Regrettably, there has been a difficult change in our country, and many of us didn't see it coming.
I come from a generation that was given certain promises. My generation was told we needed to do well on the SAT. We were told we needed to have leadership positions in clubs and other extracurricular activities, do volunteer work, and write stellar essays for our college applications. We were told we needed to get a four-year degree, and learn how to 'think'. We were promised that as long as we did all of these things we would become successful in life.
So we diligently followed the rules. We got our degrees, and set off, with faith, into the grownup world. Alex P. Keaton was our visible template for corporate success, and we believed as 80's kids that opportunities would always be available, because the economies around us were booming. We didn't realize at the time how quickly, profoundly and permanently the world was changing. We didn't realize then that we were straddling the old world along with the new, and we would have to become more fluid and and malleable than we ever thought possible. We weren't aware that our typing class was going to be renamed 'keyboarding', and that the binary code we once worked with would become useless, since the finger swipe would take over our machines.
As the adults who grew up with the launch of MTV we saw the end of card catalogs as the guardians of information, and remember the introduction of the personal cell phone, which has transformed all of society.
This is all to say that we are hybrids, and have an enormous amount of knowledge and experience that can be used to connect the surviving members of the Greatest Generation to the the Millenials. The world, however, doesn't see us this way. In many cases, our value is not recognized.
As those who are 50 years old and older, we are seen as too old to hire, but too young to retire, and are quietly ignored during job searches. It is illegal to ask our age, so instead, we are asked what year we graduated. Sometimes, although we can't prove it, it feels like we are called in for an initial interview so a box somewhere can be checked, but we never get called back for a follow up. Male and female, we quietly wonder if we should dye our hair or get cosmetic surgery to be more marketable. These are not easy questions for us to answer, as we wait to find our spot in this new market place. It's especially insulting to many women who had to overcome gender stereotypes at the beginning of their careers. The older female worker now finds younger, unaware women willing to trod on her for jobs that previously would have been unavailable if not for her own previous trailblazing.
This leads to our next unpleasant reality over which we have no control: it's still a slow economy, and there are thousands of people looking for work right now, of all ages. People have moved back home after college, and are now trying to land the very same jobs that we are. Their parents are buying them new briefcases and outfits intended to impress during the interview, and we're making do with a suit we've been wearing for several years.
It can become incredibly depressing.
Remember this, my Friend:
We are the generation that didn't use seat belts, bike helmets or hand sanitizer. We frequently licked the lead paint on our cribs because it tasted good, and we always sat too close to our color television sets after school because we were alone in the house until mom got home. We rattled around in the back of our family's station wagons like marbles, on endless road trip vacations. These journeys didn't include TV screens on the seat backs in front of us that spewed out entertainment mile after mile, we just had to make do. Many of our mothers smoked while pregnant, and they were often told that having a drink with dinner would help them sleep better until the baby came. We were hit on the head with metal lunch boxes on the playground, and babysat siblings and younger neighbors when we were far too young to do so. We used to sleep outside in the backyard, were expected to be home by the time the streetlights came on without checking in during the afternoon, and were dropped off at the movies for the Saturday matinee so our moms could run errands without us. We drank Tang because the astronauts did, remember when Nixon resigned, and were front seat witnesses to the beginning of terrorism as we now know it.
We are survivors.
As if all of these things are not enough, we are the generation that grew up with grandparents who endured the Great Depression. During her lifetime, I never said a word when my grandmother added warm water and salt to her cornflakes, because that's how she'd learned to do it as a child when milk was unavailable. We learned from our grandparents to do without, if necessary, because that's what needed to be done. We learned to work when it was time to work, without complaint, drama or fuss. We learned to be responsible, diligent and valuable employees.
Seriously. We've got this.
Sure. It stinks. It's depressing. It's discouraging. Mostly -- it's unfair. We deserve better. Besides following the rules we were given, many of us are still supporting children at home, in addition to caring for our elderly parents. Being a member of the Sandwich Generation is a special kind of torture, especially when we can't find work.
This is where we are, and so we just need to figure it out. We are intelligent, capable and powerful. We are no less worthy than the younger employees around us. We need to stand strong in who we are, continue to press forward, and focus on what we can bring to the employers who need us. I don't like it any more than you do, but this is our reality. So we need to accept it, and work around the many challenges.
As an encouragement, here are some helpful suggestions in the form of various links I've come across. I promise: you are not alone. The Internet is full of articles, suggestions and advice about this problem.
I'd love to hear from you if this is something you are dealing with. Please feel free to comment below, share links, or provide feedback about your own struggles or successes. The world is going crazy right now, but by pulling together, we can make it.
And just why am I so confident?
Easy, my Friend: We Are the Champions
Seven Tips for Getting Hired After Fifty -- by Emily Brandon
**Chanler Jeffers has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent and was a single parent for many years. She has survived cancer and gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Follow along at www.TeamJeffers.com as she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh -- one more thing. She's married to a bass playing rock star, lucky girl.