I’m not ashamed of being in my 50s, and I’ve never tried to look younger. I haven’t exactly lied about my age during my job hunt, but after an endless process of getting nowhere, I decided to leave my date of birth off my CV when applying. I also deleted my O-Levels for fear they’d date me.
Earlier this year, I finally had two interviews in the same week. The first was with a private club. I didn’t even hear back from them, despite asking for feedback.
The second was for a position at a small start-up. But they didn’t want to pay me what I was worth, and so I walked away. I wasn’t prepared to undersell myself like that. Looking back, maybe I should have just taken the role. Because, since then, the outlook has been bleak. I have had many more interviews, changed my CV a number of times, but still had no luck.
I recently went for an interview, then received an apologetic email from the firm in question saying “circumstances had changed”. With each rejection I have felt my mind going downhill. Most of the people who have interviewed me have been significantly younger than I am. Perhaps they simply don’t feel my face would fit.
Nearly a year since being made redundant, I am thoroughly dispirited. I have reached the unavoidable conclusion that the job market for older workers is a wasteland. It’s left me utterly demoralised, and with every rejection I’ve struggled to stay positive.
Apart from the personal hurt, it feels so shortsighted of companies not to want to hire those with experience and so much to offer. And it’s not just women who suffer this workplace ageism. I have a male friend slightly older than me who’s had almost 150 interviews since losing his job and not even a glimpse of an offer. His wife said to him recently: “Maybe you think you can do it but really you can’t?” This idea has wormed its way into my head and I briefly started to wonder if it actually applied to me.
But I know I can do it and I know I’m not too old to be good at a job. I can learn quickly, I’ve got common sense and am settled in my life. Yet employers still don’t seem to value the skills and stability that older workers can offer.
For now I’ve taken a part-time job at my local Marks & Spencer as it’s all I’ve been able to find. I haven’t given up on doing something meaningful and fulfilling with the rest of my working years though. My new plan is to study to become a doula. One thing I know for certain is I’m not going onto the scrapheap.
*Name has been changed
As told to Rosa Silverman