Even a Boomer Can Need A Job




Using a declaration he borrowed from Gen Xers and Millenials, my friend Sid sends me an email expressing the realization that he needs to find work to keep his house, to keep his car, to keep his lifestyle.  I can easily empathize because Sid made many of the same decisions I did. His background is similar to mine.

Sid’s dad, like mine, served in the Army during the war. The good, brave, noble war. The last one that we actually won. Both dads experienced the Depression (last century’s Depression, not the more recent one ), and they taught us the value of a dollar and the importance of hard work.

And that’s pretty much what Sid and I have been up to for the past, um, five decades. Working and saving. Raising families. Having our lives.

“How’d that work out for you?” Sid would be asked if he happened to appear on Dr. Phil’s program..

“Actually, I was about to retire.” he’d say, “but it turns out I have to get a job.”

Maybe he’d explain about good investments gone bad and retirement planning exploding in his face like one of those roadside bombs in Iraq. Point is, he worked hard and tried to make smart financial decisions so he could reach this age and enjoy retirement. But Sid does not have laurels on which he can rest. So he has to put away the dreams he nurtured and forget the happy notion of slowing down and enjoying his golden years.

Like me, Sid managed to get through the decades of craziness and turmoil, both on the world stage and even a bit in his own life. We rocked to the Beetles and cried when we lost John, Martin and Bobby. We watched TV and saw them fall. We also were witness when Saigon fell (that was bad). And when it happened to the Berlin Wall (good). We stayed up with technology, trading our typewriters and adding machines for computers, tried to keep up as we discovered networks–digital ones and social ones–and then puzzled over the convergence of networks and media and, I imagine, most everything else.

The bottom line here, the crux of the matter, the sum total of all Sid has done and everything he’s struggled through and every lesson he’s learned is: he’s gotta get a job.

Had he seen this coming perhaps he would have been better prepared. He didn’t count on the economy’s plunge a few years back, then the slow, slow recovery the just snuck up on Sid. And on many others.

I could have been Sid, That has occurred to me more than once. There but for the grace…

He might not be able to do anything that’s needed in the current economy. Yes, Sid still has most of his hair, but he’s not a cute and clever kid who writes code or creates web sites fully optimized for search engines. He’s remained in good shape, but certainly can’t compete for warehouse work with some youngster who’s all muscle and stamina. I don’t even think there’s anything he could do that the country’s biggest employer, duh Wal-Mart, would value. (Actually, I think he’s glad about that!)

Sid is trying to figure out what he can do that might get him hired. By someone!  Then he’ll create a resume that emphasizes skills and experiences related to that–whatever it is. He knows his resume should include plenty of the key words those resume scanning machines are programmed to spot. That will improve the chances the system will pass his resume along for further consideration.

About those magic words that will get the machine’s attention–I don’t think Sid knows what they are.

Most anyone likely to be exposed to his request for employment is going to be about half his age. Or younger. Why would he, or she, want to add, to their team, someone whom they’ll have to train, someone they’ll need to coach so he can fit into the “culture” of the organization. And once he’s trained and coached, will he be eager to use what he’s just learned to serve his employer for years to come? A prospective employer probably believes the minute Sid might be ready to participate as a fully functioning member of the team, he’ll start counting the days till his retirement.

Sid tells me all of this. He’s worried, he’s scared. The economy, if not the world, has whizzed past, as he ambles in the slow lane.

Sid believes it’s not fair. Not fair that he finds himself in this situation. No justice in the fact that he has to return to the work force. And a cruel trick perpetrated by fate on someone who has passed his “use by” date.

I tell him he’ll never get a job with that attitude.  It’s important to start visualizing himself in a comfortable work setting, getting a decent day’s pay, for doing what he does best,

“That’s it,” Sid says in a eureka moment, deciding what he’s learned to do. So you may see him standing under the traffic light at a busy intersection, holding a sign:

“Will complain for money!”

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