The Job Interview: America’s Workforce, Jerry Lewis, and Me

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jerry-lewisI was thinking last evening about how, as 81-year-old Joan Rivers lays in a coma in a hospital, the generation of entertainment that we Baby Boomers watched and listened to at the movies and on television, from youth to adulthood, is slipping away.

These thoughts were spurred on, as I realized that, here we are, September 1st, Labor Day, 2014…and there is a huge gap in today’s television programming.

For 45 years, American families would, while spending time together, watch the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. The telethon would begin on Sunday Evening and continue for 21 1/2 hours, ending on Monday evening at 5:00 p.m. Central. Co-hosted in later years by Ed McMahon and Norm Crosby, stars of stage, screen, and television would appear, alongside corporate executives, all there to raise money for “Jerry’s Kids”.

In 2012, the MDA Program was renamed the “MDA Show of Strength”. It was scaled down to a 3 hour program, featuring mostly pre-taped segments.

The last two years’ programs, while being referred to as a “telethon”, were only 2 hour programs, aired on the Sunday night before Labor Day, featuring hip young “stars” like Ryan Seacrest introducing pre-taped segments.

After MDA gave Lewis the Fickle Finger of Fate, they continued to insist

We honor Jerry Lewis, we admire the work he’s done for us, and we respect his decision to retire.

That particular quote came from Valerie Cwik, the MDA’s interim president, at the time. She replaced Gerald Weinberg, who was reportedly behind Lewis’s ouster and who stepped down as president, after 54 years with the organization.

She made the lame argument that the changes in the telethon were part of a necessary evolution in fundraising strategy, to put less emphasis on the once-a-year event.

It has to change because the American audience has changed. A 21.5-hour show doesn’t fit in a 140-character world.

Okay. I know that Lewis had a reputation as an ego-maniacal pain-in-the-rear to work with, but, these were people’s lives that the MDA was messing with. It could have, and should have, been handled differently.

It showed no respect whatsoever. But, I digress…

What happened to Jerry Lewis, seems to be happening to American Society in general.

The fact is, older worker unemployment has increased dramatically since the recession. The unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older increased from 3.1 percent in December 2007 to a high of 7.6 percent in February 2010, before dropping to 6 percent in December 2011.

While older employees are less likely to be laid off than their younger counterparts, it generally takes older job seekers longer to find new employment. The median duration of unemployment for older workers was 35 weeks in 2011, compared with 26 weeks for younger employees. And 55 percent of unemployed older workers spent more than 27 weeks actively seeking a new job in 2011, up from less than a quarter in 2007.

According to a Government Accountability Office Report, issued in 2012, and featured on money.usnews.com, the following list examines the barriers to employment for people who were laid off at age 55 (like myself) or later. Here’s and are the reasons why unemployed older workers, like myself, are having difficulty finding new jobs. (The reason’s are theirs. Any smart alack comments that may pop-up are mine.)

High salary expectations.

According to some employers interviewed by the GAO, older workers should “learn how to present their skills and experiences to potential employers in a way that does not draw attention to their age, extensive years of experience, and past high-level positions.” I personally have no problem with that. I know that am a very capable professional, Mr. Employer. I just want to work.

Younger bosses.

Some Hiring Managers probably believe that older employees would be unhappy working for a younger or less experienced supervisor. When you interview, try pointing out why you would be a good fit at the company, that you are willing to work for less pay than you received in the past, and that you are comfortable reporting to a younger manager and working collaboratively with people of all ages. Competency has no age limit. Neither does incompetency. However, that’s a whole different blog.

Out of date skills.

You have to be able to submit applications and resumes online, in order to apply for a job. “Seasoned Professionals” who lack computer and other technology skills have a great disadvantage in finding work.

You have to keep pace with technology in order to get yourself a job nowadays. There are plenty of courses available through which you can learn the new technology. In fact, I worked at a Government Internship a couple of years ago, in order to update my technological skills. If you can play video games with your grandchildren, you can learn this stuff. Don’t be afraid of technology.

Expensive health benefits.

GAO found that some employers don’t  want to hire older job seekers because of possible future health issues. The fallacy there is the fact that everyone gets sick, not just “Seasoned Professionals”. You may want to assure the interviewer, if this is brought up, that you have no plans to keel over anytime soon.

Retirement expectations.

Some Employers don’t want to hire and then train older workers, because they believe that older employees will retire soon, and will not give them a good Return on Investment (ROI). When interviewing, tell your potential Employers that you do not see yourself retiring in the near future…you would not be out seeking employment, if you were.

Visible frustration.

Some Employers say that long-term unemployment makes some older workers discouraged and depressed. Well, duuuh.

The trick is not to allow your job-search frustration to show during interviews or take it out on the hiring manager. It’s not their fault. Put on your best professional demeanor and show them why they should hire you.

As an “Seasoned Professional”, I believe that I have a lot to offer a potential employer. Years of experience have given me insight into the business world that younger employees do not have. I also posses a work ethic and a will to succeed, which ha have not diminished as I have gotten older.

Like my fellow “Seasoned Professionals”, all I ask is for the opportunity to prove my worth.

Never give up. Never surrender.

-Allen

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