Guest Blog: Ed Cook, The Final One

I have not written anything for Mel in a while because I have been very diligently writing job application letters.  Let me tell you, the Job market is crazy.  If you have been out of work during the recession, I sympathize and empathize.  If you have not been out of work in, say, 10 years and you have any concern that you might need to be looking for a job, trust me, it is a whole new ball game.  Start working on it soon and see a career counselor to help.

Some background—I was with one firm (a Fortune 500 company) for 10 years.  In 2009 the company started cutting heads and they laid off my good friend Roger and replaced him with a temporary.  To save money on paying benefits they would bring in one guy and let him go a few months later, then repeat the process as the work load ebbed and flowed.  They let another of my peers go a few months later and they did the same Temp thing with her job. They have since done the same thing with my entire job classification except the woman who has been there 39 years AND is working short days because she is recovering from Cancer treatment.  (She expects to be the last to go when she is cleared to work full days. She has the advantage of being able to retire)

It was my turn in March of 2010.  I was incredibly lucky as a friend of mine had just started at a job that was growing fast and needed a person with my skills and experience.  I was hired in less than a week and got a 20% raise and a promotion.  Unfortunately for me the business did not continue to grow and I was laid off in November 2010.

I was out of work once before. I changed jobs for better pay and took a job at a place that seemed good on first look but was very political and corrupt.  The person who pushed me out ended up going to jail a few years later…I think she is out by now.  That was 1999. I used all my job-hunting skills to get a job in 4 months.

I have now been out of work for nearly 11 months.  Everything is different from 1999.  Back then you looked for jobs on the internet but you wrote and sent letters to apply.  Now, every application is on-line.  They get mad if you mail in a resume.  Only one in 4 applications even send you an on-line confirmation.  Courtesy is out the window! Logic is out the window too in many cases.  I still look in the paper for jobs but where there used to be sections of jobs in the Sunday paper there are now about 3 pages.

I have had some interviews, not enough apparently, but more than some friends who are also out of work.  Many of these have been over the phone, which is a new method that I have never experienced before.  It is not easy doing phone interviews because you cannot see the person’s body language or if they are smiling, etc.

I have nearly 20 years’ experience in my line of work.  I have the two highest Certifications my professional organization issues (very well-known industry-wide).  I have an MBA and I have been teaching the subject and a large State University for several years.  I have been told I am not qualified, I have been told I am over qualified.  I have been told that because I only had two jobs in the last 25 years I don’t have broad enough experience.  (Here I always thought it was a good thing to be stable and not job hop, I guess not.)  Part of this is I don’t have references from past managers.  The Fortune 500 Company does not give references, the boss at the company that laid me off in November doesn’t understand my line of work and so would not be a good reference and the guy who was my last boss (not the best boss) at the best job I had, died a few years ago.

I was in the final two for five jobs over the summer. Five!! You’d think I’d get one of them, right?  I want to be the Final ONE!  One of them called me a week or so after the second interview to tell me they were putting the job on hold and were going to re define their needs.  Huh?? You mean to tell me that when the hiring manager was writing up the Job Req. and Job description and getting approval from his bosses and going through two rounds of interviews they didn’t know what they wanted?  Another did not hire anyone and installed a hiring freeze company wide.  How did I find that little nugget out?  I met the hiring manager last week at a JOB FAIR!!  They are at a job fair with a booth and they have a hiring freeze????  LOGIC PLEASE.

I went to three interviews for one job and lost it to another person.  The headhunter involved called me about 1 ½ months later at 8 pm. His message asked if I was still available because the company had called asking about me. (Apparently the person they hired had left or been asked to leave.) After calling him early the next morning and saying yes, I called him back the next day because I thought fate was kicking in here.  He said, that he “might have been a little premature calling me about company XXX, because they are going back to redefine the job description.” Sounds familiar!

More logic lapse here.  I have been told by more than one person that there are a lot of companies that advertise jobs that are not available.  Huh?  Yes, they advertise them to see how many respond so they can use that as leverage to keep pay lower for the people in the jobs.  I applied for one of these recently, of course not knowing that was the case.  Through Linkedin I found the hiring manager and I were connected to a friend of mine.  I called him and asked if he could put in a good word.  He called her and she started going on about a low-level job that was way below my qualifications.  I had sent him a copy of my application letter showing the title of the job.  He countered by saying “that’s not the job he applied for it was a Director of X.”  She said, “oh that job doesn’t exist yet, we were just seeing how many people would respond so we could set the pay rate.”  Logic…hello…logic!

The worst thing I heard was that companies are not hiring unemployed workers.  I mentioned that to the career counselor I go to and he told me it’s true, and that it is so widespread that there is a bill before Congress to prevent it.  Astounding!!  The people I know who are out of work to a person tell me they would work like a dog for whomever hires them because they want/need to get back in the workforce and will be very loyal and all those good things.  Why would you not hire someone like that!?!

Please write to your Representative in Congress and Senators to ask for them to support the bill that prevents employers from excluding the unemployed from consideration when hiring.  There are 14 Million of us who will thank you.


2 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Ed Cook, The Final One

  1. I was in a similar boat — going from job to job, making the last two candidates, being “overqualified” or “under-qualified” or just plain disqualified, having jobs I thought were in the bag, pulled at the last minute to “redefine needs” or “reassess the position”. Finally a friend of mine who has worked in HR told me what the problem was. I’m old. I’m over 50. They’re not allowed to tell you that you’re not being hired because you’re over fifty. So they tell you, basically, “oh, you’re too fabulous for this pawltry position.” Or “we’ve rethought the position and have downgraded the pay” (meaning they’ve hired a kid just out of college because… hey… you’re old.) It’s all euphemism for… if you’re over 50, your odds of finding employment just dropped by an extra 20% to 30% per job. I managed finally to secure employment — at about 60% of what I was making before. And being employed certainly makes the job search a little easier for some reason. But I’m still over 50, and that’s going to make getting a decent job with decent pay and perks much harder than it was at 35.

  2. My field is different from yours, Ed. I am a carpenter by trade and 3 years ago I owned my own company. I was working in a house on Three Chopt Road in Richmond that was valued at 3.5 million dollars. One of the best jobs I have ever worked on. The owner was heavily involved in the market, to the point where all 7 TV’s in the house were on MSNBC’s business network 24/7 and he watched everything. He saw the crash coming and suddenly stopped all work on his house. The General Contractors I usually worked for were also slowing down and I was forced to close my doors and look for work. I found temporary work with a skilled labor company and did that for the next year. I was working about 50% of the time for half the pay I had been making. My wife has a retirement coming in and it allowed us to keep the house, although everything else got way behind. I went to work for a cabinet company I had work for before for 6 months and finally landed this job I have now. I make good money again and have benefits, but I work out of town all of the time. I am in Miami right now and will be here at least until Christmas. I asked God to help me find a job, but I forgot to ask for one in Richmond…:) I wish you luck in your search, but like Amanda said here, being over 50 will defiantly hurt your chances. My political thinking is that we need people in Washington who are pro-business and who will repeal regulations that are hurting businesses, lower taxes that seem to be holding up progress on the job front and revamp the tax code to allow more people to keep more of their money. Until something changes I think stories like yours are going to be the norm.

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