Stalled Job Search
Be Pegged to Attitude
easily spotted by
I have read and re-read your article "Tips to Help Defeat the
'Pariah Syndrome' " (Nov. 27, 1988). The suggestions in the article
aren't useful to me. I have reached the conclusion that because I am
over 45 years of age no one will employ me. Isn't it true that
anyone over 45 is brain dead and physically handicapped?
Let me quickly
sketch my background and the reason for my pessimism. I'm an
engineer with an advanced degree. In October 1987, my wife of 27
years filed for divorce. On Feb. 8, 1988, I was fired from my job.
My divorce was final in March 1988, which left me broke and in debt.
My father died in June 1988 and left me an electric razor. Last
year, I sent more than 400 resumes to companies, all of which were
I learned of
contract engineering where they don't pay benefits and other things
associated with age. My resume is in front of more than 400 firms,
and my name is before 1,000 more. I am versatile and willing to
relocate, but no one wants to hire me.
I have enclosed my
resume to complete the picture. I am very, very tempted to remove
all the dates from my resume and let them guess my age.
It seems that
anyone will hire the village idiot because the system will give him
a pat on the back. However, anyone smart enough to tie his shoes is
shunned like someone with AIDS. I have to eat, too.
Do you know
anyone who would hire me?
Recently, I’ve received a number of letters from people over 40
years old who are concerned about age discrimination. In the
following circumstances it can be an obstacle, though not an
positions with Fortune 500 companies. Many large employers
want to grow their own experts. They prefer to hire straight
from college and train employees themselves. Bringing in
engineers from outside may upset their salary scales and cause
When these firms move into new areas, however, they may need
outside help if their employees don't have the proper background
to excel in new technical applications. Your background may be
valuable to them in this case, but only extensive search and
networking can uncover such instances.
experience with only one company.
These days, many years with one company may give potential
employers the feeling you can't adapt to a new environment. They
may see loyalty as a lack of initiative, a stigma difficult to
career that shows no apparent progression.
While people in technical specialties often aren't interested in
managing others, their careers can grow by taking on
increasingly sophisticated assignments. If your resume and
interviews don't emphasize advancement, you may be construed as
Specializing In one area.
Here we have the proverbial Catch 22. Companies want highly
specialized engineers for top-level assignments. Yet engineers
and other technical experts may become so focused in their
expertise that few firms can use their services. While it's
relatively easy to transfer organizational and people skills,
state-of the-art technology demands up-to-date knowledge in a
an income that reflects your background and experience.
Whether you've chosen to become a manager or crack engineer,
you're probably on the high end of the salary continuum at ages
40 to 60. Many companies may feel they can't afford you.
moved into middle management,
the corporate pyramid narrows as you progress. There may be
relatively few positions available for someone at your level.
age is responsible for your lack of employment, consider some other
variables that may figure into your job-search equation.
While your letter showcases your acerbic wit, it's filled with
anger. Given what's happened to you during the past two years, some
hostility is understandable. Unfortunately, it's not productive
unless you channel it effectively. If you view potential employers
as people who "hire the village idiot," they may sense your
negativity even though you don't think it shows.
If you're having
trouble putting your situation into perspective and getting on with
your life, you have plenty of company. Many people who've been
through either a divorce, an unwanted employment termination or the
death of a loved one have great difficulty dealing with the fallout.
They often turn to a friend, therapist or minister to help them
through the grief process.
displace your anger about past injustices on future prospects, try
adopting an "I'll show you" attitude. Get even by finding a better
position with a firm that appreciates your contribution.
Being fired from
your last position.
Have you made peace with this yet? Can you interpret it as a
positive event, even
though it obviously was painful? Or does it still fill you
with anger and contempt? Have you reviewed your situation to
determine if you were at least partially responsible? Were you among
a number of people laid off, or were you singled out because of poor
performance or attitude (according to your management)? What are
your references at the f= saying about you?
The reason for
your firing and your response to it can have tremendous impact on
potential opportunities. Be sure your explanation for leaving
matches that of your former employer. If it doesn't, be prepared to
deal effectively with the discrepancies. Do everything you can to
portray your departure as a positive event, even if the only plus
has been personal growth.
If your last
employer is assassinating your character in reference checks,
instead use as references colleagues who admire your work. Round out
your references with people who know you through professional
organizations, volunteer work or hobbies.
You say your resume is
in front of 400
firms and your name is before 1,000 more. How did these 1,400
companies hear about you? Have you been relying exclusively on
mailing resumes, the least effective job-search tool? Companies use
them as a screening device by looking for what's missing instead of
what's there. Resumes usually are forwarded to Human Resources first
rather than directly to technical departments. Consequently, the
people who do the actual hiring may never get to see your resume
because it's been screened out
Along with using
search firms and answering ads, concentrate your time and effort on
the best source for job leads: networking. Professional
organizations, conventions, former colleagues, college friends and
instructors, fellow hobbyists and a variety of other friends,
relatives and associates can help you uncover the hidden job market
Employers like to hire people who have been referred to them
(preferably for free by individuals whose judgment they trust). The
majority of jobs are filled this way.
Every resume should start with an objective. Without one, employers
have to guess the position you seek and you're unlikely to mesh your
accomplishments with the job you're pursuing. Resumes must be
targeted sales tools. Otherwise, they are prime candidates for the
Take a close look
at the following excerpt from your resume, which covers your last 21
years of experience. (Names and locations of employers have been
Experiment Loop Coolant System bypass, which incorporated
rupture discs, for the Thermal Swell Accumulators for the Power
Burst Facility (PBF).
Design Document for Experiment Loops at the Advanced Test
analyzed and installed several experiment Loop Coolant System
modifications for the Severe Fuel Damage Tests at PBF.
analyzed and fabricated a new coupon handling system for use in
the ATR canal.
analyzed and installed an ATR Spent Fuel Cast lid retention
emergency cooling system for ATR spent fuel, assuming a large
1977-Senior Engineer-Plant Apparatus Division
technical guidance and review of all phases for design,
development, and construction of steam generators, pumps, valves
and pressurizers for Navy nuclear power plants.
finite-element stress and thermal analyses of piping and
Your resume uses a
lot of jargon which relates primarily to projects in nuclear power
plants. If you want to be hired in that field, your terminology is
good. But if you hope to be considered for other engineering
positions, you'll need to translate your jargon into language other
specialties will under stand. This will require some research in
professional journals and conversations with experts in other
U.S. has severely curtailed its research and building of nuclear
reactors. Jobs in the area are very scarce almost everywhere in our
country. If you feel you must remain in this industry, you should
investigate opportunities overseas, where nuclear power has found
In your resume,
you've listed your education as B.S. Aeronautical Engineering, 1959,
M.S. Aero space Engineering, 1967, and M.S. Astronomy, 1973. For a
highly technical position, your degrees are outdated. You've
probably taken courses since but haven't mentioned them. If you
haven't continued· your education, find out the hottest new
engineering areas and take a few classes in them. This will increase
your knowledge and your contacts and help you feel productive again.
Who knows, you may discover a new career.
consulting or contract work as an employer's way to weasel out of
benefits. Look at it as an opportunity to make more money and pick
your own projects. Some former employees really enjoy being their
what happens in your job and your life is up to you. Your current
condition can be a maddening predicament perpetrated by ·others
looking to hire village idiots. Or it can be an opportunity to
identify and pursue what you really want both personally and
professionally. You can be a victim or a champion of the
prophecy. The choice is yours.