I've been laid off three separate times since 2009.
The first layoff came from a company where I had worked for 13 years. I was the senior district manager for a corporate housing company. I had a six-figure income and hoped I would be with the company until retirement.
As part of the job, I tackled housing challenges for Fortune 500 companies like Dell, Samsung, IBM and State Farm. We would arrange housing for temporary assignments, summer internship programs and even catastrophes. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, I helped relocate 150 people from New Orleans to Austin, finding them apartments, working with furniture vendors and setting them up with homes, complete with pots, pans and dishes.
It never occurred to me that I would be out of work until I retired. Then the economy got so bad.
We went through four rounds of layoffs. First, I was laying off my own employees. And then, I got the call on April 1, 2009, that I was being laid off too.
About a year later, after my severance package ran out, I landed a general manager position for a resort. Eleven months later, they foreclosed.
For a while, I did some work for a friend's office supply business, and later I found a job with another corporate housing company. Then I was laid off again in 2012.
I'm going on 13 months without a job now.
The feedback is -- 'you're great, you have the credentials, but we want someone who knows the local market.' Or, 'We appreciate you wanting to come here, but we're concerned you'll leave when the economy picks up and you get a better offer.'
I see the recovery happening around me. Austin has rebounded -- but the jobs that have rebounded are in high-tech fields. The hidden age discrimination is what really frustrates me. Ads often say 'recent college grads only'. It seems to be code for 'we want someone young.'
The perception of employers is that at 56, I'm not willing to start a career path at a lower level. But that's not true.
I've interviewed for jobs offering $30,000 to $40,000 salaries, and I've broadened my search, looking nationwide.
After 3 years of floating around, my savings are gone. I cashed in my 401(k). I have two kids in college. I wasn't going to be able to pay the taxes on my house, so I sold the house and moved in with a friend. My stuff is in storage.
I've never said these words out loud before, because I don't want family and friends to worry about me. But there are days I'm numb. The mental toll -- the depression -- the feeling of being unworthy and unwanted, after being highly successful.