Recently, we got this letter at Work It Daily:

I am searching for a new job and it has not gone very well. So, thinking it would help I went and saw a professional career coach that cost me $1,500.00 which was inclusive of a resume writing service, interview coaching, and a head hunter.

I met with the woman and we had a good 30 minute chat. After which, she actually refunded my money because she felt so bad for me.

First, she said my resume was actually very well written and that I wouldn't benefit much from their writing service. Then she dropped a bombshell on me when she told me with my work history of being laid off from 3 different jobs (2 companies as the first company re-hired me at a different facility thanks to my manager from the first job) in 3 consecutive years, it was highly unlikely that she would be able to help me because I am a WHITE MALE.

I was shocked to hear this from a woman with over 20 years experience in recruiting. I asked, why the fact that I'm a white male is so different from being a minority or a woman? Why should it make any difference if I am qualified for a job? Her response to these questions, have left me questioning if I will ever be able to find a better job than just being a warehouse worker.

She saw just how shocked I was and immediately said first that she was willing to refund my money and apologized (I did get my money back and saw the credit to my account the next business day). Then she explained to me that hiring managers and HR people will see me as a dime a dozen just to begin with. But, when they see (and verify) my work history of being laid off so many times, they will immediately assume that there is something wrong with me or that at least 1 of those companies ended my employment as a lay off to help me get unemployment. However, they would not have this view of a woman or a minority because they would be viewed as people going through a rough patch or that those employees were targeted by sexists or racists employers.

She took it a step further by saying the last thing that works against me is that I worked for employers with a reputation for laying off employees on a regular basis. Because of the reputation of these companies, prospective employers would think of me as someone who did not do their research on a company. This was not seen as an issue for a woman or a minority because the length of time between each job was so short, less than a month each time, it would actually be beneficial to those people because it showed a willingness to work.

I interrupted her asking, "Again, why is it any different, I was the one who found a job each time, granted the 2nd job was for the same company just at a different facility after the first lay off, wouldn't that show I'm willing to work just as much as anyone else?"

Her response was that I am from the New England area which is typically a very liberal area. In New England, the HR recruiters tend to be more flexible and sympathetic to minorities and women and but will tend to assume the worst for a white male. If I were located in other regions of the country, this would not be as much of an issue. I thanked her for her brutal honesty and for my refund that I would receive and she wished me good luck. I walked out and went home.

First off, I can't tell you how frustrated I was to read he spent $1500 on career coaching (way too much money, in my opinion), only to be given horrible news and a refund. While well-intended, it's stories like that which give our industry a bad name. He was wise to seek help, he just chose the wrong company. At least he found us and we were able to guide him.

That being said, after many years in corporate recruiting and HR, I know this white male, and many others in his situation right now, are learning the following for the very first time...

Hiring IS discrimination.

Over the years, as people gain career success, many professionals (but especially, white males), mistakenly come to believe it's due solely to their hard work, skills, and abilities. When it reality, it has just as much to do with their personality, workplace relationships, timing, quality of the employer, gender, and stage in their career. And, while some forms of hiring discrimination are illegal (i.e. minorities, women, and sexual orientation), being discriminated against because your once successful career has turned into a bumpy road is not a protected class. It's very tough to prove you are being discriminated against for being a white male when there are plenty of other candidates who have the same (if not better), credentials than you. Not to mention, are available for less money i.e. younger workers, women, minorities, etc. It's a classic case of the law of supply and demand. And, it's hit the white male working population before...

The dot com bust of the 90's put a lot of white males on the couch.

I was working in the Silicon Valley in the tech recruiting sector in the late 1990's. When the bubble burst, thousands of highly paid white male software developers found themselves out of work and lacking job prospects. Many of them decided to hold out until they could get a salary similar to what the were making - because settling affected their manhood. Sadly, for more than a few, this tactic ended up with them cashing out their 401k's and still landing in jobs paying half of what they made before.

Fast forward to today and it's not just women and minorities shifting the market as the career coach above suggested, it's also the Millennials who are impacting the law of supply and demand. As the largest generation in our workforce (and growing!), employers don't just seem them as the future, they also know they are less expensive, come with no bad habits, are tech savvy, and don't just survive, but thrive on change. In spite of all the negative commentary about Millennials' performance in the workplace, companies are restructuring their businesses to adapt to the larger talent pool that is available to them, putting a lot of older white males in this man's situation.

So, where does he go from here?

This white male will likely have to take a job beneath his current skill level. He has tumbled back on what recruiters refer to as the, "Talent Spectrum." In short, recruiters hear what they see. Which means, in order to climb back up, he'll need to:

A) get hired,

B) stay employed to re-prove himself, and

C) build up his value again so he can be in-demand.

Studies show once he gets a job, he'll immediately be more attractive to recruiters. He could have things turned around in just a couple of years. And, if he is willing to consult instead of hold out for a full-time job, he could command higher rates and build his reputation back up even faster.

The real question is whether he'll put his pride aside and do it. In my experience, if he wants to fix this, he has to get in the game - or suffer the fate of the 1990's dot com couch surfers. He needs a targeted, proactive job search and to update his networking and interview skills to ensure he isn't sending the wrong message. He'll also need a lot of positive reinforcement and support from people that know how to keep him motivated. He may have just gotten a reality check, but it's not a death sentence. It's up to him to change how this story of discrimination ends.

Published on: Feb 16, 2017