Job Hunting at a “Certain Age”: If Your Name Is Barbara, Judy or Susan…

woman thoughbubble

Once again I am tip-toeing into the waters of the job market. Picture a lovely beach with waves rhythmically rolling in. I am the nervous one at the very edge where the tide laps the shore, my feet hardly getting wet, trying to drum up the courage to wade on in.

When asked about my relationship with the job market, I would say – “It’s complicated.”

I worked full-time – lawyering – for 33 years. Then, as my loyal readers know, a 2x dreadful cardiac infection kicked me out of the action. One day I was a law partner at a downtown firm, the next day I was in the ER. It was a sudden transition.

The next phase was what I like to call “semi-retirement” – returning to my childhood roots as writer and sometimes even getting paid for it. Speaking out on young adult mental health and sometimes even getting paid for that. The “gig” economy, that is what it is called these days.

But the time between “gigs’ stretches thin, as many of you likely know –  and as much as I love siting on my deck, listening to the birds sing in my backyard and writing, I do feel obligated o search once again for that wonderful thing we call a “paycheck.” A part-time one that shows up regularly would be quite nice.

Back to the tip-toeing and perhaps the reason for my trepidation.

Last spring I send out a batch of job applications. Heard zippo back from all of them. Maybe something in my resume was not winning over the hiring managers?

Then a close friend of mine called my attention to one particular Want Ad and said – “This is you!” – I applied and was invited for an interview. Two people asking me questions at the same time;  it did not go well from the start. Bad vibes emanating from one of them.  You know how it is when you meet new people; sometimes you we just don’t click. And exactly 24 hours later I received a very short email of rejection.

I wrote about it here:

Was it Something I Said? – – Job Rejection at a “Certain Age”

Who wants to be told “No” when it’s your first time applying for a new job in over 25 years? Job rejection stings – at any age.

And while I do want to focus on my writing (moment of pride: I have finally written an outline for my novel. Yes, just an outline but it is a start), I’d like to be back among the work force some of the time.

But this time I am going to take a different tack before sending resumes out. I am going to stack the cards in my favor.

I have decided to change my first name! Because, face it, “Ageism” is not only alive and well, it is flourishing  – especially if you have a baby boomer birthdate and the name that goes with it.

Think about it –> when an HR person or recruiter opens your resume, the first thing they see is your name, right? And if it is Linda or Carol or Deborah, forget it. Your chances of making it out of the first round instantly diminish.  Because no one under age 55 has that name. Brenda, Diane, Pamela?  You are likely doomed.

Particularly if the HR person/recruiter is named Ashley, Heather or Jessica.

Amber (do forgive me if that is your name; it is lovely but an age-give-away), that nice young VP of human resources, is not a stupid person. She sees that you are named “Nancy” and she knows right away that you are about the same age as her mother. Which is not a good thing.

Who wants to hire their mother? Let alone work in the same office with her.

So before I start applying for a part-time job this time around, I am going to switch the name on my resume from “Nancy” to something that at least sounds 20 years younger.  I’ll start with the statistics kept by the U.S. Social Security Administration and pick a popular name from the late 1970’s or early 1980;s that will prove my youthfulness, in spirit if not in reality.

Hi, my name is Jennifer. Pleased to meet you.”


Hi, I’m Amanda.  Here is a copy of my resume.”


Thank you for interviewing me. My name is Nicole ____.”

Already practicing for that crucial first moment of appraisal when Amber, the VP of human resources meets me in person – and realizes (to her chagrin) that despite my millennial name, I am indeed the same age as her mother.

What do you say Diane, Ellen and Gail? Want to start a movement to fight Ageism in the older women workplace by disguising our real names?

I’m going with Nicole.






Filed under Aging, Baby Boomers, Communications, Email, Midlife, Retirement, Second Careers, Semi-Retired, Women, Women in the Workplace

13 responses to “Job Hunting at a “Certain Age”: If Your Name Is Barbara, Judy or Susan…

  1. Ruth

    funny and true, from a Ruth

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carrie

    Ha! I’m working on a new piece set in the 80s and names are amy, Jenny, Beth, tammy, Alan, Steve and mike. Good luck!


  3. Sandra R. Miller

    Don’t even think of giving up hope. A friend moved across the country and starting looking for a new job — one lasting, hopefully, three years until she could get Social Security at age 70. She tracked down a store manager position for a high end (meaning expensive) clothing shop for youthful (very) customers. She had several phone interviews and then two in-person interviews. She is bright, personable, trustworthy, and experienced in the field. When she received a contract offer it came with a bouquet of flowers and a gold bracelet. Keep dreaming. Good companies who value and nurture their employees will look beyond names and wrinkles (smile lines).
    From a Sandra cheering on the sidelines.


  4. Sandra Miller

    Don’t give up on job fantasies. A friend moved across country and dreamed of finding a job that would, hopefully, last for three years until she could start receiving Social Security at age 70. She tracked down an opening for a store manager with a high end (expensive) clothing store favored by the youthful (very). She had several phone interviews and two in-person interviews. When the contract offer arrived it was accompanied by a bouquet of flowers and a gold bracelet. Companies that honor and nurture their employees evidently look beyond names and smile lines (wrinkles).
    From a Sandra who is cheering on the sidelines


  5. Julie

    Always enjoy your writing. I am a retired HR VP. Just so you know, most resumes now go through an electronic applicant system that screens for key words in resumes that match the qualifications and experience sought. So names are not relevant. Doesn’t mean there isn’t age discrimination in hiring, though. Best wishes for the perfect job.


  6. Sue L

    Yep. I came to my current trendy high-tech startup from an acquisition. There are times I doubt I could have gotten a job there otherwise. From a Susan.


  7. I name my menopause sleepwear styles with age appropriate names. My initial styles 11 years ago were Barbara, Debra, Susan, Nancy, Marilyn, Linda, Sandra, Carol, Paula, Mary and Donna. I have updated to now have Lisa, Holly, Dawn, Hope, Amy, Christy , Jennifer, Claire, Michelle and Julie. You are so Nicole!


  8. Bonnie J. Weissman

    I’m a Bonnie! Sad, funny, and unfortunately, oh so true! Had to leave my old stomping grounds in government sales for a few years to concierge a troubled child who also had to be treated for seizures (now doing better and in grad school). It was the only way; my husband had just started his business and it was taking off, so our our old modus operandi of tag teaming in kid emergencies was not going to work. When the dust cleared, all I could get was an occasional consulting gig, temping and substitute teaching. For the record, I am a veteran, have held high level security clearances, hold an advanced degree, and am youthful in appearance. (I work out, am well groomed, and extremely healthy). At 63, most people think I’m about 50. All to no avail. Even the headhunter I worked with admitted it was ageism. I was always “overqualified.”
    Now I’m helping my older girl who is bucking for a partnership in a big law firm, a busy wife, and the mom of twin toddler boys who are the loves of my life. i also paint and sing with a local group at hospitals and nursing homes. Luckily, we are financially secure, and my husband still works part time. At the same time, several friends are in similar boats— one was just laid off as religious ed director for a small synagogue, and she’s my age. Women who are not privileged or with special connections are really up against it after 45 or 50.


  9. Albarad

    Hi Nancy, I couldn’t resist forwarding this to you do you probably hate it! In which case you know what to do. Nancy will presented to our temple,as part of our mental health initiative this year. Because I’m on the steering committee, I got to have dinner with her and a whole bunch of others.I really like her and so I signed up to receive her blog postings which this is one of. She’s from DC area and has a severely impaired thirtysomething-year-old son. She also has a thirtysomething-year-old daughter who is married and has two kids, which makes Nancy a grandmother is well.

    She started a support group for parents of kids with “stuff”at her synagogue which we’re gonna try to model in the fall.

    Love you!



  10. Albarad

    Oops!! Meant to send to my SISTER Nancy- Hope all is well. The part about she’ll probably hate it, is because my sister’s husband just died two months ago and she’s in that place in her life where she hates everything. Personally,I love your postings and I’m so glad I signed up for them.

    A fellow Jumbo from Rodef Sholom, Amy Barad



  11. Miriam Daniel

    Funny. How about lunch at pain Quotidienne on Elm at 12:30?

    On Friday, June 17, 2016, Witty Worried and Wolf wrote:

    > Nancy Wolf posted: ” Once again I am tip-toeing into the waters of the job > market. Picture a lovely beach with waves rhythmically rolling in. I am the > nervous one at the very edge where the tide laps the shore, my feet hardly > getting wet, trying to drum up the courage to ” >


  12. Beth

    FWIW, I change my name (Bonnie too! Now I’m Beth.) I also work in the job search field and am a Certified Professional Resume Writer. If I can help, please contact me at Every county in the US has an office like mine. You can find the ones near you at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.