A few years ago, on my 40th birthday, my father gave me a well-worn “pocket” paperback book entitled, New Life Begins at Forty, by Robert Peterson.
At first, I thought, “Geez, the old man really went out of his way to blow the dust off of this ancient musky, creased, drug store copy of a book bought back in 1969.
Then I opened the book.
Inside was an inscription from my grandmother, offering best wishes and love to her son (then in his early ’40s).
As I read, I came across a chapter entitled, “Employment Begins at Forty”. At first, I chuckled at the idea that what was written over 40 years ago could have any bearing on the economic turmoil we are facing right now. Then I began to read the first part of the chapter and was hit right between the eyes with this:
“Losing one’s job is traditionally regarded as a grave personal disaster. Our sympathy runs high when we hear of an older man or woman being dropped from employment, and the individual himself may be so crushed that he fears all is lost.
Yet losing one’s job may be the finest thing that can happen to a person past 40. It offers men and women the opportunity to choose the kind of work they really want to do, rather than remain locked in occupations that chance and circumstance plunged them into in the first place.”
As I read on, the chapter offered a 12-step process to employment. Though the text is dated and clearly leans toward a male-dominated workforce (remember, it was 1967), some of the advice is still practical.
A lot of the advice is quite comical. I had to refrain from adding my own snarky comments after each step, but feel free to insert your own as you read through this list:
- Get acquainted with your state employment office. Go regularly so that they will know exactly who you are and will have you in mind the moment an appropriate job is reported.
- Get acquainted with private employment agencies. One visit is not enough. You must go often so that they will get to know you and like you.
- Get acquainted with temporary work openings. It’s not unusual for companies to select permanent personnel from among temporary workers whom they have had a chance to observe and evaluate.
- Drop in regularly at the personnel offices of companies and businesses that employ people in your line of work.
- Study the “help wanted” ads in local as well as out-of-town newspapers. And be sure to try some “situation wanted” ads.
- Look in the phone book to see if there are job or vocational counselors in your area. If so, contact them and decide whether the fee they charge for helping one find work might be worthwhile.
- See if there is a “Forty Plus” club in your area. If there is none, consider starting one for job seekers like yourself. Club members can frequently help one another find jobs.
- Be realistic in evaluating your employability. Should you lack a skill or quality which is preventing you from getting work, consider going back to school or taking a course to remedy your inadequacies.
- Be flexible in your job demands. It’s wiser to get on a good firm’s payroll at a lesser salary, then to hope some company will eventually offer you what you were getting before.
- Look beyond your hometown. Family men should emulate pioneer ancestors who went wherever there was work, and who sent for their wife and children after getting established.
- Make sure your appearance is neat, clean, and conservative. Walk briskly, speak firmly, and smile pleasantly. Be persistent. Keep telling yourself that the employment door will open if you knock on enough doors.
- Prepare a resume for prospective employers, presenting in an organized, neatly-typed fashion the facts about your education, skills, and job history.
What this list shows is that human nature remains the same over the years and networking, lifelong learning, persistence, and professionalism will always be in vogue. The rest of this 12-step formula to employment falls into the faded context of history — just ask your pioneer ancestors.