Friday, June 8, 2012

A Missed Opportunity for Obama

Today President Obama spoke about the economy.  He spoke about the troubles in Europe and their potential impact on the US economy.  He tried to counter the Republican line that his administration's policies have caused many of the problems in Europe.

During this speech, he stated that "the private sector is doing fine."  Within minutes, this comments spread like wildfire throughout the internet and conservative news outlets.  Mitt Romney has called the President "out of touch"and somehow tried to spin this to show that because there is still unemployment, the private sector is NOT doing fine.

Sadly, the President chose to walk back his comments rather than go head to head with Romney on this issue.  From the beginning, this election has been about the health of the economy, which stems from the irresponsible actions of the financiers on Wall Street.  This was a fantastic opportunity for the President to point out that, in fact, the private sector IS doing fine.  Have you seen the profit reports over the past 18 months?  Have you seen the DOW and NASDAQ numbers?  These indicies are higher than they were prior to the crash in 2008, yet unemployment remains high.  So, how is that the fault of Obama's policies? It sounds to me that the blame lays square with corporations, who are sitting on more liquid cash than ever.  Uncertainty is their excuse, but a pathetic excuse it is.

"Time is money" and "You have to spend money to make money" are some of the timeless cliches used in our capitalist system and every day wasted is an lost opportunity.  So you can't tell me that a bunch of successful business folks are just sitting on this money, wasting the chance to make even more money for a few percentage points in interest or their personal wealth (Bush tax cuts).  More investment happened when interest rates were higher and they did just fine, so why is it such an issue now?

The President needs to call out this ridiculous argument for what it is: an excuse for conservatives to say Willard is a better choice.  Indeed, it might be a better choice for the wealthy, but they are trying to manipulate the average Joe and Jane to believe they will somehow be better off under a Willard (Mitt) Romney reign.  Nothing but the opposite could be true and we only need to look at the Bush years to illustrate it.  

The President needs to stand up and be more firm; Democrats need to stop allowing this type of control over the discussion.  It continues to be the theme and continues to make liberals like me believe that the Democratic party is made up of a bunch of spineless goons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We've All Got an Itch to Scratch

Today, President Obama has unveiled a plan calling for the elimination of corporate tax loopholes and tax cuts.  Clearly this is a savvy political move before the election, especially considering many of his possible opponents are advocating similar reductions.

Although we've now experienced two consecutive months of employment gains--a reduction in new unemployment claims--this should not mean we should take our eye off of the problem of unemployment.  Despite a decrease in new claims, we need to ask for statistics about those who are no longer being counted; those who have exhausted their 99 weeks of UI benefits and are no longer a part of official numbers should still be of grave concern for the well being of our nation. We may be officially hovering around 8.5%, but the number is likely much higher.  Millions of Americans are still trying to figure out how to feed themselves; every day they don't work is another day further from landing employment and the longer one is unemployed, the less likely an employer will be to hire that individual.

What are we going to do to turn around this crisis?  In my previous post, I advocated for hiring managers to  take a chance on the unemployed; I even challenged the President to renew the tax cuts he once gave to employers for hiring an individual unemployed longer than eight months.

The Dow is flirting with 13,000, higher than before the Great Recession and clearly much higher than during the Clinton years of prosperity.  Admittedly, I'm not an economist, but as an average guy on Main Street, I have to wonder how the Dow is doing so well but millions of people like me are not.

It's time to play hardball (and not with Chris Matthews); a good old game of "I'll scratch your back, if you scratch mine."  Instead of simply cutting corporate tax rates for good Presidential PR during an election year, we should be calling for a more comprehensive plan.  If we, the tax payers, are going to scratch the back of corporations by taking on more of the burden they will NOT be paying, they need to scratch ours.

An illustration:  Company ABC will receive a tax credit for every long-term unemployed American hired.  Once the company hires more than X number (predetermined number which can be a fixed number, say 10 or scaled to the size of the business) of the long-term unemployed, they will automatically receive a reduction in their effective rate, dropping it to 25% (the rate being floated as acceptable).

Of course, we would require some sort of mechanism to avoid game players who want to hire and fire, just to reap the benefit of a tax cut.

Let's face it, in many ways, this is much ado about nothing. There are myriad of reports about the number of corporations who are skirting all tax liabilities anyway.  That said, tax cuts are not just a gift that is given because you clamor loud enough and threaten votes. There are roads to upkeep (that facilitate the transport business goods), bridges to maintain, disabled veterans to support and many other necessities to which we, as a country, must contribute to in order to maintain prosperity.  We'll all in this together!

This plan is comprehensive and one from which everyone benefits:  The President gets points with voters for implementing a jobs creation program; the President also garners points with the business community for finding ways to cut taxes; Congress gets points for working together to help both Wall Street and Main Street; Americans win by getting back to work; Business wins by obtaining tax cuts and consumers who will begin spending again.

Cross posted from The HuffPo

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Unemployment Humor

I'm not sure where this came from, but a friend sent it to me and I thought it was humorous.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Take a Chance on the Unemployed

The results of a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll were just released and they are surprising to read.  Americans appear to have mixed thoughts about helping their fellow Americans. For a country that prides itself on its generosity, this survey may indicate how secretly selfish we may be.  If a discussion is to continue about the future of a social safety net, there must also be a discussion about what to do with those utilizing that safety net.  It’s time to talk about hiring the unemployed.

Let’s face it; hiring any new employee is always risky.  A candidate can tell you anything she wants as to why she is leaving her current organization (no room for growth, seeking more challenging work, etc.) in an effort to shed the best light on herself.  That’s obvious.  Yet, for all you know, her boss was on the verge of firing her for a consistent lack of productivity.  Although your organization tries to establish a process to mitigate hiring risks, it’s never a perfect formula and your process may likely never uncover that she was a poor performer, but you’ll hire her anyway because of her eager attitude and impressive titles.

If the circular file is not an official part of the selection process for unemployed resumes, being unemployed surely holds a negative bias in our collective brains.  It is often equated to being lazy, lacking drive or having a preference to ‘mooch’ off the system.  These are just a few characterizations and judging by the reaction of the audience at Republican debates in response to jabs by the candidates at the unemployed, many 
Americans agree with them. 

It’s time to throw out the stereotypes!

Today’s “unemployed generation” is NOT lazy.  It’s frustrating to hear those who talk about a friend of a friend who once “loved being unemployed for 8 months.” I don’t love it and reading stories like these lead me to believe there are millions of others who don’t either.  I, like the millions of others, have gone from a credit score in the 800s to complete ruin through bankruptcy and foreclosure.  We have applied to the online ads, attended the networking events, used social media and crafted multiple iterations of our resume based on each new blogger’s opinion.  There are even those of us attempting to gain additional skills.  We’re eager and ready to get back to work.

I can attest first-hand to the determination of the unemployed as a participant in the Chicago Career Tech program—a retraining program that includes both classroom training and hands-on learning experience, initiated by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and supported by the business and non-profit communities of Chicago.  My colleagues in this program are just like me and we all hang our hopes to  this program to give us the valuable skills needed to meet the demand of today’s workforce.

At first we were encouraged by the words of Shelley Stern, Citizenship Director for the Microsoft Corporation and Chair of the CCT Board of Directors, who recounted how CCT was born out of a realization by the business community that many jobs, including at Microsoft, were going unfilled over the past few years, despite high unemployment.  This was not due to a lack of labor, clearly, but rather a lack of necessary skills on the part of that unemployed labor.  This program seeks to supplement the already valuable skills possessed by the unemployed for high-demand industries.

Despite the efforts of CCT and our new skills obtained, we continue to find it difficult to land a position.  The rejection continues for a lot of previous participants and despair is setting in.  We ARE trying and we ARE being interviewed, but we continue to be told that we do not have enough or the “right” experience.
Instead of a discussion about removing or reducing the social safety net, thereby creating a deeper problem, let’s talk about how we all can help Americans get back to work.

Here are my challenges:  First, I challenge the President and Congress to re-enact the tax cuts to businesses for hiring the unemployed. Although we are no longer in an official Recession, there are millions of Americans who have been unemployed longer than 8 months.  That’s an awfully long time to go without work when there are bills to pay and mouths to feed.  This may help alleviate long-term joblessness.  If it doesn’t, businesses can no longer complain that they pay too much in taxes, if they pay them at all.

Next, I challenge the Republican nominees to do more than talk.  They are out there each day shaking hands with the unemployed.  Has one of them offered to put them in contact with their influential friends who are likely to be hiring managers with open positions?  If they want us to vote for them and believe they are the one to get the country back to work, start showing us you have experience doing it.

Third, I challenge business owners, HR managers, hiring managers and decision-makers to re-think the old notion that someone who has been unemployed is lazy or unproductive.  Take the risk; you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!

Finally, I challenge all Americans to help their fellow unemployed American.  Patriotism isn’t just putting up a flag on holidays and singing the National Anthem at sporting events. Patriotism is also supporting your fellow citizen.  .  FDR wrote: "In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people. "

President George W. Bush was criticized for not asking Americans to participate in the “war effort.”  So here’s how you can participate in the “unemployment effort:” Check your company’s website to find out what positions are available.  Post them to Facebook or Twitter (use #jobs, for example).  Forward replies to your HR department. This is just one of many examples easily implemented and that helps move us all forward together.
Help a person, help a family, help the country; gamble on the Unemployed!

Visit Del's website for more information about Reframe Shame.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

National Mortgage Settlement Already a #Fail

Attorneys General across the country held press conferences this morning to boast their 'victory' against the banks, having come to a settlement called the National Mortgage Settlement.  If you haven't heard, it is an agreement by the 5 big mortgage loan servicers--JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Ally/GMAC--and the government, which requires the former to pay damages for practices that violated the law and caused the housing bubble burst.  You can find out more information here.

Only hours into the announcement and it appears to be another complete failure, much like the Making Homes Affordable Program from 2009.  I've contacted Chase, as outlined by the NMS website, on three occasions today and none of their representatives have any idea what I'm referring to or what to do.  They are giving me information about my foreclosed property that has nothing to do with the NMS process.  One referred me to their lawyer's office, who also has ZERO clue about this settlement.

So what's going on here?  It looks like another complete failure by both government and the banks.  We always hear the business community tell us that capitalism works and is so great because private industry can do things better and more efficiently than government.  Oh yeah?  Then why is the government making an announcement about an agreement 5 private banks made and yet the banks have no clue about it?  I've worked in a call center before; I've even worked for a banking call center.  When big news is being released, the call center is notified a day or two ahead of time in order to prepare for possible questions and responses.  That would be an efficient business model in my opinion.

It's beginning to look like another case of the run-around, whereby the government gets positive PR out of the housing crisis by appearing 'tough' against the banks.  The banks get positive press out of it because they 'settled' as opposed to getting dragged into court and 'forced' to pay out for their violations of the law.  Good PR for everyone, but empty promises for the average consumer.

It's only day one, but this is already sounding a lot like my experience with the Making Homes Affordable Program, which we all know was a failure!

As a post script, before you comment on this blog about people shouldn't own homes if they can't afford it--like this guy--go back and read my story.  I bought the place with a very well paid job and a lot of money in savings in addition to perfect, pristine credit (in the 800s).  The reason I could no longer afford my mortgage was NOT a result of overextending myself, it was a result of a collapsed economy that prevented me from finding work.  This was also the case for millions of others in America.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What IS Reframe Shame?

Recently, many people have asked me "What exactly IS Reframe Shame?"  I thought it might be a great opportunity to write a blog about it.

Reframe Shame was born out of several ideas that all came together at the same time; it was a perfect storm of sorts.  My last position lasted a mere 6 months.  The organization apparently hired me without fully looking into their financial situation or without a clear view of where things were headed.  I was a part of a dozen or so lay-offs.  During my time there, however, I had the opportunity to work with public speakers.  When I heard many of the motivational and inspirational speakers and their messages, I wondered why I hadn't thought about doing this sooner.

Throughout the 22 months of my first unemployment stint, I was told over and over by people that I should write a book.  I lost my job, my condo to foreclosure and my perfect credit rating to the resulting bankruptcy.  But, I didn't think anyone would really care about what I had to say; my story was one of millions, literally!

Then, however, I began to realize that many people were not taking the same approach to unemployment--and the falling dominos that come with it like foreclosure and bankruptcy--as I had.  When I read these stories, I was both saddened and angered at how our collective, societal mentality drives some people to literally kill themselves.

I began talking to people, both in the speaking industry and elsewhere.  People said I had a story to tell.  I saw that I helped people come out of the woodwork.  Once, I spoke about my plight at a lunch table at a networking function.  Everyone politely listened to me and nodded.  A week later, one of the individuals at the table approached me privately at another event to ask for advice on filing for bankruptcy herself.

You see, she was in the exact situation as me, but was wrought with shame about it.

As the idea developed, I eventually realized that my life has been spent helping people overcome shame.  I have always talked to my friends about things like divorce, coming out to family and a whole host of other events that we can often only see in a negative light and didn't speak in cliches.  My perspective wasn't just the canned jargon we often use for certain situations.

So in a nutshell, Reframe Shame is about overcoming anything in life that shames us.  Often, these events are beyond our control, but often our collective mentality places certain judgments.

I've overcome the shame of long-term unemployment and all its ill-effects.  I want to help others overcome what prevents them from moving forward in life and finding success and happiness!

Contact me for more information about speaking at your event.  It would be such a pleasure.

WGN report on Hope for the Unemployed

In case you missed tonight's special report on the unemployed and how programs like CCT are available, you can view it here.  Feel free to let me know what you thought of it or if you have any questions about CCT or my "mad skillz" in Social Media Marketing, SEO and SEM.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hope for the Long-Term Unemployed on WGN

WGN asked a question in September 2011 on their Facebook page about the fallout of long-term unemployment.  Did they experience foreclosure, bankruptcy and other less desirable life events?  I responded!  Since then I have been working with an excellent producer to tell the story of the long-term unemployed.  We didn't, however, just want to tell a story about being unemployed; we wanted to tell a story about how, despite all of the adversity, the long-term unemployed are chugging along and trying to become productive, tax paying citizens once again.  The numbers are still against us; when there are millions of people unemployed and only hundreds of thousands of jobs created, there will inevitably be a deficit.

Many of the unemployed are left wondering what to do.  Retraining may be a viable option, especially if you are being retrained in high growth areas.  If you're unemployed, however, you may not have the cash to pay to retrain.  More and more programs are popping up around the country to help.  One such program, of which I am a member and will be highlighted during the segment, is Chicago Career Tech, a job retraining program initiated by Mayor Richard M. Daley and the business community. 

Check out the story during the WGN news at 9pm on Thursday February 2nd and again during various news broadcasts on Friday the 3rd. 

Unemployed?  What have you been doing to get through it?  Were you long-term unemployed (longer than 8 months) and landed something?  What worked for you?  Share it with us all in the comment section below.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Newt: Less Talk, More Action, Please!

Newt Gingrich recently affirmed that he would continue to fight to get people back to work.  At a recent debate in South Carolina, he even stated that he was going to help people "get a job, to get a better job and learn someday to own the job!"  That sounds amazing!  What a promise!  Unfortunately, much of the promise is typically preceded by contempt for the unemployed.  In fact, he sounded only slightly less contemptuous than the last time, which prompted my previous challenge to him.

Newt should know better than everyone that 80% of jobs are not found on the internet or newspaper ads; they are found by networking.  The old adage about "It's all about who you know" is repeated over and over in job search articles, by career coaches and anyone giving advice to the unemployed on the internet. 

So, I once again challenge Newt to put his words into action.  What, specifically, is Newt going to do to get people back to work? 

I'm sure Newt has been shaking a lot of hands while on the trail.  Has he done anything else to take it to the next level?  Does he actually LISTEN to any of those with whom he shakes hands?  Has he connected an unemployed supporter with an employed friend?  Recent data shows that there are many companies out there not able to fill positions.  Newt certainly has friends in hiring positions or business owners that could help the unemployed. 

The bottom line is that he won't.  And his rhetoric is great for applause, but fails to recognize simple math and facts. 

Fact #1:  There are more unemployed people than there are open positions.  If there are 8 million people unemployed and only 200,000 jobs were created last quarter, that means 7.8 million people would NOT find a job.  It's like having 5 pairs of shoes  for 10 people; 5 people will NOT be wearing shoes. 

Fact #2:  This is not an Obama problem, this is a business community problem.  The Republicans are complaining that taxes are too high and therefore there is no money to hire.  First, that's not true because the Dow is now about 12,000, higher than ever under Bush 2.  Businesses are reported to have a LOT of cash-on-hand. 

Second, the tax rates in place were fought for under Bush as a way to improve the tax structure for businesses.  Obama has kept those rates in place.  How, now, is that not good enough to hire people?  They were good enough rates under Bush, but no longer any good under Obama?  Sounds like politiking to me.  It appears the business community is PURPOSEFULLY holding back on hiring in an effort to smear the Democrats and the Obama administration.

Newt, if you're genuine and serious about getting people back to work, then start showing it.  Maybe you will garner more votes by showing the voters your hands-on approach to helping the unemployed land suitable jobs.  If you're not genuine, I'll just keep calling you out on it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Upcoming Discussion about Jobs After the State of the Union Address

You are invited to join a viewing of the State of the Union Address on Tuesday Jan 24, 2012 at Next Door Chicago at 8pm.

Following the speech, Next Door is hosting a round table discussion with individuals from different political views, including the Young Republicans of Illinois.   I have been asked to participate in this discussion since it will involve conversations about jobs, the unemployed, unemployment benefits and much more!

I hope you'll come join the discussion.

For more information on time and location, visit Next Door's website

The Frustrations of the Unemployed

Happy New Year everyone.  Sorry I've been on a bit of a hiatus.  If you're unemployed, you understand the ups and downs of emotions.  Frankly, I just haven't had it in me to post.

Now, however, the new year is already bringing new hope and possibilities and I'm very excited about what the future holds.

Today, however, I wanted to take a peek at an article I saw on LinkedIn.  Initially, it caught my eye because the author said he wanted to be "raw" and "honest."  I couldn't help but agree with him that most articles about "how to get a job" have become rather cliche.  Unfortunately, Mr. Balmer's attempt did not improve much on what's already out there.  In fact, he was a bit brash in his tone.

View the full article here

More interesting than Mr. Balmer's advice, however, were the comments in the comment section, particularly the first comment by 'timgray."  Tim does an amazing job of pointing out the absolute craziness with the interview/job search process.  Employers are dictating all of the advice on how perfect a candidate should be while falling far short of perfection themselves.  I can't tell you the number of times I've scratched my head in confusion by the 'laws' that govern the job search and the reality of people and society.

In addition to Tim's suggestions, I've always been frustrated--as a Language major--at the articles written about attention to spelling and syntax in resumes yet find countless examples of error-filled job requisitions. 

How about the places that specifically state the position is an entry level position, yet requires 2-3 years of experience? 

We also constantly hear that employers want to see we are "go-getters" and "ambitious" but "No phone calls or emails please" to show that ambition to them and stand out among the thousands of resumes.

And what's with the cover letter requirements only to have a phone screener asking me the basics of what was in my cover letter?

Most importantly: my name.  If I wrote you a letter asking for a job and misspelled your name that was clearly written in the job requisition, would you throw out my resume?  Conventional wisdom says yes, because we weren't "paying attention to detail."  But, where is the respect when writing back to me and spelling my name correctly?  My name was clearly in the cover letter, in bold and large font at the top of my resume, in my email and as part of my email address.  I know you're busy folks in HR, but does it take that long to simply verify that you spelled my name correctly?

Mr. Balmer has some valid points, but his words can also be viewed as rather "picky."  It's no wonder that there are A LOT of jobs unfilled while millions who want to work remain without jobs and we continue to hover around an unemployment rate of 8.5%.

I recently heard on a major network that 2012 will be the year that employers hire more to train more.  Employers are going to help close the skills gap.  Removing some of those overly "picky" qualifications will help their process. 

Here's to a better 2012 for you all out there!