The Unexpected Retirement – Part III – The Reality of Looking for Work When You’re Over 55


The Reality of Looking for Work

This is the third installment of the Unexpected Retirement Blog.  It picks up where I left off; my continued job search as an older job seeker.  If you have experiences to share, please post a comment. You can find related below this post.

Up until this point, I had assumed I would find a similar job, either in Sales or Management, most likely working for a competitor of my old company.  I applied to some big corporations located in my geographical area.  Mars (yep, the candy company) was one of them.  They listed an open position that matched my skills to a T.  Whenever I checked their job website to see where my application was at, I saw the status was always  “under consideration”. I also put in applications to similar corporations.  All total, by the end of 2 months, I had probably applied to 25 or more jobs.

job search stress


Age Discrimination and the Job Search

I didn’t get a single response to any of my applications.  I began to think that age discrimination was coming into play.  Employers can’t ask your age directly due to the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) which prohibits companies (with 20+ employees) from discriminating based on age.  However, in my job search I found that employers had all kinds of ways to find out how old you were.   The most popular is the seemingly innocent question: when did you graduate high school?  Well, that covers it all right there doesn’t it?   If I answer, the employer knows I’m over 55. If I don’t answer, the employer may think I never graduated.  I’ve also had more subtle questions such as, “when did you get your driver’s license?”   Or, “how long have you been working in your field?”

As I thought about what age discrimination may imply regarding future employment for me, I realized that perhaps I wasn’t facing age discrimination, but rather high salary discrimination.

When I thought back to my application with Mars Company, I remember they asked about my salary requirements.  I had been making a $90,000 base salary without commission just a few months before.  I did my research on Glassdoor and learned that the average salary for the position I was after was $45,000 to $55,000.  With that in mind, I filled in that I required $60,000 per year plus commission.  I figured this was an equal trade off for both the employer and I.  Yes, I’d make $30,000 less per year,  but I really did want a job selling candy to Walmart (sounded like fun for a change).  So, I was willing to compromise.  After all, if I was planning to retire at 62, I’d only be working there for 4 years.

Turns out, Mars didn’t want to compromise.  In fact, most employers don’t want to compromise.  In today’s business environment, employers are more interested in getting less experienced workers in the door at half the salary.  I may have snagged the interview at Mars if I had indicated that $45,000 annual salary was fine by me.

It seemed that at some level, discrimination was ever present in my job quest. During this period, I also encountered a personal dilemma.  I wondered if I really wanted to go back to work in Sales.  Did I really want to travel around the country attending trade shows, mandatory cocktail parties, and mandatory team building events?  Did I really want to stay up at night rehearsing a PowerPoint presentation for a customer when in the morning, that same presentation would be dashed to pieces by senior executives?

The Job Search Veers Into a New Direction

The more I thought about it, the more I became aware of the teeny tiny rewards I was getting in exchange for stress, frustration, and yes, money.   I liked the money. Don’t get me wrong, but at this stage of the game, it wasn’t the only prize to be had.  And besides, after toiling away for many years, owning several businesses, investing, and saving, I had reached a point where I didn’t need to go into overdrive trying to find another crappy job.

Elsewhere in this blog, I’ll go over how I made my million dollars and how I found some satisfying work paying decent wages.  There are hundreds of “work from home” jobs available as well.   But, for now, back to the job hunt.

After getting discouraged with big time employers paying mediocre dollars, I came to the conclusion that I would take a job close to home, maybe as an office manager.  I also considered looking for government jobs.  After all, they don’t discriminate.  Government workers get a decent amount of vacation time.

The resume was updated, the applications went out,  the civil service tests were taken and, the job search continued.  And now, the phone calls from prospective employers started coming in.


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