know a lot of people who have been having considerable difficulty finding full-time work in their area of education or training. All of the people I know who are struggling to find employment are from the educated, middle-class segment of America.
I’ve experienced a lot of age discrimination the past five years during my quest for creative employment – along with stay-at-home mom discrimination. No one will say it directly, but I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m applying for jobs that younger people are also applying for. Younger people are probably easier to look at in the highly visual creative industry. Younger people are probably more fun to hire, especially when the hiring is done by someone age 30 or under (I’m guessing that’s because many companies don’t really seem to care about employing experienced managers anymore). I’ve met with several young hiring managers without kids of their own who have done a poor job of disguising their inability to comprehend why someone would risk creating an employment gap on their resume just to raise children. I don’t tell prospective employers this, but I developed an autoimmune disease twenty years ago, when I was 27 and had a one year-old son and a two and a half year-old daughter. Instead of acquiring a substantial work history in the creative industry, I gladly chose to use the little energy I had to focus on my kids. I often needed a lot of rest and knew that I would have had to neglect them so I could nap if I also worked outside the home. I was committed to raising my children to the best of my ability so that they would contribute to society instead of being a drain on it. (You’re welcome, America.) Now that my children are adults, I would have the luxury of devoting my energy to my employer and then napping for hours when I get home – if someone would offer me a job.
Thanks to my job search, I feel a lot older than I am – on top of feeling rejected and useless in the eyes of American society. The most recent rejection letter that I received in May notified me via email that they wouldn’t even bother interviewing me because they decided to pursue applicants who have “knowledge, skills and abilities” for the job. Ouch! That word choice delivered a kidney punch I didn’t see coming. It wasn’t a job doing brain surgery or rocket science that I applied for; it was a graphic design and customer service job. In college, my concentration was in graphic design; I’ve done freelance graphic design on and off for the past 30 years; I met all of the technical requirements of the job; I’ve had tons of customer service experience in various retail positions I’ve held, along with experience in successfully serving my own customers through my freelance work as a creative director. Because the words imply that all I’ve done the past 30 years has been meaningless, I’m actually hoping that telling me I don’t have the right “knowledge, skills and abilities” is code for “you’re too old,” “you’re too experienced,” “your work history is too unconventional,” “your résumé indicates that you might have made your children a priority over earning a relatively small weekly paycheck, and that’s too radical for my HR brain to comprehend” . . .
I haven’t been able to pick myself up and apply for any other jobs since that HR person’s assessment of me last month. It’s not completely her fault that I’ve rolled my stunned body out of the employment ring for now; it’s been a culmination of non-responses to my applications, thoughtless references to people in my age group during interviews, and snarky rejection letters that have completely drained my enthusiasm for working among young creative types.
I give up on trying to find a job. But if you see a sign that says someone is hiring 46 & 47 year-olds, please let me know.
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