One day last September, I walked into a beautifully furnished reception area of a mid-town office. I was sent there by a recruiter for an interview. I walked up to the impossibly young receptionist and let her know who I was there to meet with. She directed me to the waiting area, which was directly in front of a conference room filled with even more impossibly young employees.  Ten minutes later, I was greeted by another young lady who informed me that the person with whom I was to meet would have to reschedule.  Apparently he was called into a last minute meeting and would not be able to meet with me that day – apologies all around – they would be in touch. Of course, I never heard from them again. So what could possibly have been the reason for their lack of follow through? Clearly my resume spoke to my qualifications. I was dressed in a suit. My hair was done. I was wearing make-up – something I apply lightly yet effectively. I have been told I pass for younger than my actual age. But,  that age is over 40, and the kids at that awesome new start up couldn’t have been over the age of 30. This may be sheer speculation, but I’m guessing they took one look at me, at the time 42, and decided to pass.

Their loss.

A couple of weeks later, while in the middle of an early autumn heat wave, I was sweating along in my car, running a few errands, when I received a call from a recruiter.  She had seen my resume and was floored by my experience. She quickly interviewed me over the phone and exclaimed that she MUST do a video chat with me THAT DAY because I sounded like an amazing candidate for the role she had available. I explained to her that I was in my car, running errands, and would be home within the hour (thus giving me time to get home from Brooklyn, and make myself presentable). She told me she wanted a more immediate conversation, as their office (which was in Connecticut, hence the need for a video chat and not an in-person interview, as would be the norm), was about to close,  and never mind the make-up and hair, she just wanted to face-time me along with her co-manager on the account.

I acquiesced to the interview and was immediately at ease. Sure the ladies on the other end were wearing make-up – their hair perfectly coifed in matronly fashion – but they were older. Judging by the sheer amount of eye-make up and poorly hidden wrinkles, I’d say A LOT older, than myself. Being that they were of a certain age, the wouldn’t judge me for being in my 40’s when they were so clearly pushing the 60, right? Wrong.

We had a lovely conversation which ended with them promising to forward my resume to their client.  Afterwards, I hung up, but they didn’t. While we were no longer seeing each other on the screen, I could hear every word they said. I wish I had thought to press “record.” I may have easily been able to sue if a court could have heard what they said.

There are some things in life I know I will forget. But what I heard from the other end was so heartbreaking to me, I actually remember every word.

Recruiter #1:      OMG She looks way older than her resume would make you believe

Recruiter #2:      Yeah, she definitely started her career earlier than the year 2000 (right, because 2000 was when I became an Executive Assistant – neither my time as a pension processor nor  as a make-up counter person at the Body Shop are relevant to my current job search).

Recruiter #1:      Yeah, but she’s not THAT old. She could’ve at least TRIED to put on some make up though. I mean seriously, who at that age doesn’t wear make-up when they leave the house? (Someone who doesn’t want to get your wrinkles, granny).

Recruiter #2:      It’s really too bad because she was perfect on paper, and the way she interviews, she’s very well-spoken, but she’s just too old.

Recruiter #1:      So sad, really.  She would’ve probably gotten the job if she were ten years younger. So, we agree, we’re not sending her resume to them (I’m assuming, them = the client).

Recruiter #2:     No, she can’t represent us to them. She’s too old. 

Me:        Excuse me ladies, I thought you should know, I can hear everything you’ve said. Despite my advanced age, I do know how to use an iPhone. Kindly hang up on your end. Thanks.

After a bit of scrambling, they finally figured out how to hang up. In case you are wondering, the name of the recruiting company is Merrit Staffing. I have avoided all of their postings, many for which I am not only qualified, but more than likely over-qualified, ever since. Sad, really, I could have been a great placement of theirs.

Recently, while on a temp assignment, at a company I won’t name, I watched as they criticized candidate after candidate vying for the role, admittedly I’d hoped they would have given me (although I realized early on, that wasn’t going to happen – even though everyone genuinely praised me, my work and my work ethic during my time there, I knew what my boss was looking for, and I certainly wasn’t it). All the candidates were pre-screened by the in-house recruiter. All qualified for the position. I knew who they were going to hire before even they did. I knew by her age, her perkiness, and her dress. No matter that her resume had her jumping from job to job every two years. No matter that she herself admitted she grew bored easily. She would be the perfect candidate. She’d fit right in with the group (of course, important – Honestly, I’m a social butterfly, but I can’t fake enthusiasm when certain things are just not that interesting to me – a fatal flaw, I’m afraid).  And she IS qualified for the position, of that I have no doubt. So, I have zero bitterness towards the hiring of this person. She got the job because she was their ideal candidate.

It is the treatment of those they rejected that killed me. There was a harsh rejection of one person in particular, that struck me as vile and made me lose a whole lot of respect for my former employer. She was an older lady. Extremely experienced and by all accounts very qualified for the position. She was wearing a wig. She was also wearing a lot of make- up. But she was well dressed, polite, friendly and well spoken. After she left, some of the comments coming out of the mouths of those who thought I couldn’t hear them, or that no one else in the office who had a conscience could hear them, were disgusting. Seriously, I had wanted so badly to work for them at one point. After that, I actually started looking for a job elsewhere.

Apparently ageism is everywhere. Even among those older than you (the above mentioned employer is my age – his co-interviewer is 11 years older than I am). People wonder why it has been so difficult for me to find a job.. well, my mom would say it’s my weight. But then again, my mother still thinks I’m in my 20s.. soo… But it’s not. I find a lot of very unhappy people in their mid 40’s to upper 50s who stay in jobs they hate because they know they won’t get hired anywhere else. It’s sad. Companies want the experience, and in the steadily improving economy, are even willing to pay for the experience. But they don’t want the age that comes along with the experience. This is not something I can understand. I’m nowhere near retirement age. I have a good 20-30 employable years left in me. And yet, all I can seem to find are temporary assignments, where despite all my hard work, all the accolades said work receives, I am still not given a permanent job. There is no way to sugar coat it. I can lose weight. But I can’t turn back time and become a 30 year old again. I’ve been heavy all my life. Heavier than I am right now, even, and have still managed to get a job. So yeah, it’s not my weight mom. I love you, but that is not the source of all that is currently wrong in life.

I’m just, apparently, old?

There really is no point to this post. I have no brilliant insights or advice or even anger to throw at you. It’s just me venting out frustrations that I can’t even add any humor to because it’s sad. And it’s scary. I’m a single, (widowed, something I don’t admit to readily to interviewers because that word makes me seem even older, I think).  I live alone. I live in New York City (yes, Staten Island IS a part of NYC!). I’m way too young for even ‘early’ retirement. Not to mention, any retirement savings I had, I went through after my husband passed away. Anything I managed to save after that, I went through the last time I was unemployed back in 2010. I have no clue what to do. I want to work. I am REALLY good at my job. Even the frat boy who didn’t hire me after I busted my ass working for him as a temp for 7 months told me that he would happily be a reference for me – I may not have been right for him, but he’d happily shove my old ass onto someone else, I guess.

So, anyone out there looking to hire a 43 year-old, chubby but super friendly and highly qualified Executive Assistant?   Just asking. Hey, I’ll even throw on some make-up!