‘I have filled out resumes for about 380 to 390 positions’

By DW Gibson
June 14, 2012

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Dominick Brocato is 58 and has lived in Kansas City his entire life. He was laid off in 2010. This is his story.

For the last 20 years, I’ve worked for D. Systems. In 2009, our existing chief operating officer had made the decision he was going to retire at the end of the year, so a new chief operating officer was brought in. He had different views towards how things should be run. We knew that in the operation that he came from, which was in Boston, he had had 12 layoffs in the last six years. So every six months, he had layoffs. But we felt confident, because our president had said we were never going to have a layoff. And we very much believed in what he had told us.

It was kept quiet somewhat, but I could tell that something was changing. I knew something was going on.

The company sent a letter out, probably about three weeks prior to the layoffs, saying that the company was going through a reorganizing and so forth, so, you know, at that point quite a few of us felt that we were part of that list again. You can tell, the way you’re communicated with and the lack of the communication.

My actual date was February 4th of 2010. It was a Thursday. They had started on that Monday, and they had said that if you survived until Friday, that you were safe with this first round of layoffs. And so I got my call at 9:30 a.m.

I was ready to get started and begin my new career, and so I started outplacement on Monday. They gave you a choice. They said you could wait 30 to 45 days to get your head straight and to do whatever you needed to be done, and at that point, I was very anxious to get the ball rolling. And I felt that I had enough skills that it was going to be fairly quick for me to find another position. I knew that now was time to start a new beginning, and I still try to have that feeling. But it’s hard after 17 months to keep realizing that maybe something will never happen.

In the outplacement meetings that I went to, you have classes on how to present yourself, your appearance, how not to look old and keeping up with the times, and I felt like I’ve always done that. I’m thinking I’m doing everything that I’m told to do, that I’m trained to do, but yet, for whatever reason, it’s not happening. And you still keep looking back at yourself, thinking, “Am I saying something wrong? Am I saying too much?” You keep trying to psychoanalyze everything to the point where you can drive yourself nuts.

I would say between April and August I probably had 45 to 50 different meetings that I would just initiate on my own, asking someone, “Can we just go have coffee, or just go to lunch?” So they’d get to know me and hopefully, if they remembered, they’d say, “Hey, Dominick, I met with him. He may be someone you want to talk to…”

I spent a lot of money doing that. The majority of people where I would say, “Can we just go to coffee?” I didn’t get a lot of response. If I’d say, “Hey, let’s go to lunch; I’ll buy lunch,” I got more takers. And that was O.K., if I thought it was going to work to my benefit. Sometimes I would say, “You pick the place.” I did that a few times, and after a $40 lunch I realized this isn’t going to happen anymore.

I would say, from an Internet standpoint, I have filled out and put in resumes for about 380 to 390 positions. Of that, I would say I have heard back from maybe 20 people, which again, that’s why they tell you in outplacement, “Don’t waste your time on the boards.” But after a while, you feel like that’s the only thing you have left to do. You kind of run out of people that you could keep asking to go to lunch or go to coffee.

Interview-wise, I would say I’ve gone on maybe 40 interviews over the last 17 months. A lot of the times that I’m aware of I’ve gotten close and gotten in the top three candidates, but for whatever reason, have lost out.

I learned, obviously, now, after 17 months, that it has not necessarily [been] easy to secure another position, and I think a lot of it had to do with my tenure with the company. In my mind, I thought that was a positive thing. I’ve learned that now, with the way the market is, that that’s not a positive thing. I’ve learned in some meetings I’ve been in that companies are asking that recruiters and headhunters not even present them people that are 50 or older. They are not interested in people that have been unemployed for six months or longer, because they feel something must be wrong with them, that they have not been able to secure a job in that time period, which again is so disappointing to me to even hear those words, and then they also have made requirements that if someone has been in their job for 15 or more years, they’re not interested in seeing them either, because they feel that they’re set in their ways, and they haven’t updated or learned new skills, so they would rather now have the individual that moves every two to three to five years. They feel that they are more valuable to them. So again, a lot of the things that we were brought up with – a lot of the ethical things that we thought were going to make us successful and that we did to show our dedication to a company – now is used against us. And obviously all those three things – being with the company for more than five years, being over 50, and being unemployed for more than six months – I have all three things against me, and as time goes on, I’m getting more concerned as to what’s going to happen, and am I ever going to be able to secure another position.

We’re having a new Trader Joe’s coming in, and when I found out that you have benefits even if you’re a part-time employee, I thought, “Okay. Let me try this.” Of course, I did. I called, and they said, “Well, you’re at the bottom of 800, so we’ll call you as soon as we go through the other 799 above you.” I thought, “Wow.” I don’t know what those next steps are going to be, and like I say, for someone who has always been in control and educated and so forth, you never imagine that these times are happening. But they are.

For the last two months, I’ve… I don’t want to say I’ve given up, but I’ve just kind of taken a break from all the stuff that I’ve done before, thinking I need to regroup. I need to get my head straight. I need to clear everything out. And so that’s what I’ve done for the last two months, but yet everyday you feel guilty: I should be doing this. I should be calling. But then you get to the point where you run out of people to call. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.

I have friends that keep telling me that I should try to apply for food stamps and so forth. I may get to that point, but right now…I can’t force myself to do that yet and I don’t know why. There’s just something about it. Even going to unemployment. It was very difficult for me. I remember the first time I went. I had come from a networking meeting, and I was dressed business casual, and this one woman saw me, and she immediately came up to me, and she goes, “What are you doing here?”

And I said, “Well, it’s my first day of… I have to fill out my continuation of benefits,” or whatever.

And she goes, “Let me help you do that.” She goes, “Because I see you don’t fit in here.”

I had a gold pen, and it was just gold – it wasn’t real gold – and she goes, “Put that away.” She goes, “You just use pencils here.”


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A company that lays off that doesn’t know how to run its business or has a alergy to paying out retirements.

Posted by Kylepaul1016 | Report as abusive

[...] the story of a 58-year-old man who has been out of work since 2010 and applied for more than 380 jobs. And for those who can get jobs, employment doesn’t always provide that much value. Mark [...]

I had the same problem at age 55, I think that many employer discriminate against age, salary, and work experience. I heard many times that I was over qualified, last salary was too high. I believe that they found it more economical to fill the position with a younger candidate and train him/her rather than dealing with someone that was 10 years from retirement. Sad but true.

Posted by earlma | Report as abusive

The unemployment of so many is a statistic but the unemployment of one is a tragedy. This is must reading if anything to get ordinary middle class Americans more active in our political system that rewards the rich and big companies. The key to this story is that a new CEO, who laid off a lot of people at his last company, came in and again saw layoffs as a way to improve the bottom line. I bet he had no problem with the money he was taking home every week.

The economy will not pick up again until consumers feel confident spending money and right now they feel the best way to maintain control of their lives is through not spending money on wants but rather necessities. This in turn has led to companies not hiring while forcing employees to work harder and longer. It has nothing to do with our nations “debt” and everything to do with a polorizing Congress that has sold out to the right wing of the Republican party.

Posted by richmeyer | Report as abusive

This was an eye-opener. I am two out of the three–14 years at the same firm, and 57 years old. Got laid off in 2009 but was called back the next day as a fill-in for the four people who were left, for when they go on vacation, with a cutback 3-day schedule. Have two children in college, one in Catholic high school in Chicago (more expensive than college). Depression, sleeplessness, despair are constant companions. This makes me nauseous–if I were to lose my tenuous hold on this lifeline to benefits and a minimal salary, don’t know how I would cope. Best wishes to you.

Posted by SuZy0925 | Report as abusive

It is so important that these stories get out in a reputable publication like Reuters. We have so many people that still believe folks like these are “Too lazy” and “Need to work harder” and whose advice is “Get a job.” We need a few major companies to take a leadership role and tell their HR people to start hiring ONLY those who have been out of work for 12 months or longer. So much talent being wasted.
None of this happened at the end of WWII and our debt then was proportionally and in today’s dollars far greater, yet we bailed out Europe, built US infrastructure and put the much greater number of returning GI s to work. Debt is not the problem, but we have allowed the Tea’s to carry the ball. I am afraid that if the GOP wins in November we will be on to Great Depression 2. They are pushing the wrong answers to this situation.

Posted by George2030 | Report as abusive

[...] ‘I have filled out resumes for about 380 to 390 positions’ [...]

I am 55 years old have been laid off since February 2009 and I can relate to this gentleman’s story I have done well over 2500 applications and resumes without any success I live in Northern California where the State unemployment rate is over 12% and the county rate is over 15% I have been without a stable income since September 2011 and am at my wits end. I am very healthy and capable of doing any job in manual labor or retail but as of this posting I have received very few calls for interviews.

Posted by roys5775 | Report as abusive

Being a hiring manager I can’t disagree with some of the discrimination that happens. I will say that when a candidate is over qualified or previous pay is a concern it is because I know that the company won’t be able to retain that candidate for those very reasons.
That being said 6 years ago I lost my job and was unemployed with no degree and higher than average earnings.
I try to reenforce with my team that people can be happy in a new job and make less money. Its about personality and desire/ willingness to change because a lot of times the skill set is already there.
I do appreciate the perspective of the article and will be sharing it in my next team meeting.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

It is bad out there. I myself am unemployed. I worked for a company in Dallas, TX called Pinnacle Technical Resources which staffed for AT&T providing Uverse Technical Support. We came in at $17.00 per hour. Well, soon after I was hired AT&T agreed to contract with Pinnacle and have them take over all of the Uverse Tech Support even bringing in their own managers, HR, etc. AT&T paid its own people $26.00 per hour for the position, but that was too much. So they outsourced it to Pinnacle who paid $17.00 and then decided they could fill the positions paying $13.00.

Pinnacle forced all of us making $17.00 to take a $4.00 paycut. Not because they were struggling but because they could. Then they started to hire folks right out of highschool mostly who had no experience. The company then advised management (who were also temps) to routinely write up everyone for anything. Managers weren’t trained and would tell employees incorrect information only to turn around and fire them for it.

As soon as work became slow, the company fired half its staff. Overnight. ALL for misconduct. Longterm associates and all. Then maligned these associates to the Texas Workforce Commission in an attempt to fight everyone’s unemployment.

That is the way the job market is now. Cutthroat and ruthless. People need to wake up and see that these major U.S. companies care nothing for their employees. That is one reason they outsource so much to other countries. They sell their services to Americans, yet Americans aren’t good enough anymore to work in these companies.

Posted by L.N. | Report as abusive

Interesting, I was laid off in June 2008. So far no job, I just passed 3000 applications and resumes sent. Worked my whole life, college grad. Now I have lost everything, house, retirement. I am 59 years old. Wonder what the problem is ? Oh, yes, my age

Posted by eamonnc | Report as abusive

I fell greatly for this gentleman. i am 58 and 20 years ago i foresaw that i could be someone in that position – years with the same company, highly educated ( graduate degree) , and over 50 years old and then get laid off and told ” you are over qualified, too regimented, etc. etc. shoot, i can screw up just as well as most of these CEO’s who get absurd pay. If i had stayed in corporate america, and then suffered how the unemployed suffer ( get a job, when there are few jobs, and then discriminate against you cause you dont have a job ( can you say catch 22??)), i would have committed a felony. its all a bunch of BS!!!

Posted by snowgear4u | Report as abusive

I’m 68 years old and never been laid off. And, I’ve had many jobs. The reason is….. I work for myself and not at the whims of a corporation.

My advise to the older unemployed is to take whatever skills you have garnered over the years and find jobs, yes multiple jobs, as a part time independent contractor.

Start out offering your services at low wages that you would not ordinarily accept and then figure out ways to increase those wages as you learn the ins-and-outs of your self employment.

In today’s world you don’t need to travel any further away than your computer to find “telecommuting” work. You can work anywhere in the world. And when you offer your services, you don’t have to state your age nor waste time buying lunch/coffee for anyone.

Most companies who are looking to hire independent contractors are only interested in qualified people who are willing to work for less than the job would normally pay. Or they’re willing to pay full wages for a job that lasts several months or so. Either way,you’ve got to do what it takes to move on.

You have to experiment a bit to find out what method works best for the type of work you are qualified to get. Once you learn, repeat it to get more work.

I don’t want to imply independent contracting is easy or doesn’t have its own problems but it can earn you a living and return to you a sense of self worth. Maybe even eventually land you a full time job.

I know a CPA who was laid off from her corporate job and now does personal taxes half the year and takes wedding photo (photography is her hobby) the other half. She makes a good living from her taxes work from ongoing clients and from word of mouth for new wedding photo jobs.

Forget about your resume. State what you specially can do for the company who’s looking for an independent contractor.

Here are some place to start looking:

Linkedin: Freelancers
(this is only one, there a many similar groups)
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid =2018015&trk=anet_ug_hm

Here you are competing with people from Russia, China, etc. But keep applying for jobs, something will happen

O’desk (same as Elance)

Good luck to you old laid off guys. I wish you the best……

Posted by gameplan | Report as abusive

This story is very true, especially about the stigma of being out of work for more than a few months. It is presumed companies “vet” their employees before a layoff, and let the “weaker” ones go.
It is significantly easier to get a NEW job if you are already employed, than to wait till you lose one and become “unemployed”.
On a parallel note, if you lose a job and take an extended vacation with your severance pay, you also will not be considered for a position. I know more than a few people who made this mistake.
I have lost jobs and found new and equivalent positions twice in three years, at age 58 and 60. But I pursued positions while I was still working, colored my hair, lost 15-20 pounds, and took best advantage of my college diploma date, which I completed at age 39. The trick was to look 15 years younger than I was and present myself as an aggressive “job hopper”, which carries less stigma than being out of work for months.

For those already out of work for an extended period–I hope you saved some bucks during the good years; you will need them. But keep plugging, because it’s not YOU that is the problem, it’s the economy.
K. C. Albak

Posted by Albak | Report as abusive

I completely support what gameplan just said in the comment above. I spent the last ten years building up an Internet business outside of a full time professional job. After my nine-to-five, I would go work at my five-to-nine, as the saying goes. Last year, unhappy with a lot of us being sidelined by a power grab in my department, I quit the job and now do the Internet business full time.

I think that this is the big thing that so many people haven’t picked up on about our current situation: there’s more opportunities for us than ever before, not less. We can all find work from any other place in the country through the Internet. Forget the idea of a full time job (as we all know employers don’t respect us anyway) and go out and find your own means of work. You’ll reclaim yourself respect and dignity and wonder why you ever stayed at place that treated you like a number.

Posted by KurdtCobain | Report as abusive

Dominick and others: At 65 I’m coming out of retirement and returning to work in agriculture. I stumbled onto my new position by chance: the business owner happened to have graduated from the same college as I, and is about my same age, both door-openers. The job is physical work outdoors, and doesn’t pay that much. But it’s the work I’ve done for 30 years, so my previous experience was a factor in getting hired. So unexpected good things can and do happen.

Congratulations on your persistence and positive outlook. Keep up the struggle: the result will come from a direction where you’re not looking, at a time you don’t expect it.

Posted by jehoener | Report as abusive

[...] 14 million, should be treated like an incoming asteroidJune 18, 2012 By Fred Clark Leave a CommentAt Reuters, the story of Dominick Brocato, 58, who was laid off in 2010:I would say between April and August I probably had 45 to 50 different meetings that I would just [...]

[...] is running a series on the unemployed, starting with this profile of a 20-year company man who got laid off three years ago and has been unable to find work since. [...]

[...] Short excerpt of Dominick Brocato’s story of unemployment in Kansas City [...]

The whole concept of going to school, being guaranteed a job, and retiring no longer works. The Entrepreneurial Model is an answer to our FiftyUps crowd. Those who begin now will be at the start of a golden era. There is so much money to be made on the internet. Research wisely. Don’t wait until you are in the abyss of desperation before the small economic investment needed to start any home business becomes impossible. Good luck everyone. I know how it feels. By the way I am 52 years old and having to earn an income to support my children in university. I am not wasting time getting a job as I have not worked in 10 years. I am earning an income that I am generating myself.

Posted by AnnaDavidson | Report as abusive