There it was again, that look. The one that says you are either pitiable beyond belief or in the middle of a psychotic episode, so approach with caution. All because I dared to represent myself as employable even though I don’t have a college degree.
It used to be that if you learned from the school of hard knocks, it counted for something. Your experience was valuable. These days, experience without a college degree is the school of keep on knocking but you can’t come in. Now, keep in mind that I was quite willing to start at an entry level. Any VP or Director position would have been fine. Surely they realize that entry level is defined differently when you’re over 50, don’t they? If I started in the mail room, I would die there. And that would be after years of living in either my car or the company women’s room. There’s not even enough time left to sleep my way to the top!
I’ve come a long way to get to that level of understanding about what I should expect and accept. The one that comes after you turn 40 but before you start wearing purple, the one where you realize that if exceptions aren’t made for you, you’re screwed. It takes backbone to expect policy to be rewritten just for you, but that’s what your 40s are for – growing one.
Regrettably, it is not a given that people will automatically hop on your little Delusions of Grandeur Express, so desperate measures may be called for. Sadly, I have found lying to be the most useful and the most necessary. Such is the state of the workplace that you can’t stop at mere embellishment. Actual fabrication is the most dependable tool of the uneducated who wish not to be the unemployed. I can almost hear someone reading this and saying aloud, or to themselves, but I hear it either way, that I should simply go back to school. When you’re in the middle of your 5th decade of life, there are aspects of that proposition that are decidedly thought provoking. I mean, the prospect of being back in an academic setting, the air buzzing with youthful energy, fresh ideas, and amusing examples of people learning things the hard way can certainly be a draw. The downside, however, is that it takes so bloody long! I could be almost 60 before I get a degree that would be useful somewhere, but who wants to hire someone with a future working life span of 5 minutes? That kind of accomplishment is lauded by people who did it right the first time and are proud of you for being better late than never, but other than a couple of compliments that overuse the word “special”, it won’t even get you a human interest blurb in the local paper. Unless you’re over 100 years old.
So the fact is that school doesn’t pay. Quite the opposite. It collects ransom while it holds your future hostage. Time consuming with an uncertain outcome. So the question arises: how fine is the line between reinventing yourself by playing up your learned- on- the -job qualifications and just flat making stuff up? Is it okay to tell a lie that doesn’t hurt anybody? For those of us to whom truth is beauty and beauty is truth, any type of lie is unacceptable. But it really boils down to a matter of survival. Am I the only one whose nightmare is being 90 years old, eating cat food and waiting tables?
To further explore the realm of the ridiculous, it seems to make no real difference whatsoever what kind of degree you have when applying for a position somewhere! One can only surmise that what the employer is looking for is a person’s ability to commit to a goal and attain it, to finish what was started, not expertise in the field in which you want to work. I can understand that as criteria for someone just out of college. They need to prove that they have the level of maturity necessary. I’ve also read that young people entering the job market are being counseled to be prepared to change careers more than once over the course of their working life. Doesn’t that put me ahead of the game, having committed to life and still be standing? Having had several careers at this point, I have already recognized the greater value of employability security as opposed to job security which doesn’t really exist!
If I were to assess my situation with the cold, clear eye of truth, I would have to say that it looks hopeless, that I just took too many unproductive (“wrong” is such a value judgment) turns to correct my course, that I have made zero provisions for retirement, hence the waitress nightmare, and that unless I lie, I might as well sit down and wait to stop breathing. Many people have done that. I guess I just feel that as long as I have a creative imagination, and avoid the kind of lies that have dire consequences, like performing brain surgery without actually having attended medical school, I should say what I need to in order to get a job and hope that by the time my employer finds out that I lied, I will have made myself indispensible.
Oh, oh, oh wait! I just had a great idea!!! I can write the definitive book on surviving repeated failure! I’m sure there are patrons of the arts who are willing to invest in a chronic goofball who wouldn’t know a right choice if it bit her on the face, just by virtue of the fact that I am the worst in the category of those who actually made an effort. Wow! I bet there’s even a movie in there somewhere. I’m a bit hazy on the ending though. Maybe I’ll just make something up…..