Spaghetti Against the Wall

Posted: August 18, 2013 in McTrip posts
Tags: , , ,

Spaghetti Art blogDo you know what it’s like to be middle age and looking for a job? In the new economy? How about newly middle aged and trying to change professions? Unless you’ve tried, you have no idea.

I opened the door to changing careers about four years ago. Having no idea at the time how to make an educated decision, I approached it like most decisions in my life. I threw the proverbial spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck.

Here’s a look at some of the spaghetti. Spoiler alert — none of it stuck:

They say listen to your heart and the money will follow. Ok, I love music. But let’s be realistic. I’m not going to make money playing it, writing it, promoting it or teaching it. But maybe I could learn the mechanics of it and make money engineering it.

There are a couple world-renowned music engineering programs in Los Angeles, so I took a tour of one. I can honestly say I don’t remember ever feeling so old. There were plenty of students on campus that day and I bet I was older than most of their parents. A fish out of water doesn’t begin to explain how I felt. I just couldn’t do it. Not a comfortable fit to say the least.

What about getting another degree? I always wanted to go to UCLA. As a high school kid shopping for colleges, UCLA was my dream destination. But my grades just weren’t there. Now, a hundred years later, I’m a resident of California with a bachelor’s degree. So maybe graduate school was in the cards? Because of my background, the Anderson School of Business seemed a logical choice. So I attended one of their introductory open houses.

Once again I felt like a dinosaur on the playground. I only needed to hear two statistics to put the kibosh on this idea. Anderson accepts only 359 applicants a year. The year I looked into it, applications were up 22% to more than 3,300. I like to gamble, but those odds seemed minuscule. There was nothing in my application so attractive that Anderson just had to have me. Plus there were missing prerequisites. And I was 48 years old. So I left the open house, lay on a grassy knoll on campus, and called a good friend. “Well it’s official. I’ll never get a degree from UCLA.”

What about looking at my future pragmatically? Where are the jobs going to be in the next 20 years? Pretty simple: Health care, nursing homes, any ancillary business dealing with the aging population. So I considered nursing school.
It was the spring of 2011. Every community college in Los Angeles was cutting back. And again, I was missing prerequisites. Summer school was starting soon, but none of the classes I needed were offered due to budget cuts. And the fall classes were mostly booked up. It seemed that it could take years before I was even ready to apply for nursing school. And my biological clock was ticking.
The nail in the coffin was when a friend asked, “Is nursing really what you want to do?” You mean emptying bedpans and sponge-bathing old folks? Well, when you put it that way, no, not really.

Next up were two property management jobs I was actually hired for but, shockingly, never materialized. I met with one of these individuals, negotiated a salary, discussed responsibilities, and determined my first day on the job. I was to complete all the necessary paperwork with his wife the next day, he said. He planned to email details for that meeting. We shook hands, and exchanged the requisite pleasantries about how nice it was going to be to work together. And I never heard from him again.

He didn’t respond to repeated texts, emails and phone calls. And he was a very well known individual in his field. Not the kind of person you’d expect to be that flaky. Perplexed doesn’t begin to describe my reaction.
The second time it happened was also with someone well known in the industry. I sat in her office when she contacted the owner of a brand new apartment building. “I’m sitting here with your new property manager,” she said, referring to me. She was the decision maker so it was pretty apparent I got the job. I met with the building owner, we got along great, and everything seemed to be moving in the right direction.

There were a couple things I requested before we made it official, however. One was a written statement of my responsibilities, and the other a compensation agreement. Just a few days before this building was to open, I mentioned to her that there was still nothing in writing. “This just isn’t going to work out,” she replied back in an email, being very vague in her reasons for her change of heart. Not surprisingly, her daughter was back in town and looking for work. Guess the decision was to keep the money in the family. Last I checked her daughter still had the job.

Then there are examples of menial jobs that haven’t panned out, either. The daughter of a friend was hired early this year by one of the top catering companies in L.A., conveniently in charge of personnel. Despite my catering experience, not to mention my connection with her mother, nothing has come of it. And catering companies need to replenish their staffs frequently. It’s a very fluid industry.

Another opportunity came up with an on-call, senior care provider. I did all the paperwork, passed all the litmus tests, and even received a letter welcoming me to the company. That was three months ago. They’ve yet to assign me a case. And now they don’t return emails. And no they haven’t gone out of business.

Paranoia started rearing its ugly head. It must be me, right? There’s something about me that has made people reconsider job offers. But what? You will just have to take my word for it (since this blog is written under a pseudonym) but there is nothing in a Google search of my real name that would scare prospective employers away. There is nothing in an FBI background check that would cause alarm. My past indiscretions are no worse than anyone who has been president of the United States.

No I don’t have leprosy. My breath is usually minty fresh. I bathe daily, sometime twice. I complete most sentences without belching. But as the rejections mounted, I began to second guess everything about myself. Maybe I’m coming across too anxious. Or too meek. Or too desperate.

Or maybe it isn’t me at all. Maybe my path just keeps crossing with the notoriously flaky element of Los Angeles. I love this city. But trust me it breeds flakiness.

I won’t even get into the number of job postings I’ve applied for online, rarely even getting a courtesy reply. I’m convinced that electronic job applications simply disappear into the ether.

So, there you have it – a sampling of my frustrations from the last four years. Every opportunity that showed potential or seemed promising ended up being riddled with roadblocks. I now know who those people in the unemployment statistics are who have “given up their job search.”
They are me.

(To be continued…)

  1. Jim D. says:

    Wow. I had no idea you’ve gone through so much…

  2. […] Spaghetti Against the Wall […]

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