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Laid Off At Fifty

Hard work is something that I learned from my family at a young age.  Growing up in the south, being a minority, it was not unusual to see your mother and father leave a daytime job and have to supplement the family income by cleaning and painting on the side.  As a child, I often watched my mother and father work regardless of their medical condition. The one thing that I was taught and I have tried to instill in my children is: Working hard will get you ahead. While my family did not reep the benefits of that hard work, they were successful in ensuring that I was afforded the gumption and drive to pursue the financial security they were seeking.

Growing up in Mississippi, there are many things that you have to combat.  Mississippi has one of the highest obesity rates in the country. The academic system was a failure when I attend school. In fact, just like many of my high school classmates, I initially left school at the age of fifteen to seek employment.

While my story would appear to be a tragic one, it is not.  Unlike my high school classmates, I left the state of Mississippi, got my GED, and then obtained a college degree. I did not want to be a product of a failed education system or a poverty-and-unemployment statistic.

Over the course of my life, I will have to say that I have been fortunate. I have worked for various companies—always obtaining tenure within the system.  About a decade ago, I found the ultimate career experience with a prominent company in the Dallas area.  For the past thirteen years, I have worked hard and been promoted through the ranks.

Last week, our department was called in for its weekly meeting.  This meeting was a bit special. It plunged me into despair where many Americans find themselves. It was a meeting to say that the employees in my department are going to be unemployment, effective October.   My manager tearfully explained the severance package to each of us.  One week of pay for each year that you have worked with the company.

            What does this mean?  

It means that I have thirteen weeks to find employment. While that is a tough task under normal circumstances, I have the age factor to consider as well. I am over 55.  While I have experience, my age is a limiting factor in the best of circumstances. With unemployment being so high, age is almost like being bitten by a poisonous snake.

As my parents look down from heaven with pride that I managed to vanquish the poverty level, fight the obesity rate, and combat literacy limitations that a lot of Mississippi minorities face, this is a battle I was not prepared for. I am over 55, and laid off.

Has this happened to you? What advice can you give?

Always, Maxine Avant-Johnson

About Maxine Avant-Johnson

11 comments

  1. Sorry to be late in the game with this post. I have been in this situation from time to time, so I feel you. What I am seeing in some companies today is ageism. Most will deny it is happening, but plain and simple, it is discrimination. When I went on many interviews for another job I was vying for I was up against younger adults fresh out of college and just as hungry as myself. Nothing wrong with that, but when I am told you don’t qualify (even thought I was qualified) and the other candidate is hired only because they have a college degree that’s a hard pill to swallow.

    Allot of people over the age 40 have an uphill battle, but don’t let it stop you from trying. It goes back to selling yourself and just projecting your best foot forward. Another real clue is to look at company websites and see the people behind the scenes. Most are all young and I can’t spot anyone over the age 40. Want to apply for Facebook or Google, good luck with that one. My cousin told me about a class she attended and they suggested that you leave the year you graduated High School / College off your resume because its a dead-giveaway of your age. How sad is that?

    Here is the kicker, I had my current employer tell me the same mumble-jumble about why they hired college-educated individuals…because it shows commitment. I said, “that is true, but what about the employee that has been with you for 15 years?”. I was hired a few days later. It is all BS if you ask me. Ageism is alive an well. Sorry that happened to you.
    Sonia recently posted…Are There Benefits of Failure?My Profile

    • Hi Sonia,

      This was a really depressing situation for my mother. I wanted her to share her story with us. Thank you for seeing her pain and understanding how hard it is to work for a company for 15 plus years only to be let go. I think that deep down she knew that it was about her age but when you are searching for a logic reason why you are let go, you have to look for a silver lining. And to add to her depressing situation she was diagnosed with cancer and is now fighting for her life. Ageism is horrible. I am over 40 and facing enter back into the work force after a long break. I am scared. I feel that the work force is not necessary about quality anymore but about saving money. I am happy that your employer recognized the gem you and hired you. Nice to see you Sonia.
      cynthiatw recently posted…The Color of Red Makes Me NutsMy Profile

      • It wasn’t easy for me either. Gosh, so many interviews and countless BS told to you. My advice on getting back in the game: Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. I had someone tell me that once and that lit a fire under me like you wouldn’t believe. Plus knowing that I was over 40 made it harder…or at least that was how I saw it. I just didn’t let anything detour me from going for what I wanted. Make sure you do the same no matter what they say they are looking for. Sometimes I think its allot of “smoking mirrors” to weed out candidates they don’t want applying for the job. Let me know what happens on your journey. Glad to see you too!
        Sonia recently posted…Are There Benefits of Failure?My Profile

  2. I am very sorry, We feel your pain. we to are in the same boat. My husband was layed off several months ago at 55 years old and myself and daughter are dissabled with no pay. Everyone over 50 was layed off from one of the largest companys in America. He even had to train his boss at times. A 110 percent worker and a veteran. We already had lost our home. filed bankrupsy, hit by a car head on and i just had another surgery from it 8 weeks ago, But I have been praying, I have leaned on our heavenly father all my life , I had to early on. And things happen when you pray and give thanksgiving in wonderful ways,sometimes it takes time. Please give it a chance if you are not already , although its so hard, Be still and know that I am God, he says, shut your eyes and tell him your fears, he already knows but it helps you and he wants you to ask I think because you will know the blessing come from him. something happened great last week before Christmas I did not expect ,but i did pray one night for a sign because I was feeling hopeless, although I am a Christian. We all need encouragemeat, and He there to listen and to help through his riches and glory in Heaven. H e cares for our needs here and loves you so much. We are waiting for his work to be shown to us again, we are out of pay and need help fast, but he is never late. God Bless

    • Hi Cheryl,

      I am sorry to hear about your spouse losing his job. Do you think it is a trend laying off older and more experienced workers? You are right having faith does help to resolve your problems and gives you someone great to lean on in your time of need and someone to thank when your life is full of blessing. You give really sound advice. Thank you for contributing a valueable message to anyone who is facing difficulties.

      Cynthia
      cynthiatw recently posted…What Makes You HappyMy Profile

    • Be encouged my friend. God is still only a prayer away. He will help you. With my lay off notice .I also found out I have cancer but I still know, God will make a way for my life and for you and your family.

  3. Maxine,

    I am sorry to hear about your predictment. You need to not look at this an age issue. You are only as young as you present yourself in the interview. You have experience going for you so you need to sell the fact that you can hit the ground running and you have a proven track record in the work force. Lisa, gave you some great advice about networking and starting your own business.

    Karen

  4. I’ve been seeing this everywhere and at my day job as well. I’ve seen a few people get other jobs that they really liked and were able to manage the income (slightly less) okay. A few even did even better. There a few I know still out of work a year plus. I’ve been working on plans A and b for B years so I don’t have to worry what not? It won’t be easy either. It never is. I wish you best in finding some other way to receive an income. I hope you are on LInkedIn and have many contacts there as well as those in your industry. Many are also going to into business for themselves, it is another option.
    Lisa recently posted…Pinterest App Makes It Easy To Pin Than Post At That Other PlaceMy Profile

  5. Getting laid off is such a scary thing especially when the odds are stacked against you to get another job quickly due to salary requirements, experience or even education. I hope your job search finds you successful soon.

    Cynthia
    cynthiatw recently posted…Seeing Through a Blind Man’s EyesMy Profile

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