I am the roadkill of the recession. At age 52, I was making $70,000 a year as a middle manager and was abruptly laid off from banking. Now, after two years, I work for $15 an hour and cannot find a job that utilizes even 25 percent of my skills. Every rejection, even for minimal pay, leaves me lying deeper in the ditch.
I look around Minneapolis-St. Paul and see one of the hottest locations for millennials to get jobs. Immigrants from Russia, India, Europe, Asia and Africa have jobs in Minnesota. Freeway license plates show transplants from every state and they have jobs here too. But not me.
I am a taxpayer who has paid for immigrants to go to school while my own adult children did not get one penny of financial aid. (Because their parents worked!) When I was laid off, I felt fortunate that my employer had paid for my master’s degree. However, I soon found out it was not an asset. After 200 applications in which every answer was “you are overqualified,” I removed the master’s degree from my résumé.
I also removed all dates. Age discrimination is alive and well. Hiring managers appear to be threatened by 30 years of experience. Do they think I am going to tell them how to do their job? Nope. I just want a job so I can have a paycheck again and feel self-worth. Since I am willing to work for half my former salary, where are the hiring managers who want a bargain worker — someone with in-depth skills and experience for a bargain salary?
Most hiring managers would say they prefer “trainable” applicants vs. older workers. However, they are making a wrong assumption. Learning is one of my top five traits in psychological testing. I love to learn new things, and I am good at it. I am a maximizer and a strategist. I know how to improve business processes for better efficiency and smoother operation.
After hundreds of rejections in two years, I am not giving up, but it’s sad to think my human potential is being wasted. Unfortunately, I am not independently wealthy and did not plan to retire at age 52. We sold our dream home; we downsized. People like me are forgotten — we don’t even exist in the unemployment statistics, because it’s easier for everyone to leave us on the side of the road.
What happened to America the land of opportunity? Must one be young to reap that benefit? People over 50 are surviving on the generosity of spouses and family. Don’t we deserve meaningful work? I never dreamed this would happen, and I know that I am not alone. Someone needs to say it: America has become a sad place with no opportunity for me.
Kelly Swanson, of St. Michael, is a job-seeker with 30 years of banking, real estate and training experience. She is author of a self-reinvention blog at 2015rebootblog.wordpress.com.