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Pauline Lerner

For Love or Money

February 18, 2006 at 5:19 AM

I have had some strange experiences in the last few years. I have been unemployed for almost all of the last four years, and that is strange enough. I lived on my savings until they were exhausted, and now I’m living on my retirement money. I have no family or significant other to fall back on for help. I have a small income from teaching violin and doing very occasional freelance science writing. Naturally, I’ve been looking very hard for a job. I’m not waiting for the ideal job which makes full use of my abilities and experiences. I will do almost anything that pays and provides health insurance. Yes, I’ve considered temp work. Yes, I’ve considered switching fields. Yes, I’ve considered walking people’s dogs and mowing their lawns and living cheaply. I’ve even considered applying for a position as a violin teacher in Unalaska. ;-)

I have been finding only about two or three jobs a month that I’m qualified enough to apply for. This week I had a job interview, my first one since last summer. This interview was bizarre. It is a fairly senior level position which I am well qualified for, and the work looks interesting. (I have a Ph.D. and over 30 years of postdoctoral work experience.) A major part of the job would be attending high level scientific/medical meetings biweekly and writing 47 page long reports within three days. That’s not the strangest part of the story, though. The first person I spoke to at the company seemed quite reasonable. Then I spoke to the company president. Usually this is pro forma. However, this woman was different. She told me that she didn't want to hire me because of my age; she'd rather hire someone younger; if I know a younger person who's qualified for this job, please let her know; unfortunately, a younger person would not have the amount of experience necessary to do the job well. Age discrimination is illegal, but I didn't remind her about it. There are 46 employees of the company, and she also has work done by about 30 freelance writers. Now she wants to have more of her writers in-house. I asked her why, and she said that she wants to have more control over people. If someone has problems in their personal life that might interfere with doing their job, she wants to know about it. I wouldn't survive long under her thumb. I think I'd be happier flipping burgers at MacDonalds than working for her. I plan to tell her that I would consider working for her as a freelancer but not as a company employee. There are worse things than being a violin teacher and freelance science writer.

Teaching violin suits me well. I like working with people one on one. I like making people happy. I like being told “thank you.” A lot of my students tell me that I’m very patient and very enthusiastic, and I like hearing those things, too.

It’s too bad that I need to earn a living.

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