Playing the job search game

“Why did you leave your last job?”

“It wasn’t the right fit. I didn’t see it coming.”

Kind of lame, but that’s the best I’ve got. Once I got over the shock, I sent my former employer a letter defending myself. Not that it mattered.

So, the job search began. Again.

I had a wonderful job in Michigan that lasted 24 years. Working in the newspaper industry pre-Internet, the company even gave us an annual written job pledge: As long as the newspaper published seven days a week, we had a job for life.

Then, of course, the World Wide Web changed everything, and the newspaper industry in general was slow to adjust. My newspaper downsized from publishing seven days a week to three, and my job as a copy editor was eliminated in 2009.

As the end drew near, the stress level in the newsroom rose dramatically. It took me months to recover.

Eventually, I did get another job – in a call center. I stayed 2.5 years, and met some wonderful people there. As an introvert, working a phone job forced me to improve my social skills. I wasn’t planning to turn that into a second career, but as a bridge, it served the purpose.

Eventually, I returned to newspaper work at a design center in Illinois, editing and laying out several company-owned newspapers in upstate New York from the design hub outside Chicago. Six months into that job, the company announced it was relocating. To Austin, Texas.

Our three sons and my parents all live in southern Michigan. We chose not to move with the company to Austin; it’s too far from family. So, I updated the resume again.

We landed in northern Ohio. Initially, I turned down the job here because it didn’t offer enough money for us to make an out-of-state move. But they pursued me. I made a counter-offer, and they accepted it. So, we came.

After 13 months, I was fired. I still don’t know what changed.

I never felt comfortable there. Looking back, that even affected my health. I’m a regular blood donor, and I was having trouble donating because my iron was too low. Too stressful, too much coffee.

After they let me go, my stress level went down. I haven’t had any problems donating blood since then. I have time now to do things that I want to do. I saw immediate benefits to leaving a suffocating atmosphere.

What’s next? I set up multiple online job searches. I have attended job-search workshops at the local community college, and had one-on-one counseling with two career services staffers at the college to work on my resume and learn how to tell my story.

I joined a networking group that connects job-seekers with employed people, many of whom “graduated” from seeker to contact. I continue to update my LinkedIn profile:

As a result, I’ve had several interviews, over the phone and in person. “Thank you very much for your interest in the position. Unfortunately another candidate was selected. We wish you all the best in your job search.”

To pass the time, I’ve increased my volunteer efforts. I assist with American Red Cross blood drives. I help with service projects through our church. I’ve continued a couple of volunteer programs with young people I did in Michigan and Illinois. These things get me out of the house and help me meet people – potential employers?

So, how do I pay the bills? I’m sure I could get a minimum-wage job at McDonald’s or Levin Furniture, but I’m not quite there yet.

I’m 55 years old.

I was fired from my most recent job.

I’m an introvert.

The entire job search process is not designed to connect job-seekers with fulfilling positions. HR people want to know why I’m NOT the right candidate. News flash: I’m flawed. Does that make me unemployable?

I need to put my best foot forward. I need to tell potential employers how great I am, how perfect I am for them and how I’m the answer to their need. I have to step outside my personality to do that, to be someone I’m not to try to get a job. No wonder studies show most people aren’t happy in their jobs.

I’m a behind-the-scenes person, seeking a behind-the-scenes job. Copy editors don’t get their name in lights. We make reporters, photographers and the publisher look good. But I have to put my name in lights to get a job that doesn’t require that.

When I figure this out, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’ll keep playing the game.

All I need is one hit. It’s coming.


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