“I exited bankruptcy in July 2016 and was questioned on RTE news about what would now change. ‘Nothing’ I said and it was true at the time. If anything I was in a harder place than when the banks repossessed my home and my business collapsed six years ago. I was heart-broken and good for nothing. I wrote an article about homelessness in the Irish Times and the next day a friend offered me a cottage to rent. One year later it feels like home. My tiny cottage sits snugly in the hills overlooking the pretty village of Shillelagh. I have work in PR and as a freelance journalist. I pay my bills. I even go out to dinner on occasion. I have never been happier. My children live nearby and they are amazing young women. I get up each morning with gratitude in my heart. I have put the survival mode behind me and I am shining now. Every human being deserves to shine and this time is mine.”
First printed in the Irish Independent, May 5, 2015
and featured on The John Murray Show on May 8, 2015 – invisible at 50 podcast.
Oops, it happened again. There I was, casually sauntering along through life, sending off job applications and foolishly expecting a reply but nothing happens. Not so much as a ‘Thank you’.
How had it come to this? When had I morphed from experienced professional to an unwanted ‘has-been’? Had it happened overnight? Well, it certainly feels as though I have become an overnight failure. Yesterday, my years on this earth promised experienced, talented, sought-after skills. Today, it appears those same years have somehow put me into a new, unemployable category.
I can’t even boast grey hair talent as I am not that old. Instead, I exist in a dark limbo-land of invisibility.
Welcome to the new 50. We are suckered into believing that 50 is the new 40; that because we still fit into our skinny jeans, still hang out in trendy cafés, still listen to cool music, that we are part of thriving culture, but when it comes to applying for jobs, that date of birth is the kiss of death.
I have to agree in part; when I look at the year I was born – 1965 – it does seem very last century. It is very last century, and it smacks of maidens at the crossroads, reeling in the years and cups of tea in the kitchen.
But we were sold a promise that age could be pushed out down the track and youth held firmly in hand.
So having done all that, it is a shock to discover that while we may think we are young and desirable, the job market has quite different ideas.
I first got an inkling of this new reality a couple of years ago, while still skirting on the right side of 50. I saw a number of interesting positions advertised on the Twitter #jobfairy feeds and, updating my CV, I sent off an application or two. Then I sat back and waited. And I waited.
Now, in fairness I did have some other pressing items requiring my attention; home repossession, divorce, business failure, changing the law and running for the European parliament, but none of those activities were ever going to bring in moolah.
I played my cards and waited to see what I could salvage from the fires of my career.
I should also add that I have a very fine corporate CV. I have worked for the most prestigious banks, PR companies, software houses and multinationals. I have held very senior positions and have excellent referees. Only no one has ever called.
Being busy at the aforementioned activities, this lack of attention went largely unmissed. I was busy fighting fires left, right and centre and did not notice immediately the silence. It was only after the elections last year, when I put my best foot forward and started in earnest to become gainfully employed that the empty space in my postbox became glaringly apparent.
For one role, I double-checked the requirements for the job against my skill sets. I ticked every box with honours. I sought advice from a friend who reviewed both and agreed that I was perfect for the job – on paper anyway.
So, thus emboldened, I wrote to the chairman of the organisation asking, in polite terms, why I was not even called for interview. We ended up in a needle exchange of emails, becoming increasingly more tense as they went, before he finally said he was not obliged to tell me anyway and terminated the communication.
So I was no better off than before, I was unable to say why I had not even warranted an interview and I had also effectively closed any chance of a job in that organisation ever again.
It happened again last week. Great job, interesting, fitting in with my newly minted Masters in Screenwriting, but nothing, not even an interview.
What does it take to get an interview in this town? I am upbeat, I am highly qualified and I have international experience.
Oh, but I forgot to say that I was born 50 years ago, I have been mostly self-employed and ran my own businesses and, yes, I’m a woman.
Pass the invisibility cloak, why don’t you.