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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Heather Hernandez said...

I loved reading your post and I do believe that you will find your dream job in 2013! I hope I'll see you at Blissdom, or at Savvy!!!

Mommy's Wish List said...

Thank you so much for reading my post Heather! I'll see you at Blissdom, and probably Savvy too. Thank you also for being an inspirational female role model to a lot of bloggers, me included.

Unknown said...

I am sooo glad that you wrote this. I have high hopes for you this yea. :) XOXO

Pam said...

Lea Ann - you go girl! Wow is all I can say. Sorry you've had such a rough search, but appreciate you openly and honestly sharing this. You raise some really good points and it's a shame our industry is like this. Best of luck in landing that dream job this year. You deserve it and are obviously capable of it! Pam Deahl

Mommy's Wish List said...

Jennifer, thank you for always supporting me in my endeavors, you're a great friend.

Mommy's Wish List said...

Pam, what a nice surprise to see you here, and thank you so much for your support! Thank you for all the leads you send to me, that is greatly appreciated.

Pam said...

Since I liked this, it posted to my FB timeline and I've gotten some really interesting comments on it. Here is one from a friend that returned to the wkplace after a few yrs off of mothering. She landed at a major corporate HQ in Plano... "I am amazed I pulled it off. It was brutal the first year. I rejoined the workforce four levels under where I left it to get my foot in the door and avoid extensive travel. I ate humble pie for breakfast every morning for a year. Was told things like, "The assumption is you have to relearn everything." Was called "less than human" for attempting to achieve a work/life balance and attend a once in a lifetime school event after the workday. Returnships are not for sissies! Love her article - so very, very true."

Pam said...

Oh,and I get your MWL emails daily BTW...have since you started this thing. So you are always top of mind! Ha! Love the Pantone ring too!

Christina said...

Lea Ann - You are amazingly talented and I believe '13 will be your lucky year!

Thanks for sharing your personal story. I wish it didn't resonate with so many of us looking for work.

Best wishes! Keep on being awesome!

Mommy's Wish List said...

Thank you so much for reading my story Christina! I admire your writing so much, and really relish your comments. I hope 2013 will be a lucky year for both of us.

Christina said...

Thanks, Lea Ann! That means a lot to me!

Ana said...

Lea Ann, you are such an inspiration and the truth is that it really doesn't matter how old you are. I don't consider myself old in my mid-thirties, but one of my best friends and I were both laid off in 2011 and we are stunned by the amount of applications we have submitted without so much as a courtesy call to say we weren't the right fit in 2012. We were just commenting a few weeks ago that back in our 20's, we got every single job we ever interviewed for. EVERY.SINGLE.INTERVIEW.YIELDED.A.JOB.OFFER. And now, we can't even get past the new applicant tracking systems. We don't want to have to lie either, but we've been advised to not wear our wedding and engagement rings to interviews, to not mention our kids or husbands even casually, and to never say we don't know how to do something, even if we don't. This may be the year I decide to lie to get a job. Good luck to you and may 2013 be kinder to us all!

Carol Fishman Cohen said...

Lea Ann - Your blog is excellent and you demonstrate all the qualities of a successful "relauncher," as we call returning professionals at iRelaunch. You are persistent and relentless. You know what you are looking for. You have invested time to update yourself on the technology side. It is inspiring to read about your internship example. Please keep us posted on your progress as it would be wonderful to feature you in our gallery of "relaunch success stories" when your relaunch is complete. Sincerely, Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder, iRelaunch

Mommy's Wish List said...

Hey Ana, thank you so much for your comment! I know what you're talking about regarding the interview thing. This is really the first time in my life I've ever actually interviewed for a job...up to now I've always gotten my next job by word of mouth, not thru an interview. I haven't shown a portfolio since I was in college, up until this year. And like you, I do wish for at least an email to say that they've received my resume when I submit one.

Hang in there with me. '13 has got to be our lucky year!

Mommy's Wish List said...

Carol, I would be honored to be featured in your Relaunch Gallery on iRelaunch! I will definitely keep you posted on my progress. Thank you so much for reading my post. You were the inspiration and catalyst for finally writing it, after seeing you on the Today's Show January 4th.

Anonymous said...

I love that term: "Returnship"! You have been an incredible asset here at CSC. I love your energy and amazing conceptual creativity. I have never once thought of you as "old", and I urge you not to see yourself through that lens either. Keep kicking butt, girl! -Kevin :-)

Mommy's Wish List said...

KEVIN! You're the greatest to read my post and leave a comment! Thank you so much for letting me work on all your fun projects, and for all your encouragement.

Jerri said...

Hi Lea Ann, I appreciate you telling your story. I'm sorry it has been such a difficult process in returning to the workplace. Even though there seems to be a lot of days that I wish I didn't have to work, your story has made me glad I do have one.

Mommy's Wish List said...

Hi Jerri, thank you very much for your support and encouragement. And for reading my blog all these years! You do a great job at Methodist reaching out to underserved groups with relevant programs, and I know the neighborhood appreciates your efforts.

Anonymous said...

A very inspiring post. I've been out of the workforce for over a year - not by choice. I've been running into some of the same problems that you mentioned and it definitely is surprising and frustrating. A "returnship" may be just what I need to get myself back on track. Thank your for your post!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this posting. I am starting the new year looking for a job after almost 6 years. Amazes me as how unemployable I seem to the interviewer when I know I can do the job easily and then some. I really needed to hear this... good luck in the new year

Unknown said...

the company that wakes up and recognizes how much of a talented asset you are will never let you go! your personal story has given someone, somewhere the push they need to keep going. i'm so happy to have made your acquaintance.

Chloe Jeffreys said...

I've come to realize that with Google at our fingertips, things like experience and wisdom don't seem to count for much.

As a fellow old lady I applaud you! I'm an old lady who is trying to make a career change into a field I know knowing about and that I'm not in any way, shape, or form qualified to do. Like you, I'm chasing the dream.