OPINION: The search for work can be soul-destroying

Job hunting can be soul-destroying for anyone over 50, says Jenny Brice.
Job hunting can be soul-destroying for anyone over 50, says Jenny Brice. John Gass /TWE100412despair

YOU are 50-something and you are advised that your services are no longer required by an almost faceless being.

Your gut is in a knot and you can hardly breathe ... the first thought is financial and your second thought is "what the hell do I do know?".

Everyone knows how difficult it is to get another job. You sit trapped in the chair as you listen through a fog of redundancy rhetoric.

Phrases like: "This is an opportunity for a new start". "You have two days of outplacement to help you write your CV". It feels like the words roll off a faceless cold mechanical tongue, reading cold mechanical scripts in a sculptured body devoid of compassion.

Perhaps it feels like that because in that moment, everyone is dealing with the discomfort, by dissociating from each other.

As you begin to restructure your new life, the search for some form of employment begins.

The initial hope of possibilities spirals into disbelief. So many people applying for so few jobs. Those jobs that are available are either part-time or casual - not enough to pay the bills.

The hours searching the internet, writing and reformatting CVs is only rewarded by an automated rejection letter with no right of reply. People, who you thought may be able to help, quietly blend into an invisible background busy with their own lives and their own problems.

It is not long before despair starts creeping into every fibre of your body, isolated behind your home computer.

Your mind wanders to days gone by, when there may have been some comfort with the comradery of the unemployment line.

Sleepless nights follow the few opportunities you receive for interview. ; worried if the look of hopelessness on the interviewer's face was real or imagined.You sense your partner's worry as they lie restless beside you.

Rung out with anxiousness and despair, you hear a program on the radio presenting a utopian future. It was about becoming a senior-preneur and defining your own future by starting a new business.

The advocates are encouraging people like you to adopt this path. Your generation has life experience, are more realistic and are more likely to take sensible risks.

They can help you by providing courses, helping developing your business plan, provide coaching and books to read. Governments were being lobbied for tax deductions and universities developing research labs.

Your mind races to how much will all this cost.

The advocates said people over 50 were commencing businesses at double the rate of Generation Y. Fourteen thousand businesses in Australia are expected to start up this year with the average age being 57.

You listen carefully for more information about the financial success of these senior-preneurs. They say no research had been done on this yet, but be reassured it was possible and many people were doing it.

You know intuitively that it would be easier to become a senior-preneur when the financial stakes are low and it was just a means of supplementing your income, embarking on a new adventure or maintaining an active mind.

You also suspect that the senior-preneur is just a fancy word for older people starting up a small or micro-business because all other options have run out. Yet in some way the very word, the very image, gives you a slight glimmer of hope.

However, for you the stakes are high and you don't know what you don't know about running a business. You don't know what business to create or whether it will be viable.

You have very little money to invest and you don't know where to start.

You ponder what happens if you start a lawn mowing business and find every other senior-preneur or the kid next door is doing the same. There are not enough lawns to go around to make enough money for the investment.

What are your options? Your mind spins out of control.

This scenario is as serious as it is silent. Silent because many people of this generation believe you keep your troubles behind closed doors and silent because aging in our society is not a topic readily discussed.

It is serious because this silence is contributing to unnecessary despair.

The research shows that men who have lost employment between 45 and 65, are becoming a group with rapidly rising mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. This alone affects individuals, families and the very fabric of our society.

There are no simple answers to ensuring the employability of older Australians. However once people are able, for a moment, to step into someone else's shoes and see their world through their eyes, empathy can often spur us to action.

After all what lies between most people and destitution is their job, irrespective of age.

Topics:  letters opinion unemployment

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