Desperation is a Dish Best Smelled Cold: Job-hunting in the New World

Yes, this is a sensationalistic headline and I realize some will read this with a bit of Schadenfreude (truthfully I probably would have just a month ago), but that’s totally fine, thanks for reading.

I spent this morning at the Seattle area Workforce Center at a mandatory evaluation of my job hunt process. This is a necessary step for those of us collecting unemployment benefits here in the state of Washington and the 2nd time I’ve been required to go.


Rule of thumb: avoid a male ponytail at all costs, unless you can fully commit like this guy. Photo: Svenstorm

This time, because of a scheduling snafu, they had me meet with job placement specialists and other job-seekers in a group setting, as opposed to the 1-on-1 they usually do. It was me and two guys that were 55+.

This was totally fine with me as I ended up actually getting a job lead out of it from one of my job-seeking-comrades, and my initial expectation for how helpful the 1-on-1 endeavor would be was very, very low.

The older appearing of the 2 men struck me as someone that had at one time or another probably had some sort of ponytail. Immediately I was judging this person because of a hair accessory he may or may not have ever actually worn – simply because he looked like the hippy teacher on Freaks and Geeks (sans ponytail). I thought about the myriad of hiring managers who must’ve seen that show and what their initial impression must be. What’s wrong with me?[1] He was a really nice guy that I hope finds a job soon — and I realize I’m a bad person for having these irrational thoughts.

When we were asked by our job-finderers if any of us had attended any of their career events, “phantom ponytail” mentioned that he’d been to the one for “mature people”. Could you imagine ever having to go through this after 50? That’s gotta be one of the toughest things you can do and I really respect those that have lost a job at an older age that can pick themselves up quickly, and aggressively look for work.

The two men that were in my group were anything but lazy leeches sucking off the government teet, as some recent politicians have said of those that utilize unemployment benefits. Neither wanted to be on unemployment. They appeared to be diligently and feverishly looking for work, but just not having much luck.

The other older job-seeker previously held a career in high-finance, doing institutional investments on Wall St, and has been out of work for 6 years since moving here for family reasons. Obviously I don’t know everything that’s gone into his situation, but I can tell he’s scaled back his ambition considerably and has still had no luck on the job front. I don’t think he actually gets benefits now after that long – he was simply at this thing to try and land a job.

I can attest that “having your position eliminated” doesn’t give much more ego consolation than just being “laid off” and one of the hardest parts of this is asking for help. Perhaps its the nature of what I do professionally that I feel it necessary to put up a bit of a front regarding this and haven’t just reached out to my entire network and said, “Hey, the startup I was working for didn’t work out – have you heard about any opportunities you think I’m a good fit for?”

… so, one could say this is my backhanded attempt at that.



[1] Though there is no denying that a male ponytail is a sign of serious character flaw or delusion (especially when there is no hair on the top of the head, only flying off the back).


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