“Then I started looking around and was like, ‘Whoa!’ ” he said. “I wasn’t getting any traction.”
Dozens of interviews later, McLaughlin’s spirits have slid downhill. He has applied for thousands of jobs, plenty for which he is overqualified. One prospective employer recently told him she wanted to hire him at half what he made at Fidelity, but was concerned he would quit if a better job came along. McLaughlin said he would not, and would be grateful for the job, but never heard back from the employer.
“After a while, you start to think, ‘Am I ever going to work again?’ ” said McLaughlin, a father with a marriage and mortgage. “But you have to block that out.”
It is an unhappy chapter after a lifetime of climbing the ladder. A graduate of Saugus High School, McLaughlin worked in the maintenance department of Saugus General Hospital, before taking an entry-level job at computer-maker Honeywell Information Systems in Billerica in 1982. Over 16 years at Honeywell, he rose to data center manager, but was laid off in 1995 when Groupe Bull of France took control of Honeywell and cut 800 jobs in Massachusetts.
The state and federal government paid $10,000 for McLaughlin to attend a 20-week retraining program at Boston University, where he learned computer support, service, and network skills. Within weeks of completion, he landed a job in Fidelity Investments’ information technology department. The job paid half of what he earned at Honeywell, but McLaughlin worked there for 16 years, until his layoff in 2011.
McLaughlin’s unemployment benefits ran out nearly a year ago. His wife, for many years a stay-at-home mom, supports them with her income as an office manager. McLaughlin takes care of the housekeeping and laundry, helps his adult children fix up their homes, and cares for his two Yorkies and a schnauzer.
His job search continues, he said, because this is not how his story is supposed to end.
“Life’s never been this way,” he said, struggling to find the right words. “It makes you feel . . . empty.”
Falling further behind
Lee Bodzioch completed an intensive 500-hour course in Web design, dipping deeper into dwindling savings to cover his $4,000 share for advanced skills training at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts in Waltham. It was an investment he hoped would pay off with a job. It hasn’t, yet.
The empty silence that follows his job applications bothers him most. Typically, there’s not even a rejection letter telling him he did not get the job.
“If you hit your head against the wall it hurts,” Bodzioch said. “With a job search, there is nothing, no feedback, no reaction.”
The son of a sign painter in Adams, Bodzioch can barely remember another time when he was not working — whether helping his father hang lettered signs as a boy, or as an art director at Joslin Diabetes Center. He weathered layoffs during his 30-year career, always managing to reinvent himself by adapting to new technologies and updating his skills.
With a degree in fine art from Westfield State College, he designed printed annual reports for GenRad, a manufacturer of electronics equipment, until that company was bought by Teradyne in 2001 and he lost his job.
He responded by learning how to do design work on a computer, eventually landing a job with SimplexGrinnell, a fire safety company owned by Tyco International, but found himself out of a job again when the company moved its Massachusetts marketing offices to Boca Raton, Fla.
After a few months of unemployment, Bodzioch was hired by Joslin to create print and Web medical marketing materials. When that job disappeared because of changes in the law limiting pharmaceutical spending, Bodzioch found work several months later at a giant telecommunications company in Manchester, N.H., where he also created print and Web advertising for five years before he was laid off in early 2011.
Since then he has received only short-term contract work while managing to earn a little by playing drums in a band. Divorced with two adult children, Bodzioch said he is grateful that he has to support only himself.
His unemployment benefits barely cover his monthly car insurance bill, and he said he needs a job with health care benefits. He gets state-mandated health insurance through his unemployment benefits, but pays $18 a week for it.
He has not saved enough to retire, and with each passing week, he only falls further behind.
On good days, Bodzioch said, he may get calls from employment agencies alerting him to available jobs. He said he always applies, dreading the silence he has come to expect.
He said most companies want younger creative directors.
“Over 50, it’s just impossible to get a job,” he said.
Megan Woolhouse can be reached at email@example.com.