‘Too old, expensive and hard to retrain: The reality of being laid off in my 50s’

Jun 20, 2020
Finding work after you've turned 50 comes with its own set of challenges. Source: Getty Images

I got laid off from my groovy corporate job three weeks before my 50th birthday. They said it wasn’t age discrimination since a few publishers had vanished along with me. But I knew better. I was too old, too expensive and too hard to retrain.

I had been out of work for about six months and was at a loss as to how to spend my time. I couldn’t go back into corporate life. No one wanted me. I flirted with dog-walking, pet portraits, and watching re-runs of I Love Lucy, but nothing resonated with me.

With my background in photography, one of my friends thought I would really enjoy working at a small camera store in my neighbourhood.

I met with the manager, who gave me a synopsis as to what was involved with working at the store. Basically, it was a sales job. I would ring up film and camera equipment, but the most exciting part of my job would be to converse with the customers about photography.

How hard could it be? Discussing light, film and apertures seem like a dream job. I could be the Ansel Adams of the store and make some decent money.

I came in to work on Monday and after exchanging pleasantries with my boss, I took my position behind the counter. Boy was I ready to sell some gear! When I looked at the register behind the counter, I noticed it was sadly out of date. The equipment looked like it was from 1983. Not good.

I had to stoop down to the floor every time I made a transaction. On top of that, I had to memorise a bunch of codes that corresponded to the materials I was selling. Didn’t they have one of those nifty scanners like they do in grocery stores?

After about 25 minutes of bending over, my knees and back started to ache. This was an eight-hour shift and I knew I was a goner. I already hated this job and I hadn’t even been there a day.

Around 10:15am, I called my friend.

“Are you on your break?” she inquired.

“No I’m going home,” I replied.

“Going home? Didn’t you just get there?”

“Yeah, but my back is killing me, and my knee hurts. I can’t deal with this,” I replied, feeling like a trapped animal at the zoo.

I peeked around the corner to tell my boss that I was quitting, but he was on the phone, and quite frankly I really didn’t want to face him. After all, he had provided me with a great sales opportunity, right?

I quickly left, and headed home. That was the end of my shortest job. I was there only 45 minutes, and I walked out with the glee of a young child on Christmas morning.

I decided to focus my efforts on my creative interests-writing, photography, music and theatre.

I’ve been retired from corporate life for about 17 years now, and I’m so glad. I now stay away from toxic work situations. I never liked feeling like a train was chasing me, wondering how I was going to make my quota, or if my boss thought my boobs were still perky. Leave that to those who are younger!

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