“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

It's often said that at a certain age—49, if you believe this article—women become invisible. Having hit that number in April, I'm realizing there's definitely some truth to it. 

But invisibility is not always a bad thing. For example, when I trip over a sidewalk and no one points and laughs, I call it a win. I can devour the chips and guacamole my son thinks he's effectively hidden in the back of the fridge, and I'm so unnoticeable, I won't even make the shortlist of suspects. So, there are definitely positives to going through life unseen.

Recently, however, I discovered that, in addition to becoming invisible, I'm also completely forgettable. Here's how I found out...

As I mentioned in my last post, I took myself out of the running for a full-time position. Here's a quick recap: After submitting to a lengthy interview with four people and a trial assignment that felt about as draining as explaining how to use Zoom to an elderly couple, the position I'd applied for was offered to another candidate. 

At that point, you'd think it's over, right? Not so fast. I was told I could still be considered for another role if I was willing to tackle a more laborious test assignment, which prompted me to say, "Thanks, but no thanks." 

Normally, I'm not this bold or decisive. But, again, I'm 49, and we're in a pandemic. If my days are numbered, I don't want to spend my final hours writing a tome on the suggested test topic: Real Estate Agents vs. Real Estate Attorneys: Similarities and Differences. (Not that this kind of knowledge wouldn't make me a huge hit at cocktail parties—if cocktail parties are ever held again.) 

And did I mention a chart of the U.S. (and its territories) illustrating those similarities and differences was also required? (I hope you're laughing because that was my reaction—along with a gentle, "Get the f*ck out of here!" when I saw that part of the assignment!)

Years ago, passing up the opportunity to try to get this position would plague me with self-doubt. Did I do the right thing? Shouldn't I have played along? What if there's nothing else out there??

But this time, I had no qualms about saying, "I'm pursuing other opportunities," even as all my other job applications have gone largely ignored. It's crickets out there and competition is fierce. Fortunately, my husband was supportive, noting that if the test assignments included statements like, "Shoot for 1,000 to 4,000 words. Use your best judgement!" what would each day entail working at this company?

I agreed and continued looking around, remaining oddly confident that I'd done the right thing. Here's how the universe confirmed my gut feeling...

Fast forward a few weeks, and a new message heralding yet another great opportunity popped up in my LinkedIn inbox. Because I seem to be a magnet for those sponsored messages that assure me I'm the perfect candidate to enroll in a computer science program or pursue my MBA in global supply chain, I didn't hold out much hope.

Still, I skimmed the message, which stated,"I think you'd be a great fit for our content strategist role." 

I was intrigued, but then I took a closer look at the headshot to the left of the message and thought, "Wait a second! This guy looks familiar!"

Michelle Tresemer on Unsplash
Then I saw his name. It was the co-founder of the company that had passed me over. This guy had not only grilled me during a 90-minute video call, but also we'd exchanged emails afterward. 

I recognized him immediately, which wasn't difficult because he bears a striking resemblance to the least attractive Jonas brother. (Fact: Underemployment can make even an invisible woman mean.) 

Neither my name nor my face rang any bells for him. This made me wonder two things: 

1. Is it time for me to get a new LinkedIn photo?  

2. Should I quit job-searching altogether and turn to a life of crime as, apparently, I leave no impression whatsoever?

My first instinct was to write back, "Let me guess, you've got a trial assignment for me? What will it be this time? Re-shingling your roof? Assisting with a cross-country move? Installing a French drain system and then writing an SEO-rich haiku that also serves as a call to action?"

His message briefly described the role, which sounded exactly like the one that I'd decided not to pursue. Obviously, he was struggling to find someone willing to craft 4,000 words (that's an ebook, son!) on a dry topic for a shot at a spot at this start-up that's based on a concept that's not all that innovative. (In fact, it was attempted but failed a decade ago—something else this guy probably doesn't remember.) 

I wrote back and reminded him that we'd been in touch. I thanked him for reaching out, but let him know I was moving in another direction. (Hopefully, that move won't turn out to involve me living under a bridge with nothing but my pride and some tube socks). He didn't respond.

It's rare that you get the kind of closure I did that day. That "Girl, you dodged a bullet!" proof you did the right thing not putting your career in the hands of a man who can't recall meeting you just two weeks earlier.

I'm no stranger to being forgotten during the job-hunt process. In 2014, I trekked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to discuss an opening for a digital editor position. After stuffing myself into Spanx on a 100-degree day and battling endless snarls of traffic, I arrived much to the surprise of my interviewer, who'd blanked on our meeting. 

To her credit, she interviewed me anyway, her eyes glazing over the way mine do when my kids try to explain their video games. 

Looking back, I believe she only agreed to meet with me as a favor to my neighbor, who worked there at the time and was later let go in one of the landmark's mass layoffs. 

Sometimes when things don't work out, it's for the best. Not having to wait years to discover that is even better. 

Thanks for reading and hope you are well.

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Unknown said…
This job market is pure torture for so many. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Mine have been similar. I keep going back into the fray, and I know both of us will find something. And to those who didn't have the vision to hire an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat instead of a burlap sack, kudos!
Liz Alterman said…
Best of luck to you and thanks for reading!

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