The Joy And Agony of Searching For A Job in My Forties

12 years after leaving my last paying job, I find myself wading gingerly back into the job-hunting pool. This drastic move is not something I would be doing voluntarily, were it not for the life-changing event that happened late last year. With the loss of our primary source of income that was my estranged husband, I had to buck up, contribute, and do something to ameliorate the situation.

Looking for a job when you are already in your 40s is no easy feat. This is particularly true when you have been out of the market for more than a decade. Many technological discoveries, updated work policies, as well as a slew of new nomenclature, have come to pass since my work resignation.

The world is vastly different from what it was 12 years ago. Political strife in countries like Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar, the advent of smartphones and tablets, the rise of Islamophobia, more liberalised trade agreements with allied nations, ‘Trump-gate’, LGBT rights, social media, and reality TV obsessions are among the major milestones of this time period.

That in mind, employers naturally prefer staff who are not only proficient in the latest technology and computer applications, but also prompt in their deliverables. Speaking of timely and orderly output, my first job interview raised an important issue about the efficacy of learning on the job. The prospective superior opined that a steep learning curve for someone without prior experience might hamper the fast turnaround time in which work gets done. In other words, she was not assured that I would learn and catch up fast enough, given the amount of technically-worded publications involved and deadlines scheduled.

Coupled with my long hiatus from the work scene, any employers would understandably think twice. That is too bad. I wish they wouldn’t, and would give me a chance to prove myself instead. Sure, I am a bit rusty, but once fully ‘oiled’, I am instinctively a go-getter and will get the job done by hook or by crook.

a photo of Eliza from her previous working days

These days, job-seeking apps like Jobstreet and Linkedin have become my daily companion as I peruse and narrow down the ones which closely match my current experience and skill set. Sending my resume and cover letter to different potential companies requires the finesse of an avid, highly-caffeinated multi-tasker. Every single, crucial detail has to be painstakingly changed to cater to the job scope and appeal to their corporate goals. 

Suggested by relatives and friends, I also solicited the help of several head-hunters, but have yet to receive any encouraging response. Moreover, head-hunters tend to prioritise either people with specific technical skills, such as IT, engineering, and earth science, or those with professional accreditation. Others, like mine, which do not fit those categories, will unfortunately have to take a back seat and wait it out.

As a silver lining, at my first job interview this year, I belatedly realised this accidental self-development: I am now more composed and open when speaking to an interviewer than I would have been 15 or 20 years younger. Back then, I was a nervous wreck and clammed up easily during the seemingly unrelenting Q&A session. I chalk up this newfound ‘chutzpah’ in equal parts to determination and despair. I am in dire need of salaried employment and very resolute to clinch one by any means necessary. As the saying goes, “Courage is born out of desperation.”

With age catching up to me and two children to feed, I have even entertained the thoughts of trying a different tack: land any job which is able to provide a stable income, even though it is below my asking price. I am currently looking into that prospect and it is hopeful that things will pan out for the best. Let’s see what this month of April has in store for me.

the author, Eliza Ali

Without a doubt, there were days when I felt like I was no longer cut out for this frenetic pursuit, and that I wasted my breath looking for that almost perfect fit with a new organisation. I am only human. With the usual ups and downs, highs and lows, and everything else in between. When you are out of the rat race for so long, coming back to the daily grind will obviously take some getting used to. It is an overwhelming prospect, to say the least.

Yet, the lure of making my own money shook me out of my doldrums. Of course, from the outset, it will be challenging to familiarise myself with a work environment again. Once I gain the confidence to push further than my normal pace, however, I am positive that I will be adept at taking on more responsibilities.

After all, I am a multitasking, detail-oriented, winging-it, quick-on-her-feet, stay-at-home-mother with 12 years experience under her belt. What more credentials does an employer need than that?

(written by Eliza Ali. Eliza is a mother of 2 and a multi-tasker able to juggle chores effortlessly. She is passionate about her kids, life, great reads, k-drama, desserts and coffee. She is a firm believer in the absolute truth.)

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