Perhaps it’s who I am.  I see someone’s blog, (whom I read weekly and love,) putting down government employees with one single sentence and my nose burns, my ears start flaming and my heart sinks:

“If anyone had any doubt that most government-run jobs agencies (including unemployment offices) have no idea what they’re doing, here’s confirmation.”

Here’s the synopsis: (read the full article here.)  Some government agency green-lighted over $73k to make superhero capes for those unemployed.  Someone finally realized the huge mismanagement of the funds and said, “stop.”  They stopped.  Now the press and some snarky bloggers have taken this as another reason to bash government workforce agencies.  Because I proudly worked for the State of Minnesota and helped facilitate and author their job search curriculum, I’m a little perplexed anytime someone spews hatred about those that work long, thankless hours at less pay.  If there was a cool club, where we were able to be lazy, overpaid.. well, I wasn’t invited and neither were my coworkers.

Part of my duties were facilitating workshops, creating materials and spreading the word.  The other parts, that often yielded even better results were one-on-one meetings with those on welfare or state aid.  We tried the program with 10 participants originally.  All met with me on-time, and had interviews lined up within a month. As one participant told me, “I just needed someone to see I was something.”  It changed my entire perspective on government and those receiving government aid.  It changed my perspective on the human race.  But what do I know? I just write books and crap.

Fast forward to today, when I read the article and the snarky response by a blogger I normally rave about.  I felt the urge to reply, but only to state that, it’s true: $73k was overspent.  But those capes, weren’t necessarily a bad idea.  Job seekers often forget their worth, accomplishments and ‘superhero’ factors.  Those who are chronically un-employed or under-employed are treated much different, and NEED to be treated different than the average person out of work.  The average person out of work at a $50k or higher job needed little coaxing.  Usually higher-level job seekers respond well to reminders to network, resume suggestions and ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas.  Older job seekers, or those chronically unemployed or under-employed often hold hidden personality and self-esteem issues, larger than the occasionally-unemployed job seeker. (Which isn’t to say the occasional job seeker doesn’t need encouragement and inspiration after a devastating loss.)

So, was I really out of line for actually suggesting a paper cape with a website tie-in, (connecting to how job seekers can find their super-hero skills,) would be that far out of line?  For Minnesota, we wrote an entire chapter on ‘overcoming loss’ and finding ‘yourself’ after a job loss in the award-winning, “Creative Job Search,” book.  Spending money on real capes, (as I stated,) was insane. (Someone pointed out that desperate, depressed people might try to KILL themselves with those capes.) … and that’s when I walked away from the computer.

Apparently, the idea that ANY government agency would hand out capes, (paper or otherwise,) is utterly condescending.  And boy, did I really start a flame war by speaking, (all kumbaya-like,) about the absolute NEED to help job seekers realize and re-establish their credibility in themselves.  I apparently needed a cape to hang, myself.

What Color Is Your Parachute? Who moved my Cheese? …. All these inspirational books, (and more,) should be tossed out of the window of ANY government job search agency. (How condescending!)  We’re not mice!  We’re not people who jump out of flying contraptions? We’re accountants and CEO’s and Welders and Administrative Assistants!   And, just telling job seekers, “get back to work!” is working, so well, right now.

It’s not because I believe in positivity,  it’s because I looked into the eyes of those who sat in classes, (and still do at the ones I teach across the nation,) and their eyes tell me, “I am lost.”  A friend of mine recently wrote a manuscript on the premises of finding your inner superhero.  I read an advanced copy and loved it.  Why?  Because even sometimes, in the middle of my day, I’m too focused on tasks and less focused on the bigger picture.  Should job seekers wear the cape to an interview? Nope.  But the first thing I do when I teach a class is to have them write down three, questions that answer:

1.) Who AM I?

2.) What Am I Passionate About?

3.) What Am I Living Out-Loud?

No one ever said their answers or the questions felt condescending.  Sure, those few minutes could be spent on “RESUMES!” or “COVER LETTERS!” But the point is: If a job seeker doesn’t feel worth ANY position, the state will be paying benefits longer and more throughout the person’s lifetime than someone who is offered the opportunity to be built up, instead of made to feel like one in a mass of the unemployed.

Would a mass mailing of capes have solved the unemployment problem in Florida? Heck no.  Would it have been criticized even if the capes were paper? (Sure.)  Would it be important to reach out to job seekers and remind them that they CAN do it, to drop into their local Workforce Centers for help and enroll for classes? Absolutely. States receive and dictate their funding often by need.  For the State of MN Workforce Center System, it was important they met the numbers and projections to receive more income.  Those numbers directly aligned to people in seats and programs.  The State was ALWAYS looking at new ways to draw people in to use the free resources it offered.

One afternoon, I sat in my chair waiting for my next appointment and someone walked in, with a bundle of papers in her hand.  She was in my office for over 2 hours.  When I walked her to the front, we were both crying.  She had been living in her car, signed up for classes and had been doing all the right steps, but this was the first time anyone asked her, “How are you doing, REALLY?”  She broke down for a half-hour and we were able to locate other services for her.  Know what might have been great on a small flyer, with a superhero cape printed on it?  How are you, REALLY?

The emotional and mental states of our communities job seekers affect us not only as a community, but financially as well.

Florida state, after acknowledging they needed to withdraw their campaign, said this:

“Workforce Central Florida has listened to the public, and will be withdrawing our admittedly out-of-the-box creative campaign, ‘Cape-A-Bility Challenge’ later today,” Board Chairman Owen Wentworth said in a statement obtained by the Sentinel. “Even though it seemed to offend some, it was the farthest thing from our intention, which was to introduce our programs and services to job seekers and employers who need them.”

It makes you wonder, although it wasn’t the best way to utilize funding, their heart was in the right place.  I’m not sure the government would win at anything it tries to do.  Because it’s certainly losing the battle with even trying when the message is diluted in the atmosphere.

When we tear people down, instead of build them up, or we forget to acknowledge that there’s a barrier and reason that they are unable to discover their strengths, we might as well have fired them again and again.  Is it the State’s job to empower it’s public after corporations devalue them?  Only if they want to have a thriving and healthy community, again.  Otherwise, you have the attack that’s going on over here.  I’m not ashamed I said it, because someone had to.