Gene Amole was a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, the 20th largest newspaper in the US. I was a big fan of Gene's—and I've told him so. However, I took issue with the direction of one of his recent columns. He wrote the following piece emphasizing the plight of the highly-experienced, usually over-40 job hunter. I've always been a strong believer that everyone is employable—okay, there are theoretically some impossible cases, but very few—and I take issue with any suggestion that over-40's must passively endure unfair unemployment. Here is Mr. Amole's original column and my response to it, which I sent to him by e-mail.  —Bill Frank  

Experience A Curse for Some Job Seekers


Every morning, I thank my lucky starts I am still able to work. Without my work, I don't know what I would do. Retirement has never been an option for me. I know, some old guys can't wait to retire. I'm not one of them. When I see someone in his mid-70s still working, it is usually behind the counter in a liquor store on weekends, and I wonder if he is capable of doing much more.

But shave 20 years from my life, and there are a lot of "invisible" men in their 50s looking for a job, any kind of job. The only ones usually available pay $7 or $8 an hour, which won't come close to paying basic survival bills.

I received a letter yesterday from a guy who seems to be coming to the end of his rope. He is frustrated, angry, hurt and he doesn't know what he is going to do. He has lived here all his life, attended West High School and the University of Denver.

Then he got a job at The Denver Post, where he worked until he was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1963. He remained on active duty until 1965, when he returned to the newspaper. He raised two kids and then the roof fell in. He was fired when the Post changed ownership in the '80s.

"The invisible minority is the middle-age white man," he writes, "who is caught up in the corporate change from one owner to another and falls through the cracks after 20 or 25 years service.

"If you are a white male between 50 and 65, you have a problem of getting a job of any kind. If you try to get back in the field you have just left, there are a hundred young applicants competing with you. The prospective employer can hire two young applicants for the wage you were making."

And what about the future? "We, in the invisible minority," he writes, "have 10 to 15 years ahead of us before we can even think of retirement and Social Security, which may not even exist then.

"So I ask you, what do we do? We have years of experience and know-how, but no one wants to hire us or pay us what we are worth. At least a living wage would be nice.

"And when you are lucky enough to get an interview, you can almost see it in their face: 'You're too old and you want too much money.' Of course they are very nice. That's their job...The kicker after the interview is over, in approximately 10 to 15 minutes, they will say, 'We'll be in touch, Good luck' and that means, no chance, old-timer.

"This is the kind of discrimination you can't do anything about, but it's there. When they ask you, 'How much do you need?' How much do I need? How much do I need for what — to keep from starving or losing my home?"

The writer thinks the all-American dream "has given us the shaft."

And he concludes, "These days we have instant food, instant photographs, disposable cameras, contact lenses, razors and diapers. Employers have the same attitude about people. Well we're not Dixie cups."

I have the name of the letter writer, but I'm not using it. I certainly don't want to embarrass a man down on his luck, but there is a lot of truth in what he has written.

:: Here is my reply to Gene's column. :: Return to index of articles.


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