WORK + LIFE
Labels are for clothes and not for people.
We all heard the cliche that nothing happens by chance.
I never really took the time to think about this statement. am not somebody who analyzes myself, I just take life as it comes and try my best to solve the challenges that are facing me. But when I look back at how it all started, I do acknowledge that the circumstances that brought me to WirSindDu did not happen by chance, and all of them had a purpose.
Sort of like little pieces from a big puzzle.
It all started when I came to Germany and was confronted with a new culture and mentality. I was 50 years old but felt ageless and full of hope. As an international marketing professional who ran my own advertising agency in New York City for over 20 years through ups and downs, I suddenly found myself at a major crossroad in my adult life.
Everything was supposed to be different, but life never asks you how you planned it… it just happens. I found love, I moved to Stuttgart, I worked for a year and a half as a team leader in marketing for a medium-sized company, and then suddenly I was unemployed. But I wasn’t desperate, I already knew that life has ups and downs. So I applied for jobs every day, and I was rejected as quickly as I applied. That changes something in you. All my friends said they understood, but how can you understand when you have a job, when you’ve never been in that situation, when you’ve never experienced waking up in the morning and not being allowed to go work nowhere?
It was the first time in my life,
that I was unemployed and no company needed my experience, skills nor education. I cried every day, I felt like society didn’t need me anymore, even though I knew I had so much to offer a potential employer. I was creative, I had ideas, I had so much knowledge, but it wasn’t being recognized.
Then it started … at first like a whisper, “it’s your age,” “companies don’t hire people your age,” “at your age people are thinking about retirement.” But I just didn’t want to hear it!
I lived in New York for 30 years. People think differently there. If you want a degree at age 60, you just do it. There, you are allowed to work until you die.
But here it’s different…. right?
Are you as young as you feel? Or as old as it is written in your passport?
Can’t you just be as old as you are and get what you want? I didn’t feel old, I felt young and dynamic. I compared myself to people who had jobs, people who were younger than me. I knew I could do at least the same job as them, if not better. So, what was wrong with me? I was computer literate and familiar with new trends. I was up to date. What was wrong? After a while, I started to mentally buy into the fact that I was too old. I started to believe that I just didn’t fit anymore. I was ashamed of my age. I began to doubt myself. Maybe I was too old? Age and time were my enemies! Inside, I was dying every day because I was immersed in this mindset and not being true to my beliefs and values. But what could I do? Unlike in the United States, I had to include my date of birth in my CV, I had to include a photo, things that were illegal in the United States. I was already thinking about falsifying my age in my CV, but that was a bad idea! As time went on and after hundreds of rejections, it finally became clear to me that I needed help…and fast, or I would end up in a deep depression. I’ve worked my whole life, I’m a workaholic and I still had dreams, wanted to make a difference, wanted to be active and work. I wanted to wake up in the morning and pursue goals.
What is age anyway? A number? Does a number define me?
I was lucky to find a very understanding representative at the employment agency. She supported me, was open and told me from the beginning that it is very dangerous to play the age card, because eventually I will believe it and just give up. lol! I was almost there! She recommended job coaching and I was coached for 3 months by a fabulous coach. He assured me that my work experience and skills were great and many companies would hire me. I just needed time to find the right company.
So, I continued my endless application process. To no avail. After another 200 rejections, I decided that perhaps I should continue my education in another field; maybe my marketing experience was not required in this production-oriented society.
Exactly here starts the story from WirSindDu!
I discovered Aurelia Holding, a continuing education academy that offered business manager education for SMEs, focused on people 50+…so perfect for me! Once again, I was in the same numbers game. I called, made an appointment, and two days later found myself talking to the head of Aurelia Holding, a passionate and very interesting man. A man who was to change the course of my life. He told me that 20 years ago he found himself in the same situation and decided to do something about it. To help people our age, find their way in mid-life, despite a society that thinks we are too old to be productive. He decided to develop this BMM program for people over 50. It all sounded great and a few weeks later I was in class. He introduced me to my colleagues, there were 7. It felt like kindergarten, all in the same age group. I wasn’t used to being in the same class with people my age. We were such an interesting mix! All 50+, all from different backgrounds and cultures. We were intelligent people with so many interesting stories to tell, from engineers, sales people, mathematicians, geologists to architects. All so different, but at the same time so similar. We all had the same problems, the same barriers, the same stereotypes that were almost impossible to break.
Suddenly it hit me, I was no longer alone.
If there were 7 people in a class who had such interesting and similar experiences, then there had to be thousands or hundreds of thousands of people who had to overcome the same barriers and stereotypes. Stereotypes are found everywhere, are not tied to one country, are borderless, they don’t just apply to jobs, they come from all walks of life, they are barriers that people face every day. I was not alone. That was such a relief! You think when you go through difficult times that you’re alone and you feel so lost. But I suddenly had company and lots of it! Little by little, me and my colleagues got to know each other, and shared our similar stories. I felt empowered that at least I had teammates, that there was nothing wrong with me, that the way society saw us needed to be changed, that we were put in a box with a big 50+ label. I remember how many times we discussed this, stereotypes and prejudices and how they change the way people think and live. You have to know each person as an individual, and not form an opinion based on prejudice just because the person belongs to a certain group. I mean, theoretically we all know these things, but practically we forget to stop and think.
So I decided to do something about it.
At the beginning, I had many questions, which I was seeking answers for.
- What is the common thing that connects us humans?
- How can we know people, so that we as a society break down the stereotypes, and the prejudices?
- How can we learn from each other?
- How can I transmit this empowering feeling that I experienced of “not being alone” to other people?
- What makes us humans unique?
The answer was right in front for me waiting to be discovered.
I thought about an article I read recently by Toby Ord, an Oxford professor. He wrote about the story of humanity throughout our 200,000 years of existence. He was concerned with our human history, our past and future, as a human species.
He was right!
What distinguished us from other species during our 2000 centuries of existence was our ability to work and cooperate with other humans. It is teamwork. But much more significant is our ability to work together over time and across generations. By passing on information, values, and innovations to our children, teamwork emerged across generations.
The answer was there: stories
In the last 5000 years, through the written word and before that verbally, from one person to another.
Our stories are lessons, inspiration, motivation and progress for us humans.
A network of stories, a knowledge sharing online portal about people and for people. Whether corporate or private each of us has a story, a life experience that when shared, spreads and is brought to life because other people identify with it, inspire and learn from each other.
Together, we can build something bigger than ourselves. One story at a time.
At the end of 2019, I founded WirSindDu together with two partners. WirSindDu connects people through the power of their stories.
We tell and love personal stories, as well as company stories, because behind every company, there are people with personal stories and experiences. A company is made up of the people who work for it everyday. These stories spread life experiences containing valuable lessons for all of us.
Stories make us who we are, human.
Touching at least one life every day.
Making a difference in our world.
"One Story at a time"
WirSindDu(WeAreYou) on these foundations
Operationally, we started at the beginning of 2020 – in the middle of the Corona time. This was and still is, a tough time for all of us. But we are convinced that “in every crisis lies not only an opportunity but also a chance.” Martin Luther King.
We are open and resilient to our new future. We have currently expanded our services in marketing and design, so we can better meet the needs of our clients.
One thing is certain: interpersonal relationships are increasingly important these days. We are always aware of what separates us, but what connects us should always be in front of our eyes, not only in times of crisis.
The Corona time has changed our way of thinking fundamentally. Among other things, it has shown us, how valuable togetherness and connection with each other is.