Working in America at almost 58

I called up my account online, and it was in there.

I grabbed the stack of bills from the folder in my dresser, and, old school guy that I am, wrote out checks one by one to send out in the mail.

No transfers were made from savings.

That felt good.

The first two-week paycheck from my new part-time job had been direct-deposited as promised. I’m working 25 hours a week for a big retailer, thinking on my feet helping customers to the best of my ability and doing whatever my bosses ask of me. It’s different from my almost 30 years at the big daily as an editor and reporter, sure enough, but at the core it’s still me with people, community on one side of the equation and colleagues on the other. Plus I’m also holding on dearly to the freelance work I’ve built up since the layoff of January 2013.

I would have applied for 40 hours a week at this job if it had been advertised. Nevertheless, I was happy when my dear wife Karen pointed out that this well-known company had an ad online, and I clicked and filled out the boxes, answered questions and attached my resume. I was called in for a follow-up interview and then got the call and the job offer.

The resume.

The resume.

I’ve tried hard to find a full-time job here in Syracuse, N.Y., for nearly three years now. After the shock of it all wore off that sad January day almost three years ago, I’d have to say that I was somewhat optimistic about what my resume held and how this community viewed me. And indeed, I have been a finalist or called in for face-to-face interviews for a handful of jobs in the communications field. A regional dairy association. Twice at a state university. A construction company. A furniture company. Another newspaper. A school district. I held a temp service job for two months with hopes of continuing on, but that didn’t happen.

I made sure I wasn’t one of those workers who fell through the cracks in the system and stopped trying. And all the while I worked hard at my freelance jobs, writing for media sites and magazines. I kept this blog going daily.

Some of the 100 people who were laid off that day have gotten full-time jobs, men and women, younger than me, older than me, the same age as me, from the newsroom and advertising department and print shop and IT and across every office across the building. Some moved away from Syracuse. Some changed fields. Some retired. Some haven’t, piecing together work, like me.

Every time I’ve gotten the “thanks, but” message, I’ve wondered why. Was it my answers? My personality? My age? I’ve had my down times and my self-doubt. I took two civil service tests for communications jobs for the county I live in, and passed them both, with an 85 and an 80. Then I chided myself that I didn’t score higher.

But I feel at good home an hour after the third full week of this new job on a Friday night. I put in 7 1/2 hours today around a lunch hour. My workdays and hours are staggered.

My iPhone 6 alarm clock will wake me for the earliest of shifts.

My iPhone 6 alarm clock will wake me for the earliest of shifts.

So far, my earliest shift has started at 7 a.m. The building is 15 miles from the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, so to make sure I arrive plenty early enough to punch in, I rise at 5:30 a.m. That’s earlier than Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle.

I like saying the words “my shift.”

When the HR rep told me my starting hourly wage, I was impressed. I will not dwell on how much less it is than what I was making when I was laid off at the big daily.

I will work hard for that check, and be proud of it.

My co-workers tell me they like this company. They’re treating me right. I know there’s room to grow.

I like my co-workers. One guy asked me how old I was, and when I told him I turn 58 next month, he told me I look closer to 28. Great work banter!

I’m a good kind of tired tonight.

Nice start.

Have you ever taken a job in a different line of work and if so, what was the change? If you worked a job with no set work schedule, did you like it? When was the last time you interviewed for a job, and did you get it or not?

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102 thoughts on “Working in America at almost 58

  1. Congratulations on your job–and feeling good about it! And also for your freelance work.
    My husband retired from teaching this past June. He now works part time for a local golf course, and he loves it, even though he has to be up even earlier than he had to be for teaching. Some days he comes home very tired from the physical work. Of course he gets a big benefit–playing golf for free. He’s also been giving some in-service workshops for math teachers.

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  2. Great post Mark, I was a window dresser by trade bit after I started having the children I had to take part time work. I cleaned, I worked in a cafΓ© eventually when the youngest boy started senior school I took a job in a supermarket working with the public first as a Checkout cashier working up to working on the customer service desk. I loved working with public, thinking on my feet ,solving problems and fefusinh tempers… Sounds like your job I almost envy you.. Shakes head!! Thankfully the moment has past, I wish you well Mark I am retired now. I am sure you will be great at the job, enjoy! ❀

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  3. That predicted text has got me again, bit reads but and fefusinh should read defusing tempers.
    I am pleased for you Mark part time work helps you focus on your freelance work and free time. <3. xxx

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  4. Mark, I really appreciate what you wrote. A person doesn’t really know the feeling of being unemployed (and middle aged) until it happens. Scary times. Uncertain future. Great to see you didn’t give up. Just remember you’re a great guy (and a very talented writer) and there are tons of people who think you’re terrific! Let’s have lunch soon (we can talk Mets) …

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  5. Congrats on the new job, my friend! You give me hope. I’ve been a stay-at-home for almost 10 years. Next year the youngest will be heading to preschool so it’s the perfect time for me to ‘do something’. I don’t know what that something is…and I worry no one will want me since my resume will be lacking a bit…but perhaps I’ll be like you and put a good attitude towards whatever it is and wherever I land. Just don’t you stop blogging, Mr. Workin’ Man!

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    • Anybody would be fortunate to sign you up, Rachel. You have the right attitude about life. Thank you for your kind words. And I’m finding a minute or two — and the energy — to blog away, my friend.

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  6. Oh gosh Mark. For a while there I just went from job to job. I don’t know what happened but it seemed that after 6 weeks they would decide they no longer needed me. I decided to get a bookkeeping certification and then found the job I’m at which I’ve been at almost 3 years. Anyway, I guess just saying I know how it feels and I’m glad you seem to have found a home.

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  7. I think a generation ago it was the norm to work at the same job for thirty years and retire. Now if you manage to make that happen you are one of the lucky ones. I just turned 40 and I have had to reinvent myself and adapt to an ever changing job market a few times. Layoffs, Injuries, awful workplaces, life’s ups and downs all sent me packing up my desk in 7 year (and sometimes less) intervals. It can get a bit depressing, but these days so many I know have gone through it in one form or another through the years. I have worn so many work hats just to name a few: Retail, Maid, Mortgages, Veterinary Medicine and Administrative Healthcare. I held a Part Time Job at a liquor store and my first job I worked at a Kmart.(Yes, I did a few blue light specials in my day) I can say I took something with me from everyplace I have ever been. Honest work and putting a bit of your personality in it is what matters (and the paycheck isn’t bad either) : ) So congratulations on your new work adventure! I am sure you will make friends and aquire more great stories and experiences to write about.

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  8. “You look closer to 28.” Wow! I wish someone would say that to me! Congratulations on your new job! Glad it is with a company that all the employees like — that says a lot! That’s great there is room to grow because that’s important!

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  9. Congratulations on getting the job. I am semi-retired and find my work right now is probably enough if I am honest. I am tutoring kids with learning disabilities and special needs. It has been a hard transition from working full-time in Health Care and my attempt to transition into teaching full-time did not pan out. I like your attitude about work. That work is good no matter what kind of work.

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  10. This is very exciting about your new job and a paycheck. That is wonderful!!! The last time I interviewed for a job was about 10 years ago – still with the same hospital today. After I left the military (18 years of service) I tried other things, but I am really happiest when I am working with kids (I understand children, much better than I do adults). Nice that someone said you looked closer to 28. That’s cool. I had a little girl tell me I looked just like Elsa (form Frozen) but then she said “But Elsa is not fat”, and then I said “Elsa is not real”. Gotta love working with kids, they are honest to a fault at times.
    Congratulations Mark!!!!

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  11. It seems to be the trend to fire people in their 50s. That happened to two of my brothers. One had enough assets that he just retired; the other is still looking for work. Kudos to you for taking whatever position you could get, and for doing it to the best of your abilities. You might find that you actually enjoy the new work more. My husband found when he gave up jobs that required his advanced degree and became a general employee, he was much, much happier, despite the cut in pay. He just goes in, does his job, and comes home.

    It’s good that you had freelance clients, too, to help pick up some of the loss in income. I think I would have already retired if I had some kind of work like that, but at least I was able to drop my work hours, thanks to an accommodating boss (whom I can no longer bitch about, dammit, ’cause bitching was the highlight of my work day).

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    • Our whole economic climate is so different than when I got out of college, CM. Kids these days will have to piece together a career in a far different manner, I guess. Interesting it will be. I find this new job interesting and challenging in different ways than the old job. So far, so good. Knock on wood. :- )

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  12. As usual, I hesitate to add yet another comment,but I feel I must say BRAVO!!! Many would not take or even apply for a retail position with your background, but I say it is always respectable to work and I respect the hell out of you for doing it with such a good attitude (haven’t read the other comments, but suspect many are saying the same thing; sorry to repeat). My husband Steve took a job as a cashier in a big box after over two years unemployed (long story, kind of depressing). I hope your employer treats you better (than Steven’s treat him), and what a great co-worker! Rock on!

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  13. Congrats mark – and you have such a good outlook – there is much inspiration I embedded in this post πŸ’œπŸ’š- and I like how you said it is you and the people – also I predict this will also strengthen u as a writer and give you even more ideas and content (not that u ever needed more- but these experiences – as u know – often do this for us) – have a nice weekend amigo 😎

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  14. I loved the odd hours in that I could schedule doc appointments without taking time off, and run errands while everyone else was doing the 8-5 thing. I think there’s a lot to be said for working part time, especially retirees and disabled people, or people that just want to support another job. Good luck with your new adventure!

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    • Thanks, Lisa. There is something to be said about having an hour here or there to do that need-to-be-accomplished-in-the-main-timeframe task by working an hour here or there early or late, I agree.

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  15. The photos are smart but I like the writing much better. What a compelling post. As you know, I’ve had my share of down-time from being laid off. There’s no guarantee it won’t happen again. I know how it feels and it’s tough to keep a positive attitude but it seems you’ve somehow managed to hold it together when others would have folded. Well played, sir. Continued success to you. I wish I had a company. I’d hire your ass.

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  16. It does make one wonder. My husband is only 43 and has been job-hunting for several years. He has a degree, a nice suit, and always says interviews go well. Then they never call. We wonder if it’s his age. He even bought some Just For Men today–although you can’t really do that for your head. But, hey, a part-time is something. I wouldn’t want full-time anyway. You have a busy schedule; how could you work full time with all the fun you’re having?

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  17. Well done, Mark! You have a great attitude and spirit! I’m so happy for you. My last job interview was last year, these days in IT it seems one doesn’t just get interview, one has to do assessments beforehand to even be granted an interview, and then endure pair programming to see how one copes under pressure. Needless to say, the whole process made me very thankful I already have work, and I don’t think I will be letting go of it too soon. I wish you all the best in this new undertaking! Xx

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  18. I’ve worked in nonprofits mostly, so have toiled for my humble wages. BUT, the work has always been worth it. I’m a firm believer that the worth you put into your work outweighs the perceived status of any position. Best wishes for this chapter in your life to continue feeling as good as it does!

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  19. Mark, I know exactly how you feel! In 2012 ten middle management employees were told we were downsized at the area hospital I worked at. Since then, I’ve had a few jobs that have been interesting, but certainly less than I was used to making and no benefits. I was lucky enough to have kept up my CDL Class B, so that garnered me work, but in the three years of working, I’ve been: A charter bus driver, a warehouse worker, a medical transport driver, a HEAP Intake coordinator and a dayhab worker. Anything to pay the bills. There are no places to write anymore, sadly. But….I still work….I have yet another interview Monday for a job 22 miles away from home, but it has benefits. Welcome to 58 my friend. Your writing is still awesome!

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  20. I will turn 60 on Christmas day. It looks like I will be having to look for a job in the summer as my only income is ending (spousal support and he’s retiring so nada for me). On top of that, I may be moving cross country. That’s why I don’t really start looking now. Instead I’m trying to prepare to do something I can do online. Hopefully that will work out. I haven’t been on a job interview since 2001. I won’t be going back to that field so I have no idea what I will do or what I can claim as skills with no record of having performed those skills. So I know I’m going to have a tough time. Hopefully I can keep positive about it.

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  21. i am so happy for you, mark. all of the important things are in place: a fair wage, (though different from what you are used to), kind co-workers of all ages, a nice company, working with people, pride in your work, the freedom to free-lance in a field you love. everything else is a title and gravy. i’ve had many jobs and interviews over the years, and many times was older than the others i worked with. it was good for all of us. bravo!

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  22. Congratulations MBM. I’m sure by now they realize how lucky they are to have you. I have been in the same type of work for 20 years. But on different ends of the spectrum. The first 7 years in the juvenile age group of human service/corrections. The last almost 14 years working to protect seniors.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it. πŸ™‚ And still doing the other things you love.

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  23. Oh Mark!
    Your words make me so happy and proud to call you a friend. My hubby was “displaced” “right-sized” “laid off” two years ago. He tried a brief stint in the same industry for another 6 months, and the stress was just too much. Note: these were both 6 figure jobs.
    He now works as a realtor, hasn’t brought a single paycheck home (yet) and is happier than I’ve ever seen him. Happy husband = happy home and I wouldn’t trade that for all of the money in the world.

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  24. Still p!@#ed off that the Company-That-Shall-Remain-Nameless didn’t take you on, but maybe that is a blessing in disguise as things at said company aren’t too great these days. Keep on keeping on, my friend. And if there’s anything I can do, just let me know.

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    • Thanks, my friend. You keep working your ways there and enjoying the fruits of your real love, music communications and all that entails, good sir. Thanks for your total support, and you always have mine as well, Bruce.

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  25. Great news bro Mark. And yes, I changed fields at the ripe old age of 55, going from office type work to health care. Kept my home business going on the side, and loved working with people. Started as a nurse assistant in the worst nursing home in town, and just kept on because no one else cared about them. Went from there to Hospice, and kept on until one too many people died during the same weekend, and a nurse was trying to get me to do something illegal for her. From there moved to AmeriCorps Homeland Security and assistant to Epidemiologist at District Health Department. That was the time when Bush was trying to give everyone smallpox, I mean, get first responders, me among them, to take the vaccine for smallpox, even after several people who got it died from it. I think that was my favorite job ever, barring the music stuff, and had to retire soon after that. MS really kicked in for sure and the falling and hitting my head got worse. Of course, as my son tells me, as long as I just hit my head I’ll be okay, because that’s the hardest part of my body.

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  26. Congrats, Mark. All work is honorable; you will make it your own and may be surprised at how fulfilling it can be. I went a new direction on a whim…at age 49, and it turned out to be one of my best work experiences ever ! Folks will recognize your talent, no matter where, no matter what you do. Happy for you. Carry on…..

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    • Thanks, Van. I got home last night around 10 p.m. after leaving the house a little before noon. I eased myself into my recliner, and my dear wife Karen said, “That was a long day.” Yes, driving a half-hour each way, hour lunch break, eight hours on my feet, it sure was. But I had dozens of pleasant exchanges with smiling people, short connections in which I believe I made their moment OK, maybe even better than that. So it was a good day.

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  27. Mark, I love your attitude. It is commendable. Other than one 3 month stint, I have never been without work for more than a few days. My jack-of-all-trades, expert at none background has kept me flexible in times of employment crisis. But I am keenly aware of ageism in the workplace as I am entering my mid-fifties and it is frightening. A portion of my identity revolves around work or at least being productive so it is imperative for my mental health to stay busy and plan to do so until my lights go out.

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  28. As usual, catching up – so happy to hear that you found a job doing something different that you enjoy, Mark! My husband’s been working with a buddy framing houses & remodels. We are still having to draw from our 401K, but praying that will end soon. I’ve been selling the jam & apple butter here & there. I was cleaning the office the other day, & gathered up all the job postings I have applied for since my 2013 layoff – over 300.I am beginning to realize the possibility that I may never be a paid writer again or make the kind of money I used to make again. Going to try & do some substitute teaching . . .
    Anyway – very thrilled for you, my friend!! πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you for your congratulations, Sadie. Coming from somebody rowing the same dinghy of dashed dreams, it means so much.

      Taking this new job has been like reopening the drapes on my work life. ‘OK, let’s take this new direction for a great ride and show your best stuff.’ It had to come from within because, as you said, the full-time work in our old field just wasn’t happening since that 2013 layoff. I know you’ve had your try with that insurance guy and test you passed, and that turned out to be a lemon. I had the temp job that didn’t work out for me. Trial-and-error. Maybe the substitute teaching will turn out to be your spirit-lifter. I’m hoping for you, my friend.

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  29. Thanks for sharing this one, Mark. Look how far you’ve come in just a year! New, full-time job; new, bigger house. And all because you refused to simply lie down and die when laid off from your prior job. We can all learn from you.

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