Diversity Job Fair: You can be anything but old

For a long time, I’ve wanted to change careers. I’ve wanted to find something more creative, or maybe involving technology. My first try at creative was in theater. I was that kid, doing lighting, sound and stage crew for all the high school and college shows. I worked in advertising for a year out of college before law school. Later, I ducked out of a 24/7 law firm job and managed the Royal George Theater for Lost in Yonkers. A non-union job, the salary was far from a living wage so I couldn’t stay.

Then, I got my Master of Science degree in Information Systems. I hoped to be part of the technological revolution in the legal profession. So far, it involves fancy AI litigation risk management programs and legal management software for large law firms that serve the rich and corporations and some do-it-yourself forms websites for everyone else. Yes, there are two Americas. But, I digress.

I got a tech job at an HR consulting company that had a great reputation, until they went public and sold out to a large insurance company. They “never laid off workers,” but the place kept shrinking… seriously and obviously shrinking, shrinking until the large office campus felt empty, space empty, outside the galaxy empty, and the food in the lunchroom went from yummy and free to terrible and expensive. As they never laid off workers, I wondered where all the people had gone and did it involve alien abduction. Taking the hint, I left before the place sold, closed local offices and shipped the work overseas. Back to real estate and title insurance.

Approaching 60 years old, I wanted to give a satisfying career one more chance. I left my job to pursue other things. I had a little financial luxury at this point.

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This morning, I attended a diversity job fair at a large hotel in the city. The guest speaker was a B+ celebrity. She gave us some platitudes about networking, true platitudes, but platitudes. Be Beyoncé-like fierce, take your time finding your tribe, give more than you take etc. All true, but all obvious. But, before she went down the cliché list, she welcomed the diverse group, mostly women, some of color, some disabled people. She gushed over a military veteran. She didn’t acknowledge the older workers in the room. At the end of her short speech, she assured the group that the employers in the next room committed to diversity.

Not a shrinking violet, I proceeded to the employers’ tables and attempted to chat up the young HR trainees they sent to collect our resumes and describe current opportunities at their companies. After a few minutes of being alternately ignored and humored, a woman with dark, curly hair, and a touch of gray, approached. “How are you doing?” She questioned. I replied, “They’re committed to diversity… except if you’re old.” She smiled. I gave her the response she expected. It was the reason for her inquiry, my grays sticking out in the crowd.

Okay, everyone knows it’s hard to build a new career when you’re older, particularly in the fields represented at the fair, IT, IT, IT and IT. Great news! My C++ training is still relevant, if only I could remember it! No systems analyst jobs for business types were among the offerings. I learned from a nice man that his company expects the computer engineers to do their own workflow analysis, even if they don’t know the business. It’s easier to teach banking to a C++ engineer than the other way around. That explains why working with your bank is so pleasant.

Some of the HR reps at the tables didn’t know the business either. I met one nice woman, an HR rep for an IT consulting company who could not describe the business of one client. She knew the company’s customers were businesses that used IT and that was it. Her job was to read resumes and ask people what kind of tree they’d be if they were a tree, as if you’d have a choice. It’s all good so long as you’re a young tree.

Written by

Lawyer, Teacher, Mediator. Worked on many political campaigns and learned nothing will help until we enforce our laws, particularly laws against corruption.

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