Chasing The Job Market



I am the 57 percent. Although this represents a majority, I know that my group is not a majority of Americans. It’s an arbitrary number based on my age. We are middle-aged, befuddled and wondering how much faster this bullet I’ll call the 21st-century job market can speed past us.

Superman would have a hard time chasing this one. He outran bullets coming out of revolvers in the 1950s, not forced to chase job leads on the Internet and add resumes to employer website black holes. He didn’t need to pay health insurance premiums or pay for gas at $4 a gallon while searching for more work, either. He just had to avoid Kryptonite and send his cape to the dry cleaners every week — because superheroes should be tidy.

My group might not be in the majority, but I’m pretty sure that if you spoke to someone middle-aged about 100 years ago, you’d hear the same lament, with a better outcome.

At the start of the last American century, our population was 76 million and mostly agrarian. There were trains, but no cars or airplanes and, as a rule, we rarely traveled more than 25 miles away from our birthplace in our lifetime. An American male lived to the ripe old age of 46, and women lived two years longer.

By 1929, men lived to 60 years old, women to 64, people were driving cars and Boeing was about to introduce the first airline stewardesses the following year.

Within one generation, the world had changed, and a middle-aged person would be equally befuddled at the noise and pace of the new world, but he could get over it with retraining and some earplugs.

A guy working in a factory making, for the sake of an argument, buggy whips, could see the writing on the wall at the turn of the century. Within a few short years, the buggy whip would be obsolete, and he would be out of a job, unless the buggy whip factory retooled and manufactured something car-related, like bumpers or brakes, or steel-belted radials.

The point is, manufacturing was the bread and butter of the new American century, and although the world saw drastic change, it was all good change, until that First World War and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919, which ended that World War. And that Black Friday in 1929, which caused the Great Depression, but stay with me, it was really good for a few years.

Fast forward to 2000. The life expectancy for a man is 75, and a woman is 80. People drive 25 miles to go to lunch, and they can reserve a table through what Tony Soprano referred to as “the Internets.”

What seemed like a fast-paced life in 1930 has become warp-speed, and a middle-aged person like me, who worked full time at a newspaper in 2000, is now freelancing. My former colleagues are now my biggest competitors, and we’re all chum in the water. The buggy whip analogy doesn’t apply, because the platform is different. We can write about the news all we want. There aren’t any papers making a profit to keep us working. Why buy a newspaper when you can watch news on your smartphone, or hear about it on Twitter, 144 characters at a time?

Instead of planning for retirement, my group is scrambling for work. The world is changing around us and technology is advancing so rapidly that we can’t keep up.I spoke to a neighbor recently who has been out of work for a long time. She had worked for Border’s 18 years when it dissolved. No one reads books on paper, either. Can you say “Kindle?”

So I’ll keep trying to find writing projects and keep searching the job placement websites. I could apply for a job in social networking, but I don’t think they’re looking for a 57-year-old writer who hates writing in 144-character increments.


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