A reader writes:

I thought I'd give an American ex-pat's perception from the other side of the pond. I've been in Europe about 20 years and England for 10. I had a decent-paying IT job in Yorkshire until I was laid off a year ago last April. ("Made redundant" is the quaint way they phrase it here.) I keep coming close to getting re-hired, but I'm never *exactly* what they want, or they find someone else slightly more qualified. Or younger. I know this is true from one company that flat out told me they were giving the job to the younger candidate as he would be more tolerant of the low salary they were offering.

Like your previous correspondent, I also type 50 words a minute and have decades of experience. None of which seems to matter.

I know I type 50 wpm because I applied for a 911 operator position (999 here). After passing an assessment phase, I failed the interview. One of my sins was not making sufficient eye contact with the interviewers ... obviously a key skill for one who will be answering telephones.  I think they were really wondering why someone would be willing to take a 50% cut in pay from their previous job. Which is one of the things you learn; you can't apply for lower paying jobs because you won't be taken seriously (i.e. you're over-qualified).

The only positions I've been able to get are minimum wage - sorting mail over Christmas and delivering leaflets door to door. And they were only part time. And I definitely have to laugh at the perceived socialism safety net the American right spouts so much against. Here, if your partner works, you get $2500 total dribbled out over six months, and then it is cut off - permanently.  True, you don't pay for health insurance, but US unemployment benefits are much better than the insult you get here.

Several things I've learned: You can't apply for jobs well under what your previous job was; you won't be taken seriously and will be considered over-qualifed.  You must fall completely to the bottom and get the occasional minimum wage, temporary job.  No one will commit to any training for a new position. If you've done exactly the job advertised before, you'll be considered. But you'll be considered incapable of learning anything new. General experience will not be considered. Stuff learned on your own will be denigrated or discounted. University degree qualification doesn't matter.  Age discrimination is alive and well.

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