At age 50 I was out of a job and managed after 8 months, to find a job in Skokie, Illinois for a small company. I knew I had no future there and sure enough after 5 years I was again unemployed. My prospects looked dim because the industries I had worked in were dying.
I had moved my possessions into a corner of the basement of my girlfriend’s house. From there I conducted my search which lasted 18 months. I had a B.S. degree in Ceramic Engineering and a MBA in Management. I had skills, I was smart, and I never ever had a bad performance review. I knew how to write a good resume and developed several introduction letters that applied to whatever the ad’s job description had in mind.
In those days, jobs were not found on the internet because the internet was in its infancy; there was no email and no web sites specializing in jobs. I religiously went through the Sunday want ads circling those I could respond to and Monday I spent preparing envelopes filled with a resume and introduction letter, which I mailed before the day was over. Sometimes I sent out 20 letters. I also had some headhunters working to earn themselves a commission by finding an employer that would hire me.
I was drawing unemployment and I started to work at Jewel grocery store stocking shelves making sure I didn’t make too much money to keep my unemployment check coming. Usually, I stocked the cookies and crackers or worked in the cooler filling the trays with milk and other dairy products. I also had the joy of getting to clean up spills in the aisles caused by a glass jar smashing onto the floor. The other main job I had was to break down all the cardboard boxes and put them into a press and make a bale of that were held together with baling wire. The result looked like a bale of straw except it was brown instead of yellow.
I thought a lot about what jobs I might secure that had nothing to do with my engineering degree. I like to drive. Maybe I could be a limo driver. Maybe I could get a job on a cruise ship dancing with lonely rich widows who might whisper their room number in my ear. I had enough labor intensive jobs before I graduated from college to know that wasn’t for me.
I answered ads for quality control, project engineering, process engineering, to no avail. Finally I realized I had to reinvent myself and I honed my resume to respond to environmental positions. At my previous job, I took care of all waste management issues and I was always successful in finding cost savings in any job I had.
At the time, environmental concerns were a hot topic in the country so this is where I concentrated my efforts.
By this time, I had had a few interviews so my interviewing skills were really pretty good. I put together a folder showing my career accomplishments and copies of my past performance reviews. This helped me take an active role in the interview process rather than sit back and try to respond to questions which set the stage for me to ask more questions. And most of all I tried to exude confidence and maturity.
I finally got an offer from UOP and company based in Des Plaines, IL, with a factory in McCook, IL. UOP mostly made products for oil refineries using a variety of chemicals. I found my college chemistry book and boned up on gas laws dealing with temperature, pressure, and volume. I was required to wear safety shoes and a hard hat whenever I was out of the office. I established relationships and avoided anything controversial. After 3 months my boss left to take another job leaving me in charge of all things related to the environment. He left behind all the computer files related to annual reports that needed to be submitted to various governmental agencies. Most of these were Excel files and I had a modicum of Excel knowledge. I taught myself and soon was very proficient. Figuring out where all the numbers in the files came from was an effort in reverse engineering. I soon developed Excel files where all I had to do was to plug in the amount of product made each year ending up with the amount of emissions produced. My experience at UOP was all positive except my salary which was $12000 less than my previous job.
However, at the time I was so grateful to be given a new career and to go to work every weekday. My 18 months without a job took every bit inter fortitude to keep my spirits up. To save money during this time I never went anywhere. I paid off all my debts from my savings to eliminate interest payments, I had no health insurance, I cut food coupons and only went to movies (my only outside entertainment outlet) before 6 to get the early bird discount and had to give up my occasional toke of marijuana for fear I would not be able to pass a drug test, should a job offer emerge. Even my relationship with my girlfriend was strained. Thankfully, she never asked me to leave. At times I felt alone, living in a basement, my future uncertain; all the elements for a strong dose of depression.
But somehow, I lived through this terrible time and made it back into the middle class. I felt I had a future again. After 4 years I changed jobs to up my salary significantly, allowing me to save enough for retirement.
How different my life is now. I am retired, happily married, and travel the world and my future is as bright as old age will allow. I have no trouble telling myself, “I deserve it”.