My Unemployed Life: Selling Off My Identity to Survive

Larry's Story Day after day, week after week, month after month -- it's going on two years now since I lost my job. I've zapped thousands of resumes out, had only a few interviews and, as a 53-year-old Human Resources manager, I cannot get anyone to value a lifelong devotion to my profession.

I'm business-impacting, savvy, resourceful and up-to-date, with significant revenue-generating contributions to operations and strategy in business, with lots of employer recommendation letters attesting to this.

But no matter how many times I change my resume, update my LinkedIn profile, submit perfect applications and cover letters, nothing matters.

No longer relevant?

Age discrimination all too well exists, and will continue to do so. No matter what paragraphs of E.E.O. are placed at the bottom of job applications, it does. Those disclaimers are there not to inform me of my rights as an applicant, but as a protection for the company I'm applying to. As a professional in Human Resources, I know that this is true.

In the few interviews I've had, I've never been brought back for a second. In one interview, I sat in front of a table of 20-year-old decision makers, with the company's CEO being just 24, and even though I was tailor-made to their search, was not offered the job.

While my resume looks like I'm 35 -- and I can almost pass for it -- when I walk in and see the recruiter's face fall, I know at that moment that I will not be brought back, no matter how great the interview goes. This, on top of the crushing economy, is a virtual death blow that leaves me feeling like I'll never work again. And I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!

Uncaring relatives back home have reduced themselves out of my life, and with few quality friends, it's just me, my son and my white terrier getting by day to day. I cannot tear myself away from my computer, still looking for any opportunities to make any small amount. I normally spend 14 hours a day filling out applications, sending out resumes and selling my personal possessions that I've treasured for decades.

In particular, watching my collections of movie memorabilia as it leaves my apartment with strangers who can't possibly care about what those things have meant to me, almost produces tears each time. I feel that they, and the movies they're from, are what identify and define me -- and I am slowly selling off that identity, until I feel as if I have none.

Every little bit helps

During my last job, I bought a truck, planning to then buy a dirt bike for my son. Now that my unemployment insurance is about to end very soon, I certainly cannot fulfill his dream for that bike, and that tears me apart. But being a savvy and resourceful guy, I started to make that truck work for me.

For everyday pocket money, and to pay a few utility bills, I made up "Pick-up Truck" business cards, and I get a few calls each week as a delivery guy, to pick up and move someone's furniture for $30 to $60 a trip. And I scour Craigslist in my area for free furniture or dirt-cheap furniture; I go grab or buy it, then re-list it right away (often using their same posted pictures), usually making $50 to $100 on each item I resell.

When I do sell, I add another $20 to $30 for my truck's delivery service, and make sure to give them a business card for referrals. I am quite amused at times when I sell an item for over $100 that someone else has thanked me for taking out of their lives.

As I only live in a one-bedroom apartment with a small separate-area room for my son (whom I share custody over), I know I have to try to take on a roommate in the next month or two or I'll certainly become homeless. That scares the hell out of me.

My reason to keep going

In growing up on the very tough streets of the South Side of Chicago, I've always been a survivor and have always made it through. This time is certainly different, though, and the toughest of all. So I have to work harder than ever before. I think that old saying, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger," is now truer than ever. You have to look at today's challenges this way and stay strong!

I cannot relax at night and pop in a movie -- as I just cannot seem to enjoy it, always thinking I have to keep searching. It's very, very sad, and very depressing. All my son ever sees me do for this past 18 months is sit in front of the computer, day and night, searching for work. I cannot stand this impression and my current way of life, but I know it's what I have to do to keep going. To keep going for him!

When I will finally get a break? It feels like never, but there is a steel ring I have on my desk engraved with a quote from Winston Churchill that reads: "Never Never Never Quit." And I keep it very close to me.

After losing my home and my wife and my savings and my 401k and my perfect credit history, the material losses seem meaningless. It is my soul and my hope and my pride and my instinct that I will not give up on. Or sell. I will keep going, knowing this has to change. It has to.

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Linda Nigro Mudgett

I can understand your frustration Larry. I am 54 and at my age no one will tell you are too old for the job. You can try a temporary service that may help you find that job. With your experience there may be that perfect position for you. Good luck.

September 11 2012 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pigbitin Mad

I am angry and frustrated like all of you. But I have to say, since so many of you worked in HR, I hope you are getting what you deserve. I have always hated HR workers and you probably did the same things to other applicants. If you ever do get another job....don't forget this. i think it is time we start excluding younger workers. Maybe if all the adults who aren't even that old decide they have to move back in with their kids, things will change. After all, these Gen Y kids don't want to live with their parents do they?

May 31 2011 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

p.s. I forgot to say that I'm 56 and I know what you're going through with age discrimination. But the smart employer, and the company you want to work for, knows the value of the knowledge, work ethic, and skills the mature worker possesses.

March 15 2011 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I, too, keep the Winston Churchill quote close to my heart. I've found out through all of this angst and worry that it distills my life down to what is very important to me, my husband, my dogs, our close friends and our close relatives. As you've found out, the fairweather friends and relatives fade out. That's fine. It stung at the time, but now it's not so painful. Pray, pray, pray, specifically to God and then listen for Him. And keep on going and never, ever, ever, give up. All my best wishes to you. Jo-Ann

March 15 2011 at 9:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Larry, I can understand as well. The large corporation I worked for fired off all the older HR workers and there are only pretty, young things working there now. They are clueless, rude and unprofessional. The company's goal was to get cheaper employees and to get rid of anyone who would actually side with an employee. Older, savvy employees cause them 'trouble' in their interpretation of the word. Good luck Larry

February 03 2011 at 10:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Laurie's comment

This is so sad. With your resourcefulness, many businesses that avoid hiring you as a full time permanent employee might embrace you as a consultant, such as small businesses or startups, if you market yourself in such a way.

My mother worked for a public school system practically her entire life and was faced with a layoff after 20+ years of service. Now she is looking for a position and is experiencing the same results.

Good luck to you, and remember that some activities and hobbies, like exercise, meditating and other things you enjoy, should not be neglected at a time like this, because they help keep you happy, motivated, and centered. Good luck!!

February 17 2011 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frederik C. Winsser

I too am a 'Baby Boomer' (64 years old), and I can well appreciate the situation that too many Boomers are facing.

I worked for many years, as an Electrical Engineer (mostly contract work, some for short term assignments), a field very much dominated by younger, under forty year olds. My last engineering job (contract work at Lucent Technologies) ended about seven years ago. The company was laying off most of their permanent employees, so contract work was done.

What saved me, was my rental properties. For about twenty years, my ex and I had acquired seven multi-family homes. With a lot of sweat equity as well as cash investments into improvements, the properties now provide me with a rather stable income. I'm not rich, but I've always lived a responsible and a bit frugal lifestyle.

I do believe that too many jobs are gone for good and those positions that are open are usually offered to younger applicants (yes, age discrmination is very real). The answer is to MOVE ON to new areas. Unemployment insurance, although very helpful and necessary for short term, it can also create a welfare like dependency. Instead, retrain with college degree, move to health care, service sector, self employment, construction, etc. When the jobs are gone, it's highly unlikely that they will return. Better to do what Larry has done and look for or create new opportunities.

My best wishes to all.

February 01 2011 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As an unemployed Baby Boomer I'm tired of being told that I'm overqualified for a position too. The next time I'm told this I will do something that is very uncharacteristic of me. I plan to assert myself and say to the interviewer "are you trying to tell me that I'm too old". I have a college degree and use to work as a Social Worker, and yet I'm unable to find work. I've applied to every job imaginable, and in doing so have heard it all. The worst one was the daycare director who took one look at my Resume and said "no no you are a Social Worker, you are overqualified, go get a job as a Social Worker"! What an idiot didn't she think that I was applying for a job as a Daycare Worker because no one would hire me in my profession. Another problem that I have is that I am a minority, and please people affirmative action does not guarantee that you will get a job so please don't think it's easier for me. Behinds I have an American last name, and I never fill out the Affirmative Action information in job application so I'm not really at an advantage. But I know for a fact that my age is not the only thing that keeps me from getting a job. I once went to a interview for a job as a Children's Counselor and when I walked in the interviewer's office he gave me a disgusted look and said "you can't call yourself a counselor you don't have a college degree! Well I guess he was not only a racist but he was also illiterate because both my Resume and job application clearly state that I had a BA in Psychology!

January 24 2011 at 9:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kat's comment

Challenging the agism does no good. The bastards just site EOE and pretend that is not the reason that they are looking for the best candidate blah blah blah. The posters that suggest to reinvent reeducate or retrain, do not realize that many are unemployed in two or three certified areas. It is hopeless, and I for one won't miss this dishumaning work force. I HAVE given up - I longer care and will be a burden to society.

March 10 2012 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bcheerful3's comment


March 10 2012 at 12:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

I cried and cried when I read this. I am 51, Human Resource Manager in Texas looking at the end of my 99 weeks of unemployment.
I know the "looks" when we show up to interview. I can pass for 40 but when they meet me they know. I recently had 6 interviews with the same company, 3 individual and 3 panels. I was sure I was the one. Then I met with the physician owners and they ripped me up. "tell me why we need H.R. and what the heck do you people do all day, it's just not cost effective" They never let me answer completely. I left feeling beat-up, but as you will agree, I would have gladly accepted the job! I was not selected.
In the middle of all this, I lost a relationship, moved and am selling my stuff. Craigslist is my new best friend! I thank you for telling me I am not alone at the computer job search, I have to put my laptop in the closet on Sunday for a break. We will survive, remember what we tell people after we laid them off? This gives us an opportunity, right? Best wishes, prayers and good thoughts from Texas.

January 24 2011 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks for sharing your story. I've been going through a similar process of trying to find a new job at 59. Some days I feel very alone and that no one could possibly understand what I'm going through. For what it's worth, by sharing your story it helped me to see I'm not alone and that it's up to ME to find someway out of this situation. Thanks and good luck.

January 24 2011 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was out of work at 59 for 8 months. I have been employed now for 2 years and am so blessed. I also have part time work with the church. When I was looking for work I became very involved with church mission work that eventually helped lead to my current position. I work full time for a good company - a job that came about by networking with colleagues and former employers - and part time for the best employer - God.
I think you may have hit on something with your delivery business. I am familiar with many comnpanies in the courier business that use people such as yourself to deliver packages and equipment to local businesses. It could be a great start to another career. And these companies don't care about age. Having a pick up truck is a big asset. Look in the local yellow pages under "delivery" or "courier".
There is always hope - and answers to our problems (spiritual and financial) are present - we just haven't learned to recognize them. It could be time for a change.

January 24 2011 at 8:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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