No jobs for old ladies. A story of returnship.

Someone is in need of an art director. 

2012 was the year I applied for 136 jobs.
This is Mommy's Wish List, and mommy's greatest wish, at the top of her list, is to have a job. A job with an office. Office coffee. And a chance to do what I am good at doing.

After almost seven years out of the workforce, I tried to make it my raison-d'etre in 2012 to return to contributing to the world of commerce. When I was not busy blogging, I was creating 26 different versions of my resume, updating my LinkedIn profile, writing thoughtful and well-crafted cover letters, and networking ceaselessly with former colleagues.

What I found over the past year of intense job searching was that experience, expertise, and enthusiasm counted for little when they were stacked against ageism, sexism, and what I like to call smartism.

You've been there haven't you? Interviewing for a job with a potential boss who recognizes right away that you know more than they do. Have more experience than they do. And that you have the idealism to believe you can do anything put in front of you.

Some potential bosses find this threatening.

Mostly, my resume didn't make it thru HR to even get into the consideration set. At the time, every time, I was completely surprised that they did not think I was the perfect fit for each position. After all, I only applied for jobs for which I had 95% or more match to the desired skill set. Now as I start again in 2013, looking back, I am not surprised considering the hurdles.

Finding a job as an old lady is hard.
"Do not apply if you have more than seven years of experience" was a common phrase I found in marketing and advertising job descriptions. As if the brains of people over the age of 30 had already turned to mush.

"Only 3% of creative directors are women" say the 3% Conference. 3%. Wow, I had no idea that I was such a rarity. Getting back in then would prove to be even more difficult.

My favorite quote from a panel of 20-something female vice-presidents, at a job-seeker seminar for women this past year was "To get a job in this industry, you have to act like a man".

"You need to lie to get your next job." Again with the helpful advice from these lovely ladies.

"Men say yes to everything. Then they figure out how to do it later." One vice-president of a huge, well-known website confessed to saying she knew how to use a particular software, when in fact, she had to figure it out on her first day.

Who does that? If it makes me an old lady to have ethics and honesty, then so be it. Maybe I'd rather not go back to a workforce run this way. By the way, Frito-Lay Growth Ventures Group, I do not currently know how to pull IRI data, but I can learn how to pull IRI in a snap. Just like I taught myself PhotoShop, PowerPoint, and Blogging.

Yes, I'm an Art Director. Can you tell?

Intern. Redux.
In July, I finally took a huge leap. I decided that if no one would hire me to be a creative director, or even an art director, then I'll start at the bottom again. Intern. Surely someone would be willing to hire me to be the bottom rung of the ladder.

What did I have to lose? Nothing. I didn't have a job so there was no where to go but up theoretically. I stalked the twitter hashtags #jobs #MarketingJobs #designjobs and found a local ad agency with an internship program tweeting for applicants for fall.

"Do you offer old lady internships?" I tweeted back. "I am an old lady creative director. You will get your money's worth."

"We don't care how old you are, come in for an interview" was the reply.

Long story short, after much convincing that "Yes, I really don't care what you pay me" I signed on as an intern. This short-term arrangement has given me the opportunity to contribute again, which was what I craved above all else. I get to draw layouts, generate ideas, write copy, build PhotoShop comps, write Brand Positioning decks. They are totally getting their money's worth.

I am getting my dream back.

My Returnship.
This apparently is called not an Internship, but a Returnship. The termed was coined in 2008 by Goldman Sachs, as a part of their Diversity and Inclusion Program, to give mothers who took years off to raise children a road back into the workforce. I predict the Returnship will become a hot topic in 2013, and more companies will expand their internship programs to welcome experienced, enthusiastic professionals like myself back into their fold.

I applaud companies like MomCorps and it's Dallas President Cindy Strand Yared, who find and provide access to jobs for women like me.

And I applaud trendsetting Dallas agency CS Creative, who broadened their definition of Intern to include women like me.

This concept is being brought to life on sites like iRelaunch, run by Carol Fishman Cohen, who herself successfully returned to employment after a long break, and is author of the book Back on the Career Track. That this concept is being embraced past just Goldman Sachs is encouraging to me.

It's a no-brainer for a company to try before they buy with a Returnship. And vice versa: gaining inside information about a company's culture and work style by actually working there is invaluable. Especially for an older professional who knows what they like and do not like already.

Now it's 2013, and I feel more confident in my job search. I've now got current industry experience, including web and interactive design, and social media consulting under my belt. I've got something to do every day, contributing in my industry and chosen profession, while I look for my dream job.

And I'm dreaming big, people.

No jobs for old ladies? We'll see about that.

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