I popped around to a friend’s house to have a cuppa and a catch-up the other day. We’ve known each other almost two decades having first met whilst doing a secretarial course. I had been frog-marched down to the local post leaving cert college by my mother to “learn to type” having made a right dog’s dinner of my Leaving Cert. My friend, on the other hand, genuinely wanted to work in an office environment and has a natural flair for all things administrative related. In that regard we were like chalk and cheese – if my friend was Miss Money Penny then I was Penny Lane - the blonde, rock groupie played by Kate Hudson in the film Almost Famous. Whilst my friend went on to notch up years of experience in various office settings, I eventually went on to pursue a totally different career.
Approximately three years ago, like many people, she was made redundant from her job. As we chatted over tea and biscuits, she told me about her latest job seeking travails. It got me thinking – job hunting in your late 30s/early 40s is perhaps not a dissimilar experience to dating in your 30s/40s!
Since finding herself back on the jobs market, my friend has applied for numerous positions. These are often jobs for which she is wildly overqualified. Any feedback she has got after an interview has always been overwhelmingly positive. More than once she has been informed that she has been shortlisted from scores of applicants. On several occasions, it seems as if the job is in the bag. And yet, somehow, and despite holding down several medium-term contracts in the interim, she has not been able to secure permanent work since her previous employers shut up shop lock, stock and barrel almost three years ago.
If you’re a single lady of a certain age you more than likely have the bones of two decades worth of dating/relationship experience under your belt.
You will be capable and confident. You know your worth and you’re not going to put up with any nonsense. No boyfriend equivalent of a Job-Bridge scheme for you, no siree. That might be fine for a recent college graduate, but after too many years of deadend boyfriends, you get to a stage where you feel you deserve a man with, ahem, a decent package - a relationship with prospects.
In fact many twentysomething ladies on today’s dating scene can be likened to a college intern on a JobBridge scheme: overly keen, inexperienced and oftentimes too eager to please, the romantic equivalent of the office dogsbody. A job hunting 40- something career woman is a different kettle of fish however: self assured, adaptable yet not afraid to set down clear, firm boundaries.
The manner in which one looks for both jobs and men has also changed significantly in the past few years and can prove quite the minefield for a lady used to more traditional method of procuring either! Whereas once upon a time word of mouth or a good reference was sufficient, nowadays it’s all gone online – be it Plenty Of Fish or LinkedIn (although hopefully the latter will not result in some oddball sending you photos of his ‘bits’....) In both instances it can be highly competitive with people either knocking a couple of years off their age or adding a couple of words per minute to their typing speed.
When it comes to relationships, what we may lack in youth, us older ladies make up for in experience. We’ve done our homework – especially Anatomy and Physiology and we know that, actually, the way to a man’s heart is often his stomach. Although I am yet to meet a man who has objected to a little detour along the way, but I digress....
Despite this however, you can often find yourself competing with a veritable army of shiny, hungry, twentysomething whippersnappers, willing to do virtually anything to get the job or the man (Fifty Shades, anyone?).
Gradually it dawns on you: you’re not simply applying for work or looking for a partner. Instead you’re unwittingly taking part in the life equivalent of Britain’s Got Talent and you’re Susan Boyle – instantly judged on your looks and age rather than ability. Meanwhile, as you’re made jump through more hoops than Pudsey just to secure a second interview or second date, the blonde ‘pole fitness’ champion is being waved through to the next round by a smug fiftysomething man who has his pick of applicants.
Yes, indeed, for the slightly older woman the cutthroat world of dating and job hunting can sometimes feel like you’re taking part in your very own reality TV show – “I’m a Forty Year Old Get Me Out of Here”.
But don’t despair ladies - if the likes of X Factor and its ilk has taught us anything it’s this – it’s easy to have your 15 minutes of fame.
It takes blood, sweat and tears along with a good dose of genuine talent to achieve longevity and that is where age really does work to our advantage!