I landed my first “real” job as receptionist at a publishing company when I was 20 years old. That job got my foot in the door and led me to where I am today. I learned everything I knew about writing, creativity, and professionalism from the people I worked with for the 15 years that I remained in publishing.
I didn’t like working in publishing very much, but I did enjoy the opportunities to learn, work with a team, and be creative. The thing is, I feel creatively as young now as I did back then.
If that’s even a thing.
I know I’m not in my 20′s but my brain is sharp and I have good ideas. Still, this has been a hard year for me. I didn’t think I’d mind turning 50, but I do. I mind turning 50 because people who hire creative types don’t want me. They remind me that I am “old.”
50 is crossing that line into “older” and I’m just not ready for it. Neither are the people who hire people who do what I do.
I’m no Spring chicken, that’s for sure. I have gray hair (though hopefully you can’t tell), I’m working harder to lose weight, and I remember when The Brady Bunch aired during Prime Time. I grew up during a time when kids sat in their parents laps in the front seat of the car without seat belts, and walked to school alone when they were in first grade. It was a time of rotary phones, black and white television, and going outside to cool off because there was no air conditioning. So yeah, I may have gotten on in years.
When I look for work – either as a freelancer/contractor, or something more permanent – I enter into the process hoping my years will tell my potential client I have the wisdom, drive, and creativity to see a project through to completion. Lately, though, my potential client (who is usually younger than me) only sees old.
I am not out of touch. I am not set in the dark ages. I am an experienced professional. I have something to offer thatmany 20 years olds can’t. That is, the wisdom, and professionalism that can only come with being part of the workforce for 30 years.
I find I do much better on phone interviews than face to face where I’ve been informed I “wasn’t what we expected.” I have been told “no thank you” because a client was looking for someone who is “aware of current trends,” or “hip to what’s going on now.” I have been told, “we are a young team, and we’re not sure you’d fit in.”
I am creative.
I am a team player.
I do keep a top of current trends.
I’m not asking for much. I don’t hop from job to job, I stay with most clients long term. I also understand that many creative jobs need people with a young voice, and I’m not trying to be that person. I don’t need to work in a job that is geared towards a younger person, I just don’t want to be passed over for a job I’m absolutely qualified for because I’m a woman of a certain age. I’m not someone who will try to act much younger than I am, or pretend I’m hip to things I’m not. However, “creative” shouldn’t be synonomous with “young.”
Now, I’m not in a bad place. I have a few clients and many one off projects, but in the feast or famine freelancing world, steady is nice.As a freelancer, I’m always hustling for work and it’s definitely harder now than it was ten years ago. If I’m not the right person for the job, I can take the constructive criticism and move on. However, if the only reason I’m not the right person for the job is my age, and the perception is that people my age can’t be creative or aware of current trends, that’s where I get a little pissy. I’m not ready to be put out to pasture yet.
Didn’t you know? 50 is the new 40.