A friend of my family is looking to re-enter the workforce after raising three kids. She is over 40 and hasn’t worked in a dozen years. Probably, it comes as no surprise that she is having trouble finding the right job. Putting my UX hat, I started thinking about her plight.
There was a period of my life that I was out of work, after the dotcom implosion in 2002. If not for Katie working at ground zero in NYC, I would have had to sell one of the children. (Whew!) I looked in alot of different places and sent out alot of resumes, but that didn’t work very well. I took jobs I was not suited for and eventually stumbled on a career path that I enjoyed. However, I was much younger than this woman (at the time) and had alot of technical skills.
So far she has been submitting resumes on numerous job sites as well as using Craigslist. One suggestion I made was the informational interview and networking. It’s much easier to talk to people, have lunch with them if they know that you aren’t asking for a direct job. You never know who will introduce you to whom or when a connection might come in handy. I am always shocked that more people don’t go this route. It’s not rude. In fact, people often find it flattering. I also suggested temping as another route to get introduced to people. (My first job was gained through temping). In the end, you have to try lots of different angles, because you never know which one will be the important one. The more people you know, the better.
On a different note, this is still a stressful and painful process at its best. Knowing alot of people guarantees nothing. Money is important. What would you do without money? Most of us do not have rich parents who can support us in lean times. Homelessness is a real threat to many more people than you might imagine. I knew a VP of Sales in 1995 who told me, “Most people at 3 months salary away from bankruptcy.” He was including himself in that group.
The workforce has changed in the last 12 years. Bootstrapping is really hard and you have to be strategic and get lucky. I don’t have a great answer to this problem, but for those in this situation, the User Experience is harsh indeed.