Monday, October 31, 2011

Today's Reframe: Corporate America

Last Friday I attended an orientation session for a program into which I've recently been accepted.  The program is run through Chicago Career Tech and supported by large corporations, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.  Although I haven't even started the program yet, this orientation was a real turning point for me on my unemployment journey.   I felt it important to share with everyone out there, especially those going through this same journey.

This is a program initiated by organizations like Microsoft, Charter One and other large corporations about 2 years ago in the middle of the Great Recession.  According to the presenters, these business leaders realized a real need for a program like this as a result of a labor shortage.

Labor shortage, you ask?  But, there are millions unemployed and looking for work, you say!  Yes, but many of these organizations cited statistics of large numbers of unfilled vacancies within their organizations.  These position remained unfilled not because there aren't millions of people looking for jobs, but because the millions unemployed do not posses the skills necessary to do the job.  There is a huge skills gap for so many unemployed people despite the organizations that crave to hire more employees.

This explanation was a real positive moment for me.  Throughout this Recession, and my unemployment journey in particular, there has been a lot of negativity:  rejection to the thousands of resumes sent out, rejection from in-person interviews, politicians who blame the unemployed for being unemployed, articles about how companies are actually advertising that the unemployed "need NOT apply" and, most damaging, my fellow employed citizens who comment on stories all over the internet calling us names like lazy, mooching off the system and so on...

Having worked since the age of 14, sometimes at 2 jobs, having gone to college and having done all the 'right' things, everything has felt so incredibly wrong. 

But to hear organizational leaders recognize that the unemployed are not lazy, but ready and willing to work given the right opportunities and given the skills to do the jobs that are in demand actually got me choked up.  I felt that someone "got it."  There are companies who 'want' me.  All the companies out there don't scoff at something that was beyond my control.  They realize that we, the unemployed, are eager to get back to work and get on with their lives!  It was inspiring to hear examples of companies that took on 40+ interns during the program and then offered all of them jobs at the end of the program!

So I begin my program in just over a week in Social Media Marketing at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.  At the end, I am expected to obtain certifications in Google Adwords and SEO.  I'm so very excited because I love social media and I have always loved marketing.  I am also excited because this is the "now" and this is the future.  I'm excited that I'm entering a (hopefully) stable area of the market so as to avoid ever having to endure unemployment and all its challenges again.

On a side note, this program is being constantly evaluated and studied across the country.  It is being looked at as a potential model for other states to get people back to work.

I would like to encourage you, especially if you are in Chicago, to mention this program to your company.  Your company can be part of the solution to getting America working again.  They may not be able to hire a student after the program, but the experience gained during the internship will be so important to the student and a stepping stone to get them back to full time work.  Please consider passing along this site to your boss or HR department and encourage them to participate!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Today's Reframe: On OPRAH!

Last night I was lucky enough to attend the live broadcast of Oprah's Lifeclass® on OWN.  It was a really exciting experience...and we had the opportunity to Reframe Shame™. 

While her previous show was fun when it came to celebrities and Favorite Things, Oprah also produced some amazing episodes about being a better person and getting to a better place in one's life.  I always appreciated episodes that helped to bring people to a new level of thought, "reframing" the way we typically think about something to get to that ah-ha moment.

The Lifeclasses focus on getting one to a higher level of self-awareness and finding that 'ah-ha' moment each day!  And Friday's live broadcast allows Oprah to interact with viewers on their moments.   Life Class even touches upon the issue of shame.

In this episode, a woman was with her so-called 'man of her dreams.'  Unfortunately for her, he found love with her cousin, the cousin who had encouraged them to begin dating.  Four years after the break-up, she has not been able to move past the break-up and betrayal.  I believe she is stuck in a feeling of shame and voiced my opinion (at the 22:15 and 27:15 marks)

There's a lot of shame associated with being "dumped," and being dumped for your cousin...even worse.  Shame of betrayal.

As I mentioned in the show, this woman needs to Reframe the Shame™.  Shame, as we've previously discussed, can be an isolating emotion, one that keeps you stuck in a very negative place.

For her (and those of you who may be in a similar place), my suggestion is to reframe this differently.   This man found something he believed was a better fit for him.  Throughout our lives, we have all experienced this.  We may have thought we were into someone, but weeks into a relationship, we decided it was no longer a match.  Similarly, years may go by in a relationship and one day on or both partners may realize they have grown apart.

This is OKAY!  It's natural, even.  Instead of taking on the standard thoughts that this "end" is somehow devastating, it's healthier to remember that these are normal events in life.  Everyone grows every single day and sometimes two people together (in a relationship) don't grow in the same way or the same direction.

I have several friends/couples who began madly in love (or lust) and had seemingly excellent relationships, but as they grew older, they also grew apart.  This didn't diminish the love they had for each other, but they no longer felt it was the right relationship for them at that point in their lives.  Being able to accept this as just a normal process helped them to not "end" their relationships, but change them.  Instead of remaining boyfriend/girlfriend (or wife/husband or, in some cases, boyfriend/boyfriend), they moved into a "friend" realm; they still have a relationship.  And these friendships have become some of the strongest, most meaningful and long-lasting relationships of their lives.

Think about it, what is the alternative to this?  Do you force someone to stay with you because you still love them even if  they may not be in love with you anymore?  We need not look to far to see how that ends. 

The example of John Edwards and his affair is a great way to illustrate this.  John Edwards cheated on his wife, Elizabeth.  Once caught, he expressed remorse and his continued love for his wife.  Many balked at this idea that he could still love her.  But think about it, there's no doubt that after all those years together and all that they experienced together, from bearing children to the death of one child, cancer and more, that love still remained on both sides of that relationship.  However, it's possible that John was no longer "in love" with Elizabeth.

It may sound like semantics, but I'm sure you can relate to this feeling.  You can love someone deeply, but may not feel 'in love' with them enough to want the intimacy anymore of a relationship.

Often we feel shame in ending a relationship, especially one in which there are children involved or a traditional marriage based on religious views.  This shame prevents us from simply expressing the truth to that loved one and instead drives us into isolation and possibly behavior that will ultimately hurt that loved one, as in the case of John Edwards.

Quite possibly, had he maturely stated to Elizabeth that he loved her deeply and still cared about her, but was no longer in love with her, I'm sure she would have accepted this.  It may have hurt (rejection always does), but it could have been a much less negative experience for both of them.  My guess is that this was the case for Al Gore and his wife.  Notice they did not have ANY of the public negativity
 around them like John Edwards.

I am THRILLED that Oprah and Iyanla loved my "Reframe Shame" idea, so much so that Oprah repeated it a few times.  Although she incorrectly associated it to Iyanla, I'm sure she appreciates that it was my comment and has been a part of what I've been advocating here for all of you.  Hugs Mama O!

Tune into Oprah's Lifeclass everyday on OWN at 8pm Est/7pm Central.  The live class discussion is only on Friday immediately following Lifeclass.  If you don't get OWN locally, you can still watch in on her site at

Friday, October 14, 2011

Radio Appearance Cancelled

Upon further review of radio talk show host Dom Giordano and his style, I have cancelled my appearance on his show.  I have no interest in being part of a show that calls people idiots nearly a half-dozen times within the first 3 minutes of the show.  It's childish behavior that doesn't help our our fellow Americans who have hit hard times move forward to a more positive place.

He has categorized me as a "leader" of the OWS movement and that I have been criticizing him all over the internet.  First, I never claimed to be a "leader" of the OWS movement.  Second, I haven't been criticizing him all over the internet.  I posted one post in response to something he posted.  What's more, he has categorized my letter as me stating that it was intended to say I can't be successful because of the system.  Once again, that was NOT what I said. 

This is the exact reason why I chose not to be on his show today.  He's looking to only use hyperbolic language, contort words, name call and magnify silly one-off situations to categorize an entire group of people.  Dom should try reading through what people are really going through before criticizing them!!

I initially thought he wanted to talk about the fact that I'm trying to be successful by starting my own business and speaking to people across the country about moving past tough times.  I call this Reframe Shame because shame is what many people feel today as a result of the tough economy.

Shame is a learned emotion.  Think about children...they pick their nose in public or say any number of "embarrassing" things for which their parents correct them: the beginnings of the shame.

As adults, we have cultural cues that lead us to certain emotions and judgements.  In particular, this tough economy has created a lot of shame for people, whether they are going through unemployment, rejection, foreclosure, bankruptcy or any number of other situations.  A lot of people are experiencing these events through no fault of their own.  People who have followed the rules all their lives, paid their bills on time and so on and have fallen on tough time.

Unfortunately, shame is a tricky emotion.  Shame makes people close in on themselves; it's isolating and debilitating.  We have people in our country committing suicide because they don't see hope or a way out of this challenging time.   They have worked hard all of their life and played by the rules and now they've hit a very difficult rough patch.  Instead of criticizing them or calling them names like Dom, I'm trying to find a positive approach to getting people to move ahead to find success again.

Oh...and I won't even address his ridiculousness about bankruptcy.  If you want to know more, book me to speak at your next keynote event!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming...

If you've been keeping up with my story, I left off discussing the beginning of the end for my condo.

With my plea for assistance rejected by the bank and the funds in my savings account approaching zero, I had to think of Plan C: What should I now do with my mortgage?  Short-sale?  Foreclosure?  These terms both carry such negative connotations and I've never been accustomed to NOT paying my bills.  The anxiety grew within me.

After researching my options of short-sale, foreclosure or bankruptcy, I decided that my best course of action would be a short sale.  Sure, my perfect credit would take a hit, but I'd be able to get the burden out from under me and I'd help the bank recoup most of the loan.

It was a big surprise that within the first 4 days of putting my place on the market, we had not one, but two offers.  The second buyer knew we had another offer coming in so they even bid ABOVE the listing price!  This was great.  The bank would be thrilled not to lose so much!

Weeks went by and from all indications, everything looked like it would work out fine.  At the last minute, however, the Loss/Mitigation department contacted me to inform me that they were willing to approve the short sale, but would still sue me for the difference.

Huh?  That's not a short sale.  In a short sale, everyone walks away a bit bruised and that meant that the bank was going to lose a bit of their money and so would I, along with my credit.

Now this is where critics of my story lament about how I had a contract with the bank and should pay the bill for which I signed my name.  Normally, I'm all for people paying their bills as promised, but there are times when people just can't.  When the well is dry, there won't be any water to drink.  So if you want to scream at me over and over in the comment section about what a terrible person I am, I've already heard it....and I'm already over it!

But I digress...we'll discuss this topic in more detail in a later post.  Back to the story.

photographer unknown
I told Hope, my friendly (not) Loss/Mitigation Rep, that this was not a short sale.  She laid down the law and I could either accept it or not.  So, I told her no.  I asked her how it made sense from a "mitigating your loss" prospective to now put me in the position to allow the place to go into foreclosure and file for bankruptcy on it.  They had an amazing offer on the table, especially considering the market at the time.  I asked how it made sense on her end to force my next move, foreclosure.  Since I was still unemployed, I would be allowed to continue living there until the foreclosure process was over (typically 15 months).  That meant at least 15 months without a mortgage payment for them, PLUS they would be responsible for property taxes.   What's more is that they would have to price the place WAY below market value as a foreclosed property, thereby losing even more money.  Pretty insane, right?  Remember, they had an amazing offer on the table that only had them losing about $45,000.

Hope then said to me "Well, you don't understand how the system works.  We'll just bundle it with other loans and sell it on the open market, making more money."  I stopped in my tracks!  I was flabbergasted!  I challenged her with "Are you telling me that you continue to use the same toxic practices that put us in this mess in the first place?"  Her response, without any shame was "Yes!"

Once again, if you feel compelled to criticize me for my actions, please re-read the paragraph above.  A financial industry that created this mess by selling toxic loans on the market, thereby creating a huge economic mess around the world, admitted to me that they were continuing these practices, despite the terrible press in the news about it! 

So that's what happened.  I called off the short sale and met with an attorney to begin the foreclosure and bankruptcy process.

Reframe Shame Message Goes "On The Air"

The speed of Social Media has come whizzing by my door so I'm using another post to interrupt my story and tell you about an upcoming event.

I will be on with conservative radio talk show host Dom Giordano, Friday October 14, 2011 at 9:05am (central). 

How did this come about?  Yesterday I received a message from a friend who was furious about photo (see right) she saw going viral on Facebook.  In a nutshell, this is one of many examples from a group calling themselves "The other 53%," a backlash group responding to the recent Occupy Wall Street protesters, who refer to themselves as "The 99%."

Dom posted this on his Facebook page with the comment on "This is the youth we can believe in."

Reading this and other examples from this "53%" group began to make me think about my message of Reframe Shame®.  There are many letters similar to this one calling fellow Americans names like "Lazy" and a "mooch" among others. 

I decided to write my own message and share it with Dom on his Twitter account.  His producer says he liked what I had to say and wants me on the show.  However, after listening to his show today on the topic, I'm a little skeptical about how much he truly "liked" it.  It'll be an interesting discussion.

The font is a little difficult to read, so I will reprint it below:

"I am 34 yrs old & played by the rules all my life. I have worked since the age of 14. I come from a lower-middle class family, obtained a Master’s degree, lived abroad, owned my own MODEST condo, had a $72,000/yr salary, paid my bills on time, had very low credit card debt, a decent savings account and PERFECT credit in the 800s!

Thanks to the FAT CATS on wall street who played casino with the economy and our LAZY, GREEDY politicians, our economy tanked.  I spent 22 months unemployed, blew thru my savings to pay the mortgage.  After that was gone, I had to let it go into foreclosure and eventually file for bankruptcy on it (not CC debt).  My credit is now screwed.  After 22 months, I landed a great job, but due to the continued lousy economy & poor financial management of the greedy heads of the organization, I lost my job again after only 6 short months there.

STOP telling us to quit whining!  Stop telling us we’re lazy!  Stop telling us we should take a minimum wage job!  That’s not why we went to college.  We were told college was our ticket to success & stability.  Instead of calling us names & criticizing us, why not put your patriotism to use & reach out your hand to your fellow American?  Attend a networking event in your area & bring your company’s list of current openings; help someone get an “in” in your company. How about joining JobAngels or another online network to help the unemployed?

Do you really think I (and others) enjoy the $18,000/yr unemployment benefits over my previous $72,000 salary?  Get real!

If you don’t think you’re part of the 99% today, watch out!  You could become one at any moment. Pink slips continue to go out everyday.  YOU could be next!"

Tune in....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today's Reframe: Protests and Working Together

Now that the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken off and is garnering huge media attention, the push back has begun.  In fact, it was announced today that a conservative group is trying to counter the OWS movement with a "We're the 53%" movement.

What's interesting about this and other counter-movements and criticism is that they fail to see that they have more in common with the OWS protestors than they think.  Unfortunately, they are blinded and brainwashed by the typical THIS vs. THAT mentality we have been subjected to over the past few decades.


The prevailing thought is that these OWS protesters are young and liberal.  Because the media reports it that way, the standard response is for conservatives to say the whole thing is hogwash and dismiss it.  This was not dissimilar from the Tea Party movement and how liberals reacted.  Although you may not have liked the ideas coming from the Tea Party, you had to give them credit for taking on the establishment and making themselves heard.

Now, look a little closer at the demographics from ANY news story about the OWS protests and you'll see that participants are of all ages, races and colors.  I've even seen reports that some identify themselves as Tea Partiers, others as liberals and progressives and yet others and Democrats and Republicans.

Nevermind that craziness, however, we have to paint this picture as us vs. them!

It's also become the standard mentality in the US that protesters are "crazy" and "radical."  It wasn't too long ago in our history that people took to the streets the way they do in Europe, Asia and South America.  Remember fighting for Women's Suffrage?  How about more recently with the Civil Rights protests?

Sadly, all that protesting got in the way of other interests of the wealthy, so protesters have been branded with negative connotations ever since.  Group think helps to quell large outbursts like we see in France or other countries where the right to protest is still sacred.    But I digress...

Luckily for America, those participating in the OWS events are from all walks of life.  And THAT is the power of this movement.  The Tea Partiers and Progressives disagree on many topics, but they agree that the greed and excess--both in government and private enterprise--at the expense of the average American has hit a tipping point and they are going to fight against it...together!  Indeed, it'll be a great moment for Democracy if these two groups can work together to make REAL, powerful change.

For those still confused about what "these people" are out there doing, I'd like to break things down very simply.  A lot of cliches and hyperbolic expressions have been thrown out into the discussion; the result is a message that begins to lose its power and meaning.   Here's my simple description of the matter at hand:
  • Business 101 class teaches that the sole responsibilities of a corporation are to make a profit and protect the interests of its shareholders.
  • Government 101 class teaches that our Government is "of the People, by the People, for the People." Our Constitution begins with "We the People..."  Using the word "People" so much seems to make it pretty clear where the focus should be.
Political campaigns are increasingly funded by corporations; Money flows en masse from private enterprise to political leaders.  Given the two bullet statements above, it appears that those elected to political office (ie: Government) now look to protect their interests:  Corporations.  Corporations are the "shareholders" of elected officials.  

Throughout the history of the US, we can find many illustrations of leaders who believed the People matter.  They also believed corporations had their place in our society.  For example, Woodrow Wilson said:
"America was established not to create wealth, but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal:  to discover and maintain liberty among men." (and women, too, of course!)

Theodore Roosevelt said:

"Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth."


I truly believe everyone has an interest in this movement, regardless of political affiliation.  There are so many common interests here for Progressives, Tea Partiers and those in between.   This doesn't need to be another fight, pitting conservatives against liberals.  Nearly everyone agrees things look grim.  If we work together as Americans, everyone will be better for it, especially the USA!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Be a Part of the Solution

Recently I've heard a lot of everyday Americans ponder the question: What can I do to help the unemployed.  There's a good chance that if you're reading this post you are either unemployed or know someone who is.  If you ARE employed and have friends or family members who are unemployed, you likely feel powerless and frustrated seeing your loved ones go through such difficult times.

So, what can you do to help?  I have a few suggestions that do not take a whole lot of effort on your part, but could make a huge impact.

If you live in Chicago, I'd like you to check out the Chicago Career Tech website.  I learned about this organization a few months ago via a WGN news segment.  Being unemployed myself, I contacted them and went through the process.  I'm happy to announce that I've been accepted into their program to earn a certificate in Social Media Marketing! 

The organization offers certification courses (at many city colleges and other accredited institutions) and the chance to work hands-on with a company in the target field to prepare to re-enter the job market with improved, updated skills.  What an opportunity! 

So what can you do?  Well, while you may not be a decision-maker at your organization, you CAN pass this site along to your manager or HR department and encourage them to become a partner with CCT.  It's an amazing and positive PR opportunity for your company to be one of the few being a part of the solution to our terrible unemployment situation in our country!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Today's Reframe: Image Issues

Today I am taking a break from recounting my Recession story to share something I saw that is linked directly to my central message about Reframing Shame.  As I alluded to in my last post, my goal is to help people reshape the way they look at things, particularly shame.  Cultural norms and cues shape how we react to everything, but they are often boiled down to simple black and white judgements, often negative.  We need to get past the noise and negative judgements to find a positive, healthy mindset for ourselves.

This is a great example of someone who has taken a cultural cue about who we "should" be and, because she didn't fit that mold, decided to reframe the message.  I love it!  Kudos to her!


A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was "This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

"Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defends and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I'd rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn't enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: "How amazing am I ?! "

By:  Delphine Fieberg
(The girl on the picture is French model Tara Lynn)