“Oh, My Goodness!!” A friend said to me when I met her for a coffee after she called distressed after another failed interview. “I am a middle-aged white woman who is now a minority in her own country, a country I was born in!! “What! I thought, are you allowed to say that out loud, as I quietened her down so others in the cafe would not hear her. Lucy, due to the Pandemic, had been made redundant. She was in an executive role with loads of experience and thought this to be an opportunity to have a well-earned break before she hit the job market again. She never knew that being 55 would be a problem as getting a job for Lucy was always so easy.
This was her opportunity to reinvent herself and find a career she would truly love. With optimism in her heart, she decided to take a month off before checking out the job market, only seeking roles that excited her.
“It will be a walk in the park,” she said. A year ago!
Lucy was an intelligent confident woman, who held her own in any situation. I say ‘was’ as over the year I saw her confidence spiral down where I did not recognise her, gone was that social vibrant person I once knew. Lucy is a shell; I wish I could say was.
Without realising it, the Pandemic had rocked her stability, her relationship and now her confidence.
After she calmed down, she talked about her experiences as a ‘ middle-aged, white woman who had made a career out of being a job seeker’.
“I no longer fit the culture, the age, or the image of the organisations I approach. I was even told by one organisation that I was the wrong colour! Was not the right culture! too old! I should report them”. Lucy had every right to be angry, and justifiably so, but what good would it do, so I just responded with a “what a stupid thing to say”. Lucy either ignored this or thought my response was too flippant as she continued to share her experiences with me (she was bleating like a goat but hey, friends support friends right!)
“I apply for these roles; recruitment people are the worse! They never respond, these 20 somethings do not have a clue on how to conduct themselves in business. One phoned me three times, forgetting what she had said in previous conversations!”
“Then so-called ethical organisations do not respond to the effort I make in sending in a CV”. At this point Lucy is hysterical. I look at her as she backs up her statement with. “I realise they have hundreds of applicants but have respect! When I recruit, I respond to everyone? If they take the time to write, I take the time to acknowledge.”
I interrupt with, well maybe these businesses do not deserve you if that is the way they treat people?
Lucy does not hear me as she continues her quest about being the minority in a country that is ageist and sexist. I again interrupt her and say, well you never had problems in the past, what do you think has changed? A red rag to an already exploding bull, I soon regretted that comment and now understood my place in this coffee date was to shut up and listen.
“What am I to do,” she says her eyes pleading for an answer? I know I should not respond. But…
As I say the words, I realise I should have just shut up. “Just keep doing what you are doing” Lucy stormed out of the cafe!
Gulp! This is a wine moment, I think. I had planned to visit her that evening with her favourite wine and help her in some way.
Life got in the way of that visit and I sent her a message. Days turned to weeks when I thought I better check in with Lucy. Bracing myself for the worst she phoned me, sounding extremely upbeat she asked to catch up. This time It was me who said, “Oh my goodness!” When I saw her. We sat down and she filled me in. Lucy had changed. She was in control, vibrant, excited, and happy! “I had taken my bad experiences and I started my own recruitment company; I work with people who lack confidence and only work with ethical businesses. I found my dream career!” “Thank you for listening to me!”
I read somewhere that you cannot see your success when you are climbing a mountain, and it is often when you are about to give up that the magic happens. If you are feeling that life is unjust, just keep stepping into your day as I bet you are close to the top of the mountain.
(Lucy’s name has been changed, because she would kill me otherwise)- Brigid Curran