toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

December 18, 2006

job competing with daughter

Ingrid, 45, is a single mom with four children who gets by doing temp work. She would love to have a proper job and depairs that her age forces her to compete for jobs with her daughter and girls young enough to be her daughter.

"I really despair of ever reaching the interview stage with any of my job applications," sighs Ingrid. "Sometimes I wonder why I bother, but while there's life there's hope I suppose."

Ingrid has a professionally presented resume and writes fantastic covering letters, but she just cannot score an interview for the type of job she wants.

"My eldest daughter actually applied for one of the dream jobs I applied for, and got it," laughs Ingrid. "That was sufficient evidence for me to accept that it's not my education, experience, location or just too many applicants applying for the same job - it was my age that had disqualified me."

Up until then, Ingrid had considered all the other factors and reasonably expected at least 10 resume rejections before scoring her first interview.

"After 120 resume rejections," says Ingrid, "I've reached that stage where I accept I'm on the wrong track altogether."

Ingrid is now assessing herself and the type of job she's been applying for.

"The right job for me may not be the job I want," explains Ingrid. "Like most things in life, jobs are a two-way street and if the job I want doesn't want me, then I need to move on, change tack."

Ingrid accepts that the type of job she wants has a preferred age range of 21-35. It is never stated in the advertisement, though. For women under 21 it is simply a matter of time before they qualify for these jobs, but for women over 35, like Ingrid, rejection on account of age may not be discrimination, per se, but simply a fact of the job being better suited for a younger person.

A company may want someone without too much experience so that person can adapt easily to the particular management style of the organization.

The job Ingrid's daughter got hired for involves working alongside people under 21. Ingrid would have been out of place in that job. She would not have fitted in.

"Having once worked at a place where I was older than everyone around me, including my boss," laughs Ingrid, "I do appreciate that this is not a good situation for all concerned."

"I came along ten years after my sisters and brothers," explains Ingrid, "so I know what it is like to feel out of place. I was one of those 'accidental' babies and I grew up knowing that I was not planned like my sisters and brothers were."

"My childhood experiences have left me feeling very sensitive about 'belonging' and 'not belonging' and it's just as bad being the oldest person in a job as the youngest person in a family."

Demographers say that the Baby Boom generation (born 1946 to 1955) is the largest age group in the workforce, but from what Ingrid can see it is the children of the Baby Boomers that are not only most predominant, but also most favored in the workplace.

"And that," concedes Ingrid, "is perfectly normal and natural and right and proper."

There is no way Ingrid can overcome her age, and she says there is no reason why she should.

"I wear my age with pride," laughs Ingrid. "But I accept that I do need to come to terms with the fact that the type of job I've been applying for and rejected for is not right for me."

What other alternatives are there?

"Many people change career direction in mid-life," says Ingrid, "and I may decide to enter a new career field - a field in which age is no barrier; or I may start considering self-employment. What? I don't know. But I'm told that there are many opportunities out there."

She is aware that some jobs actually favor mature women. A recent advertisement for a prison guard gained her attention. Her children were horrified that their mother would consider such a job, but if that is the only thing available for mature women then Ingrid is willing to consider it.

"At least I would be working with mature women like myself and I wouldn't feel out of place," explains Ingrid. "But I guess I would feel out of place in a prison!"

What Ingrid will not consider is a new career field that requires qualifications additional to the ones she already has.

"Bearing in mind the intense competition for jobs," says Ingrid, "I have no intention of re-training or joining the thousands of hopefuls trying to gain the highest educational qualifications possible."

"I don't believe that qualifications necessarily guarantee anybody a job," says Ingrid. "My daughter got the job I wanted and she's just left school!"

Ingrid could never be rejected on account of her experience. She has tons of it and in a wide variety of industries, too.

"I was very surprised when my daughter gained the job I wanted," says Ingrid, "because employers generally prefer someone with at least two years of experience in the field, or a related field. Josie had no experience whatsoever so it must have been her youth and looks that got her the job. I'm happy for her, but it's a slap in the face for me nevertheless."

"It just goes to show," says Ingrid, "that no matter what employers state in ads or tell you what they want - they choose candidates primarily on age, and to hell with the rest."

As far as location is concerned, Ingrid lives in a big city and has no transport problems. She is prepared to look further away for a job, but doesn't see why she should have to.

"I live where the jobs are," says Ingrid, "but nobody wants to employ me."

"In the old days when parents were too old to work the children kept them," laughs Ingrid. "I don't see my daughter showing any signs of wanting to keep me now that she's got the job I applied for - even though I would have been keeping her had I won it!"

"It's strange how society changes values in one respect but not in another, isn't it?"

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