After reading yet another piece written by someone who is gainfully employed about the unemployment crisis, I ingested a rather large piece of humble pie and decided to address the issue in first person.
Like many of my unemployed 40- and 50-something marketing colleagues, I've been on a job hunt for the better part of a year. During that time, I've had consulting projects here and there that temporarily pay the bills. I have never filed for unemployment, deciding to dig into my bank account rather than get my own personal government bailout. And I pray a lot, hoping that around the corner, somewhere will be a professional "forever family" that wants to benefit from my talents and wealth of expertise.
I have been very fortunate and blessed in my career. I've won my fair share of awards, judged industry competitions, addressed conferences and I've even written a few books. Brandwashed: Why the Shopper Matters More Than What You're Selling has been well received and (thank God) is selling, but as any author will tell you, publishing business books isn't a guaranteed trip to Easy Street.
I'm considered an industry expert, and have worked in every consumer and trade channel known to man. As the Chief Creative Officer at a top tier agency, I advised blue chip companies including PepsiCo, Hershey's, Wal-Mart, Princess Cruises and a host of others. I owned a marketing agency and sold it, too, along the way. Now, when companies and agencies I reach out to take the time to respond (many don't) I'm told I'm overqualified (read "too old") rather than deeply experienced with a strong track record of moving sales for clients.
Refusing to be washed up at 40-something, (the marketing agency business is a young man's game) I've tried a host of ways to dive back into the job force. I've Linked In and blogged and published books and reached out to old friends (many in the same boat as I am) in an attempt to get back to the work I love. I've volunteered to relocate to just about anywhere, and take on just about any creative function on the corporate or agency side. And still, the gal who likes to make cash registers ring can't seem to do the same for her iPhone.
I'm a firm believer that God gives gifts. I love what I do for a living, and was given a gift to do it quite well. Marketing for me was a calling more than an employment avenue, and I miss the day-to-day of it desperately.
I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that I would be one of the faces of the unemployed in America. I had thought I would die like Grandma Moses did, a pencil in hand well into my 80s. I'm certainly not throwing in the towel, my Midwestern sensibilities wouldn't allow it. But I am considering that I might have to walk away from over 20 years of experience and find a different line of work. And what a personal and professional shame that would be.