There is one topic very few baby boomer women really discuss, and that is the utter despair felt when looking for work. Maybe we've recently left a job, or have been downsized, or are finally in a place to do what we have always wanted to do.
It seems like an exciting time, until our first interview experience. For many of us, it has been years since we've had to interview. I had a friend who recently went to an interview for the first time in 25 years. We laughed as she recounted the experience -- from the moment she showed up in the wrong conference room, to her reactions to the questions.
Since that conversation, other female baby boomers have shared their interview experiences with me, and we have found plenty to laugh about.
You know, you either laugh or you cry.
Here are a few possible or probable situations that illustrate why interviewing at our age seems a little more challenging:
1. A man interviews you and immediately tosses your resume in the trash when he sees that your waist is bigger than your boobs OR an attractive 28 year-old exits his office and you hear him say, "Let me get rid of this old hag and I'll call you with an offer."
2. You are in the middle of a brilliant response to a question when, suddenly, your entire thought is sucked into the Milky Way's black hole, never to return. An awkward smile spreads across your face, and you go with your fastest recovery, "Hire me, and I will finish that thought."
3. You receive one of those questions that magnify your age, such as, "Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?" Rather than the classic response of, "In your chair," you suddenly realize how old you'll be in 10 years and your mouth drops open and you say something such as, "Why the hell are you asking me that? Do you WANT to make me cry?"
4. When asked, "How do you feel about reporting to a younger person?" you reply, "Fine. I have total respect for young people and their ideas." Then you realize that they are referring to the guy who is 42-years-old, and your soul weeps.
5. When asked, "Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?" you realize how many years that covers and respond, "How much time do you have?"
6. During one question, you respond in a way that makes the panel laugh. One of the younger panel members says, "You're hilarious. You remind me of my mom." You try to think of a way that you can hurt him without others noticing. You want to bend his thumb backwards until he cries. You want him to spill that Red Bull all over his iPhone. You want to send him to his room. But, instead, you say, "I'll take that as a compliment."
7. Finally, when asked, "What change would you make if you came on board?", you want to reply, "I'd respect the experience that baby boomers bring to the table. I would look at the loyalty they've exhibited in past jobs. I'd stop texting during the interview and make eye contact with them. I'd show them respect, because they are the money and sweat behind your college degrees and iPhones." Instead, you tell them why a job you could probably do with your eyes closed is going to be an exciting challenge.
Interviews are one of the few times when judgment is not only allowed, it is part of the process.
I have read the articles about dressing for success, and spent days before an interview spending large amounts of money on outfits and haircuts. The problem with this strategy is that, often, we end up looking like anybody but ourselves.
So, don't try to look younger, or get a fresh new haircut, or buy something brand new for an interview. That is a physical apology for who we already are. Go as you, and be the best darn you the world has ever seen.
Be confident and professional, and try to respect the panel even if they are the age of your children. Avoid saying things such as, "Honey, you need to get your hair out of your eyes," or, "Do you know what your earlobe is going to look like as a result of that thing stretching it out?" Instead, offer them the treatment you hope they will offer you.
Just maintain eye contact and show them respect.
Finally, don't do what I did in my one of my interviews . . . when I sat down, the top button on my pants popped off. It was pretty obvious, because you could hear the button hit the floor and I immediately looked at my stomach.
Instead of ignoring it, I said, "Oh my God, my pants just broke. The button just flew off. That is hilarious."
I looked up laughing but got no laughs in return. Instead, the panel drank their Red Bull and tried to get a picture of my pants for social media.
I didn't get the job.