Months of Rejection, Apathy and Abject Ageism: The Trials of Searching for a New Job
Last year I found myself at a bit of a loose end. Brexit had done a ‘proper job’ on my fledgeling business, thus, I endeavoured to search for a more stable job. I am at an age where retirement is no longer that thing that old people do, and it was looming, and I really need to start making some firm plans.
I’ve worked in retail most of my adult life. From wearing lurid green A-line skirts in Sketchley’s on Saturdays through the 80s (£1.25 an hour!) to working for Major brands like John Lewis Partnership, Safeway, Premier Foods and so on.
In many guises. In many roles. Buying, selling, marketing, space planning, for multiple retailers, convenience retailers, large FMCG brands, small start-up brands and a good few years consulting too. Truth is, I flippin love the cut and thrust of retail. It’s the barometer of the nation. And whilst it might not be the best sector for pay or glamour, as my Dad so delicately puts it ‘Jane, people will always need food’. And as the salaries went up, the uniform improved too.
Historically Finding a New Job Had Always Been Easy
On reflection when I’ve previously searched for a job, I guess I had youth on my side and fewer perceived family commitments. So the months of rejection, apathy and abject ageism that met me was most unexpected and hit me like a train.
As a consultant helping start-up brands establish themselves in the very competitive world of retail, I had been used to having metaphorical doors slammed in my face. But, that had always been business. No harm meant. ‘It’s not a no, it’s just a not yet’ kinda thing. Let’s keep trying. Yet being on the receiving end when it’s you and your CV that you’re selling is different. It’s personal. So very, very personal.
However, I did not get to where I am now by giving up. I have kids I need to feed, a mortgage to pay, a husband with arched eyebrows and drumming fingers who was cutting me no slack!
I Went Viral
Thus, I started to reach out on LinkedIn. I did a video with music with a truncated CV intro. Proper cheese-fest but I went viral!! Well, I reached 5000 views. Many supportive messages from all over the world, which were good for the soul, but not one interview invitation as a result.
I posted on job boards. All of them. I left nothing to chance.
I networked. Searching locally, I found a Job Seekers Advice group. I went one time, then I realised the majority of attendees had been going for years and it was more of an old man’s chinwag opportunity. For reference, I was the only girl and the only one under 50. Not much progress made.
I kept a note of every job I applied for, the platform I searched, the date and if I had received any reply. I was methodical and organised.
Of the 1000s I had applied for, less than 5% replied. Most of them were automated ‘sorry you do not have the required skills’ malarkey. In pure frustration, I did reply to one saying ‘you have asked for xx, xxx, xxxx and xxxx. I did all this and more, how can I not have the required skills???’. Obviously it was an automated reply so received nothing else in return, but it felt good to vent.
I was also told on many occasions that they were concerned I was overqualified. WTAF? I am certain that this is code for you’re too old. Or ‘we think you will want too much money’. Ok, sunshine, off you go and get someone for the same salary with half the experience and let’s see how that turns out for you.
Then I Started Getting Interviews – At Last Some Results From My Seemingly Endless Job Search! But…
There was the one that told me ‘Jane, you are perfect for the role, but I have 2 people returning early from maternity and I need to find them a role, sorry’.
The one that said I had the role and I was a perfect fit until he gave it to the daughter of a friend the next day.
The one that told me I had the job, then called the next day to say that their Finance Director had vetoed it, due to poor cash flow. This happened 3 times. Same person, same job. By the last time, I asked for it in writing and they took objection. Yeah, see ya!
The one where I had a really great interview said they’d get back to me the next day for a second interview, then they ghosted me. Turns out the person who had interviewed me had wanted to offer me the job but then went on longterm sick. Smashing!
The one where a VERY well-known brand, forgot to send a member of HR to interview me so I got a total random, from a department I wasn’t even joining, to interview me. She looked at her watch 8 times in 40 minutes. Way to feel special!
I was starting to feel like I was the unluckiest person ever. How hard can it be? I am an articulate, knowledgeable, well turned out, passionate, loyal, committed team player. I’M A NICE PERSON!!! How can this be so bloody hard?
Then It Happened
One little Facebook message to an old colleague. There was nothing suitable at the time, but she came back to me about 6 weeks later and said ‘Jane, are you still looking?’. I was in, interviewed and offered the job, all within one week. Serendipity I guess. I’m still here and very happy.
So, I think it’s fair to say that I’d really been put through it. Job searching is brutal. It consumed me. Morning noon and night I was on the treadmill of LinkedIn, Indeed, The Grocer etc. starting to wonder if the jobs I was applying for were even real. But it just takes one.
Good luck, it’s tough out there. Keep the faith.