Why You (or Your Spouse, Kid, or Friend) Can’t Find a Job

Let me just start by saying – just so you know that this post isn’t uninformed rantings from an annoyed citizen – that a large part of my job is advocating for business owners when it comes to topics like Human Resource Management, policies and procedures, and leadership coaching. I truly have a passion for helping local businesses succeed, and understand what is required to make it happen. That being said, I also have a passion for using that knowledge to help individuals searching for employment better position themselves as viable candidates for hire. For years I’ve offered a free resume review to anyone who is interested, and have used my skills learned from both sides of the hiring desk to help friends and family members catch the attention from hiring managers and score interviews (I used to offer a free resume-writing service, but discovered that so much of the time was wasted on people who didn’t really have the desire to pursue the type of job we wrote the resume for; I still love writing resumes, but now charge a nominal fee for the service). But enough about me. This is about you.

I see so many people who are searching for jobs. Not even for the perfect job, just one that can pay the bills. And time and again, I see those people failing to find work, making the same mistakes, with no idea as to why they aren’t receiving calls for interviews or job offers. So I just wanted to share a few observances…likely reasons as to why you aren’t able to find a job.

1. Your Expectations are Unrealistic

I was browsing a Facebook buy/sell/trade group last week, and saw this: “Looking for a job. Must pay at least $20/hr plus benefits.” Nothing else. I figured it was a joke at first, the guy was actually serious. A few people made comments asking if he had any credentials – experience, education, etc. He replied that he didn’t have any higher education, and that his experience was in fast food and cashiering. While it’s admirable that someone would want to move up from those types of positions to a sustainable income level, you don’t get those jobs just by asking. He wasn’t particularly receptive to the comments advising him of this fact, and became angry at the suggestion that he wasn’t going to find what he was looking for. Some people are just a special kind of stupid.

Here’s the thing – it’s not impossible to make the big bucks without a degree. In fact, there are several billionaires who never finished college. You may have heard of a few of them…Dell, Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg. If not, you at least know their companies, and likely have contributed to their annual revenue this year. A college degree was not required to obtain their net worth – but what was required was innovation, dedication, hard work…I could go on. They didn’t just wake up one morning and roll over into a pile of cash, nor did they sit around and ask people to give them anything they didn’t work for (Silicon Valley politics aside). These aren’t the only examples I can think of. There are many hard-working individuals – blue collar workers, even – who do well for themselves without an education. Sure, they have to work harder for the money they earn, but they have the drive to do so.

“Well, I’m motivated… I have bills to pay and a family to feed. I’m not looking for a handout. Why can’t I find a job?” True, there are many people who do fall into this category – they aren’t expecting something for nothing. However, their expectations may be too high in other ways. Consider this type of job search posting: “I work M-F, but need extra income, so I’m looking for a job on Saturdays that I can take my child to work with me.” This person is obviously a hard-worker, already working five days a week and willing to work six. But they’re looking for something that’s going to be very difficult to find – a job that only requires the employee one day and allows that employee to bring a distraction with them. From a business perspective, it’s not realistic. Personally, I think this person would be better off looking for another parent or two who needs child care on that one day and offering an in-house daycare type of service to earn the extra income, but that’s just one opinion.

The other expectation I see often blown out of proportion is the career-changer. They have a degree in subject A, fifteen years of work experience in that field, but want (or are forced to make) a change to a different field. They have no education in subject B, or experience in this field… but they’re expecting to receive the same type of pay they are used to. I’m sorry, but your marketing career doesn’t necessarily translate into your desire to be a paralegal. Adjust your expectations and proceed.

 2. Your Resume Sucks

Speaking of marketing, let’s talk about a different kind… marketing yourself. That’s what a resume is. It’s a marketing document designed to allow a potential employer to see you as a good fit for the role they’re looking to fill. It is NOT:

* A comprehensive list of every job you’ve ever done

* A summary of your pending autobiography

* A form letter to blast out to every company with a job posting

* A forum to begin your creative writing endeavors

* A place to state the obvious

Let’s take each bullet one at a time. First, whoever told you that you need to list every job you’ve ever done – including the two months you worked at a fast food restaurant your junior summer in high school – is wrong. A resume needs to show your relevant work experience. Now, if you have less than 10 years of experience, or if you have gaps in your resume where you switched careers temporarily, for whatever reason (and be ready to explain that reason in an interview, btw), then yes, you should list those jobs to show that you weren’t just unemployed during that period of time. On an application you’ll likely have to list them chronologically, but on your resume you can have a section for “Other Experience” that includes the one or two jobs that may not be essential experience for the job you’re applying for. By no means am I saying you should have a ‘functional resume’ – which typically doesn’t include dates and groups jobs by skill – because smart hiring managers see that as an attempt to cover up a spotty job history, but you can strategically place these jobs to highlight more relevant experience. If you have jobs that were very short lived (think less than three months) and aren’t even close to your career goals, it may be wiser to leave them off your resume, situation dependent.

Another formatting mistake can affect the readability of your resume. Trust me, I love writing as much as the next blogger, but when it comes to resume editing clear, concise, strategic bullet points are your friend. Detailed paragraphs describing every function of the job you held are difficult to read, and the ten seconds a live person will be initially scanning for keywords is wasted in an ocean of text. Try and keep your bullet points leaning in the direction of highlighting your accomplishments in the position you’ve listed. If a hiring manager wanted to know what the job description is, they could look it up. Tell them what you did, not what you were supposed to be doing. Avoid phrases like “responsible for” and “duties included.” We’ll bring this topic back up in a minute, but also keep in mind that this includes trimming down sections like “Education.” If you’re out of college, take off the lines about your high school (including extracurricular activities). If you’re three to five years out of college and have held down a professional position for a few years, take off your sorority volunteer work, unless it’s super relevant. Also, at this point in your career (and for every job you apply to later), keep your Education section at the bottom of your resume. Your work relevant work experience is what matters to most employers – even if you went to an Ivy League school. I still cringe remembering a resume I viewed while working in retail – it was four pages long, and the first one and a half was detailing the young lady’s achievements at the college she attended. My manager had to flip halfway through the resume to find any relevant work experience before he tossed it into the ‘no’ pile. Don’t make this mistake.

The third bullet addresses the resume content, more than the format. You should have a resume that is tailored to each job description. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to rewrite your resume every time, but different job postings ask for different skills. This is especially important for job seekers who don’t have a definite career goal in mind. This isn’t the place where I tell you to make a decision about the direction your life is going – I get it, sometimes you just need a job. But if you are applying for every position under the sun that you qualify for (please, don’t waste your time on positions that you don’t meet at least 75% of the criteria) then you need to at least have a stock resume for each industry in which you’re applying. Beyond that, I like to suggest that in lieu of an objective statement, job seekers have a “Qualifications” section at the top of their resume listing a summary skills they have that the job posting specifically asks for. This makes it easy to go back and quickly update your resume for each post. Oh, and please, for the love of Starbucks, make sure you change the file name when you create a resume version update. Nothing’s worse than to upload a file for CompanyB that’s entitled “John Doe – Resume – Company A,” or almost worse, “John Doe – Generic Resume.” By the way, the same advice applies to cover letters, although you should really try and write a new one for each company you apply to. They sound more genuine that way.

As a side note on that topic, one of the most common cliche phrases is “detail oriented.” Seriously, listing this ‘skill’ is going to invoke Murphy’s Law. One of the funniest (for a hiring manager) mistakes on a resume is someone who says they’re ‘detail oriented,’ and then makes a grammar, formatting, or spelling mistake. Just leave it off.

The fourth bullet point is directed toward those of you who wished their resume was just a little bit better…and might get a little creative to make it happen. You worked at that job for three weeks? Two months sounds better. Your title was “Receptionist”… but maybe Executive Assistant is more likely catch their attention. You supervised an intern? That’s  managing a team, right? Wrong. There are many ways to make your resume sound better…lying is not the most effective one. Your potential employer will find out. It may be while they’re checking references, it may be on a background check. It may be eight years later, like the scenario in this article about a Walmart employee who omitted the fact that he was a few credits short of the degree he was alleged to have obtained. You may be able to get away with it for even longer than that – but eventually, the truth will come out. Why is lying on a resume such a job-seeker-sin? Because it calls into question your integrity, compromises your reputation, and makes employers question your judgment. Don’t. Just don’t.

Lastly (actually, I could go on, but we’ll stop here for now), one of the biggest wastes of space on a resume occurs when job seekers state the obvious. I’ve seen so many resumes where the applicant thinks that things like “punctual,” “manages time well,” “can answer a multi-line phone,” “great communication skills,” etc., will get them an interview. First of all, being punctual and managing your time while at work are qualifications any professional should possess, and are therefore pointless on a resume. Well-written resumes help you stand out from a crowd of applicants. If you have to say that the reason you stand out is that you show up for work on time, you need to reevaluate your job skills. On that note, including bullet points for commonly used software is another “duh” you shouldn’t need to include, unless the job posting specifically requests it. Think, ‘advanced Excel experience, including pivot tables, etc.” That’s acceptable. Saying you know how to operate Microsoft Word and Outlook really aren’t going to help you stand out. Unless it’s on the job description as a requirement, leave it off your resume. Save the room for more relevant and eye-catching experience.


3. You Aren’t Actually Searching…

…for yourself, that is. Yeah, maybe you’ve filled out a few applications, but you’re relying on (or allowing this to happen at any rate) other people to conduct your job search for you. You’re expecting that friend who works for that company to put in a good word for you and move your resume to the top of the figurative pile. You’re letting your mother, spouse, or friend who happens to live in the town your’re moving to to ask around or send out a social media request on your behalf looking for available jobs. While it’s all fine and good to network within your legitimate contacts when job searching (and actually, that’s one of the best places for it) you should not – EVER – allow anyone else to head up your job search. This particularly applies to well-meaning family members. Moms, I know you just want to help your teenager find a summer job, but please, let them do it themselves. That is the best age to learn the right way to search for a job, and they can’t learn if you’re doing it for them. Spouses, same thing – I know you want to be supportive, but allow your significant other to be the grown up they are and conduct their own job search. A manager won’t discuss work or disciplinary issues with anyone outside of the company, so why do you think they’ll respond well to someone other than their future employees handling a job search? Why not? Because…

4. You’re Unprofessional

Not being able to conduct your own job search is the first sign that you aren’t a professional. Businesses want to hire professionals. I don’t mean that in the sense that every applicant has to have a degree and ten years of experience – I mean that every applicant should be able to conduct themselves in a professional manner. This means showing up for your interview on time (not thirty minutes early – the interviewer is likely busy and will feel uncomfortable making you wait), wearing clean, modest clothing that fits in with what you know the dress code is at the location of business (how do you know this? ask!), and sending a thank you note after the interview. How do unprofessional people conduct their job searches? By walking business to business with a stack of resumes while wearing flip flops and a tank top asking if there are any openings (personal experience – her jeans even had holes in them *twitch*). Even mores so by walking around with a group of friends to apply – even at retail or restaurant locations. By calling and demanding to speak with the owner or hiring manager to schedule an interview, even though there was no job posting, and completely disregarding the company’s hiring process. By allowing other people to do your job search for you.

By not staying organized. If you’re seriously job searching (think, unemployed and need a job fast) you should be applying at five to ten companies per day. That’s a lot of applications, a lot of jobs, and a lot of information to keep straight. I suggest job seekers keep an Excel spreadsheet of the jobs they’ve applied to, including the company, position title, contact person and their information, a link to the job posting, date applied, and a section for any notes from call backs. This makes it easier to quickly refresh your memory when a company calls you. It’s unprofessional – and extremely embarrassing – to answer a call from a recruiter or hiring manager and not remember having applied for the job. It doesn’t convey a lot of interest in the position to the person calling, who is forming a first impression of you that very minute.

Other ways you’re acting unprofessionally are discussing your previous or current employer(s) in a negative way. I don’t care if the reason you’re leaving your current position is because your boss is a nightmare who berates you constantly and illegally withholds your paycheck. You don’t vent to a potential future employer about it. You may also take a look at how you speak to employers, and how your written communications are reflecting on you. Punctuation, spelling, grammar, capitalization – it matters! This isn’t a text message or an AIM conversation (I think I just dated myself – I didn’t even know I was old enough to do that). Language on voicemail messages are another consideration. You’d be surprised how unprepared and unprofessional some people sound when leaving a voice mail for a hiring manager. It’s appalling. Clean up your writing and try to be as well-spoken as possible.


5. You Listen to the Wrong People…

I absolutely have respect for the wisdom and advice given by people who are older and/or smarter than me. However, there are certain times in life when the advice given doesn’t always translate into today’s world. One of the more glaring instances of this can be seen when job seekers are given advice by… well, anyone who hasn’t searched for a job in the last five to ten years. And by ‘searched,’ I mean was unemployed, laid off, or were actively looking to change companies. This can include family members, friends, coworkers, and even the odd career counselor who has somehow missed that boat on the current situation of the job market (you often see this person in government sponsored counseling positions and college career advisory offices, for reasons completely unbeknownst to me).

Outdated advice can sink your application to the bottom of pile. Believe it or not, walking business-to-business with a stack of resumes is not the best way to job search anymore. The Internet and successful networking are your best bets (by that, I mean people you actually know, not a blast on social media platforms). Gimmicks, tricks, and flashy resumes with your picture on them will not get you an interview (unless you’re in an industry that would require a photo, such as modeling, or appreciate the marketing gesture, such as advertising or graphic design). Sending a shoe to “get your foot in the door” is not a cute way to get a call from a hiring manager, nor is sending gifts, chocolates, plants, framed pictures of yourself, or anything else other than a strong, tailored cover letter and resume. In the hiring manager’s mind, if you have to resort to a gimmick to attract an employer, you’re probably covering for some deficiency on your resume and not worth their time.

On that note, there are several pieces of resume advice you still hear from old-fashioned job seekers that could hurt you rather than help you. The “Objective Statement,” for example. Guess what – your objective is to get a job. Hiring managers know that simply by the fact that you’re applying, and reading that you’re “seeking a position that will best utilize your unique skill set, blah, blah, blah” is wasting precious real estate on your resume that could be put to better use by emphasizing your accomplishments. For the most part, employers don’t care whether you want to be challenged, or support your three kids, or whatever personal reason you put in your objective statement. Sorry, but they don’t. And some of the language job seekers use in these statements can actually open them up to being discriminated against (yeah, I know, not legal, but guess how much hassle you’ll have proving it if you never make it in the door for an interview). Your personal life does not belong on your resume, no matter who tells you it does.

Outdated education, certain certificates, unrelated volunteer work, college societies, your GPA if you’ve graduated more than five years ago (and then, only if it’s like a 3.8+) and your high school job from twenty years ago don’t belong either. Again, these bullet points take up space that should be used to show your value to the company you’re applying to. You risk creating too long of a resume (I tend to suggest one page for most industries, and 2 pages for certain tech, professional, and management positions) and looking like you’re unable to edit, to make judgment calls about what is important.

Another seriously outdated piece of advice is the ‘follow-up call’ to ‘check the status’ of your application. When counselling job seekers, I suggest they keep an Excel spreadsheet of the companies they’ve applied to, the position, date of application, any relevant information and names, plus a link to the job description. Submit your application and necessary documents, record the information, and then forget about it. Don’t get hung up waiting around for any one company, and don’t waste your time calling every company you’ve applied to to see where they’re at in the application process. Most companies have their own timeline for hiring – they may be waiting until the closing date to review applications, they may have already decided against you and just haven’t sent a rejection letter, or they may have your application in a stack ready for pre-screen calls. You don’t know, the person you get in touch with probably won’t know off the top of their head, and you’re going to waste your time and theirs trying to find out what’s going on with your application only to get an answer that isn’t really all that helpful. You’ve applied. If they want to contact you, they will. Chill out and be patient, and in the mean time, continue your job search.

6. You’re Too Pushy…

Adding to that last point a bit, some job seekers are advised to call the week or so after submitting their application. While this isn’t really necessary, doing it probably won’t put you out of the running. You know what will? Calling weekly – or, ugh, even more frequently – to continuing to check on the hiring timeline. Another dis-qualifier – harassing hiring managers after an interview. If you’ve actually managed to make it to a pre-screen call, then have had the savvy and luck to actually be called in for a face-to-face interview, don’t blow it by obsessively following-up with the company to see if they’ve made a decision. Send a simple, professional thank you note, and forget about it. Unless you were told to expect a call or follow up interview on a certain timeline, there is no need to keep checking back. If they want to talk to you again, call your references, or make you an offer, they will let you know. Don’t get over excited (or be seen as desperate) by

I’d love to know what you think is a mistake many job-seekers are making. I get that it’s a hard market right now, but making a few simple tweaks to your job search strategy can increase your chances of at least getting in front of a hiring manager. I have hours worth of tips, suggestions, and in-depth strategies I’d be happy to elaborate on, or help you customize your search. Add any questions to the comments, or if you’d rather send me an email I’ll respond that way. Happy job hunting!

4 Horsemen of the Summer Apocalypse – The Back-to-School Supply List

It has arrived. The sign of the end of freedom. The end of long days filled with sleeping in, splash pads, library reading, and vacations. The dreaded supply list has made an appearance on the school district’s website. After a groan, an eye roll, and a silent prayer for your wallet, the .pdf is opened…

Who the freaking hell needs 5 dozen Ticonderoga pencils? That’s literally a new pencil every three days for each student. Do the kindergartners really need 104 crayons and 24 glue sticks? Heck, 5th grade wants 20 glue sticks… 3pkgs of dry erase markers? Added to our list this year is headphones – didn’t the schools used to provide those?

After the initial shock wore off, I started to wonder the reason behind the ever expanding school lists. Are the kids really consuming that many supplies each year? No, probably not. The more likely scenario (and I’ve polled a few teachers on this to get their side of the story – more results to follow, and thank you to all of the teachers who contributed their viewpoint) is that there is a growing number of parents, particularly in lower-income areas, that either can’t afford to purchase school supplies for their students, or just plain don’t care. So, how do these kids get their school supplies? By upping the amounts required on the list to ensure enough supplies end up in the community supply buckets, because you and I (and the schools) know that there are usually enough parents who will purchase the whole list without blinking to supplement the students whose parents won’t be sending enough supplies – or any at all. Maybe it’s just the district we’re in choosing to handle it this way – I’ve heard of some districts, oh the fantasy, that have a warehouse full of supplies for teachers to request when they need them, within a budget, and all parents are responsible for providing are the basic supplies – but I’m willing to bet there are others that go the same route as this one.

Now, believe me when I say that I am not resisting the need to buy school supplies – even for students whose education I’m not responsible for. Ask my kids’ teachers – I am one of the first parents to volunteer to bring extra supplies, and I constantly check in with them throughout the year to see if they need anything. Expo markers, paper plates and bags, pencils, extra folders, stamps, special requests for craft projects – I’m in. One of my kids was on a team last year, so some of supplies I brought weren’t just for her or her class, they were for two or more classes. And you know what, I don’t mind a bit. This isn’t a bragging statement, or an I’m-better-than-you-because-I-can-afford-to-buy-extra-supplies…because you know what, that’s not always the case. Of course, my family never does without the essentials, but there are plenty of things I could be spending my money on other than school supplies for other people’s kids. Suburbia is expensive. So why do it? Because I get it. I get that if parents don’t chip in past the amount needed for their own little darling, then either the kids whose parents don’t care or can’t afford to provide the necessary supplies will suffer, or the teachers will spend their hard-earned money on supplies. Usually, the result is the latter.

But here’s the problem with that… Teachers are employees of their school districts. Employees should not have to purchase supplies necessary to perform their job duties. Contractors do, and that’s perfectly fine. There are a few industries that are known for having employees provide their own specialty supplies – such as tools in construction work, and knives if you’re a chef. While that’s debatable in legality, many of these types of employees prefer this arrangement because they are able to purchase and use a brand they prefer and know will be maintained properly. There are also arrangements in some workplaces where employees provide things like their own coffee. Fine, that’s not a necessary tool to perform their job (of course I’m writing this from a Starbucks, so…). But if you walk into any office and ask an employee if their boss required them to bring in staples and pens for office use without reimbursement, the answer would likely be no. If the answer is yes, well that’s an issue for another post…

A Snapshot of Reality

However, it happens. Every school year, and I’d wager a guess that it happens in every classroom. I don’t think I’ve met a teacher yet who has gone one year in their teaching career without spending money on basic school supplies for their students. While this is noble, and admirable, and just the thing you’d expect from the personality of someone who is destined to become a teacher – it’s wrong. It shouldn’t be happening. Sure, if they want to spend some of their money decorating their classroom, or on a special project, go ahead. That’s the equivalent of bringing in your favorite stapler to the office, or of me using a design program I favor to complete my work. Actually, I think the teachers should be provided a stipend for these expenses as well. Some school districts do that, from what I gathered during my teacher-poll. However, these are typically the same budgets used for professional development and substitute teachers, which are two items most teachers would rather spend their budget on than pencils and paper. Rightly so. But the districts lumping necessary school supplies into professional training budgets means that one of the two has to suffer, which isn’t right. This leaves the teacher spending their own money on supplies so their students can learn, or spending time and energy coming up with creative solutions to keep pencils in their classrooms, particularly at the middle- and high-school levels.

Speaking of that, though a bit off-topic, do you even begin to realize how many creative ways teachers have of trying to keep pencils in their classrooms? Well, I found out during my teacher-poll. From an “orphaned pencil jar” full of mislaid writing utensils picked up in hallways, to “pencil challenges” spurred by rewards, to goofy-flower designs, to signs posted in the classroom encouraging students to return borrowed supplies, to selling pencils in the classroom – teachers have a hundred ways to try and make sure their students have the supplies they need to learn, and not many can say that they’re all that successful in the endeavor. Some even say they get backlash from their school administrators when they bring up the lack of supplies, and the best they can do is continue purchasing supplies out-of-pocket. This is…wrong. So wrong.

What Can We Do?

It’s a difficult problem to solve. Actually, if you look at it from the right angle, it’s a smaller scale of the taxes/welfare/government spending/perception issues we have in America. The people who can afford to supply provide for those who can’t, or else the children suffer. So how do we fix this? Can we even fix this? What should be done?

I see a three pronged approach, involving the states/school districts/PTA organizations (The Administration), parents, and students. Yes, even the kids have a role to play here, which is the biggest difference between the school supply list and the welfare debate.

1. The Administration

Okay, technically PTA isn’t really part of the administration in school districts, but I’m including the organization in this group because they have the ability to provide funding from sources outside of the parents’ wallets.

We seriously have to focus on increasing funding for education. For as much as this country, state, etc. pushes the need for education, there are so many countries around the world that are ahead of us. Now, that’s a topic for another blog, but one of the problems we have at hand is underfunding. I’m keeping this mostly at the state and local levels, simply because federal is an entirely different issue (why do we send so much money to other countries when we can’t feed kids in our own? why do we fund their education and medical systems when we have so many of the same problems here? Gah – another time…).

It’s the same story every year. Teachers are underpaid and overworked, but we can’t afford to pay them because the economy sucks, budgets have to be cut somewhere, there’s no money for extracurricular programs, we can’t afford to buy supplies. PTA wants to put an iPad in every classroom, or buy new playground equipment. Some districts can pay their superintendents an annual salary of $300,000+,  but can’t supply their students with the basics to learn. Skip the basic school supplies argument, what about printer paper, tissues, and headphones – things districts used to supply. Oh, can’t afford those either? Blah blah blah. Let’s just make the parents spend more money, that’ll solve everything, right? Add a few extra dozen items to the school supply list. Parents aren’t providing supplies anymore? Oh well, just increase the amounts asked for again; someone will eventually bring what’s needed. Next year I imagine we’ll be seeing ‘toilet paper’ as a requested supply item.

I’m sorry, but I live in Texas – football is a religion here, and you rarely see an underfunded football team. Schools have budgets earmarked for technology that have to be met. PTAs do fundraising every year, and often times it’s for a goal that is nice and all, but is it really necessary? There’s money somewhere. If you can’t afford the basics – pencils, Kleenex, Expo markers – then what are you doing buying things that aren’t necessary. There’s a huge debate about this for welfare spending – people have strongly held opinions leaning toward controlling what people on welfare can spend their money on. “Why should they get food stamps when they’re driving a Navigator and carrying a Coach purse?” We have the same situation in the school district. Do we really need an iPad in every classroom if our students can’t afford pencils? Yeah, I get it, this generation is going to need experience with technology, future of America, and all that.

Here’s the thing – my generation was born before the Internet became a thing. We didn’t have a tablet in every classroom. We barely had a computer in every classroom. I didn’t see a mobile laptop station till middle school. Or a smart phone till high school. And guess what – this generation is creating apps, inventing Facebook, designing websites, and pushing the growth of technology that some are insisting kids need access to in elementary school. Guess what. They don’t. I promise, they’ll be fine. It’s great if they can have access to technology, but it isn’t imperative. It’s not going to matter a lick if they know how to code when they can’t even spell “Objective-C.” It is not going to hurt their educational development to buy less iPads. It will hurt their educational development to not have access to basic writing instruments. Unless you can make the argument that the school districts and PTA have the funding to put an iPad in every child’s hand, and that all future school work will be conducted via tablets – then buy them some damn pencils.

2. The Parents

Now, The Administration is not going to change overnight. Even if they did, you’re a parent right? You love your children? Want them to succeed? How on earth do you think they’re going to do that if you don’t give them the tools?

As a consultant who deals with management issues, one of the most important things I tell my clients is something I learned years ago from a mentor. In order to successfully manage your employees, you have to do three things: 1, make your expectations clear, 2, give them the tools to do the job, and 3, hold them accountable. The same three rules apply to parents who care if their children receive an education. Sure, teachers need to do the same, but the parents have to be there, every step of the way, following those three rules. The 2nd rule is the one we’re discussing – give them the tools to do the job. Your child can’t learn if they can’t notes, do their homework, study for their tests, etc. If they don’t have the basic school supplies, none of this is possible.

Really, I get it – there are some parents who, as hard as they work and as much as they want to provide their child with everything they need to succeed, they can’t. There are also parents who know their child will be supplied with pencils and paper at school, and so they just don’t bother. But either way, is it fair to put that burden on the parents who have the means? Why should I have to buy twice the supplies my kids need to support yours? I’m already having to buy supplies the school districts should be supplying, now I need to pay for your kid’s stuff too?

Here’s the thing – I wouldn’t mind doing it… if I were asked. I have many parent friends who I know would absolutely be happy to help out if another child needed it. They’re the first parents I ask to help organize class parties, because they’re 100% reliable and have amazing, helpful attitudes. But if you want someone to help you, you have to ask them. You have to tell them what you need. You’ll get more help by simply saying please than you will forcing people to contribute. That’s why there are thousands of people who are happy to donate money to their church, charitable organization, etc. but are the same people who balk at the $20/year of their tax dollars going to welfare recipients.

People like to have control over where their money goes. They like to feel good about sharing what they have with someone in need – but that feeling isn’t the same when they know their hard earned money isn’t being put solely toward their child’s education. They know that there are parents who will abuse this system of community supplies and not bother spending any money on school necessities for their kids because someone else will have provided it. And it makes the whole process bitter.

So parents – to the best of your ability, send school supplies with your kids on the first day of school. At least buy them some damn pencils.

3. The Students

Now, what happens when the district provides the funds, parents can afford to send the supplies they’re supposed to, and do, teachers still shell out their own cash for school supplies, and kids still come to class unprepared. That, my dear students, is your fault. One of the things you’ll have to learn in life is responsibility – how to keep up with your own stuff, be prepared for the job you’re doing (school, at this point), and if you fail at that and someone is nice enough to help you, thank them and do not abuse the privilege. If you’re past elementary school and you happen to be out of supplies, ask your parents first before asking your teacher. It is not your teacher’s job to buy your supplies, and they do not get repayment for doing so. So…

Keep up with your damn pencils.

Tying it Together

So we know the problem, but how do we make this system more functional? I’m not going to pretend I have a magic solution for that. However, I will say there are some steps that could be taken to prevent this system from crashing entirely, but each side would need to do their part to make it work…

State, school districts, administrators – You are a broken system. Figure out where your priorities are. Budget enough money for paper goods and Expo markers in schools. Quit making it so difficult for teachers to get the supplies they need to practice their craft and educate the children of the state. Because guess what – if our education fails, all of the border control, homeland security, and infrastructure in the country won’t keep the state from imploding. Quit wasting money and spend a little extra in the school systems.

PTA – We, as parents, greatly appreciate the contributions you make to the school. I’m a big supporter of PTA, proudly place membership every year, volunteer in the classrooms, and participate in most of the fundraisers. Heck, my kids have been top sellers for a few of those fundraisers. But, as I mentioned previously, I think PTAs could take a better look at how they spend the funds. If a large percentage of the money you raise via fundraisers comes from the parents (and let’s face it, it does), then why not put some of that money toward programs that would alleviate the financial strain the school and state places on parents? Why not have a supply scholarship fund that would provide supplies to the low income students, rather than the schools shaking down willing parents at the beginning of the year for an excessive amount of supplies. Make it available to students whose parents have been approved for the Free and Reduced Lunch program, so there’s some accountability to who truly has the need. Advertise it, and allow parents who are willing make donations specifically for that cause. I get it, it shouldn’t be your job. But it shouldn’t be mine (or yours, technically, since most of the PTA board members are also parents at the school, so it does affect you personally) to be forced to contribute to community supply box. As an organization that works toward the good of the students, I would think this should be a vital issue. Maybe not in the wealthier districts (you know which ones you are), but if your school is poor enough to be asking parents to send $30 worth of pencils in August, you might want to reconsider how you’re spending your collected funds. PTA is such a wonderful organization, and it could be a huge advocate for students in this situation if properly directed.

Parents – Do you remember a time – or maybe your parents will – where you were given two pencils and some paper from your Mom and Dad, went to school, kept those same supplies for a couple of weeks, and then Mom or Dad gave you new supplies when you needed them? No big supply lists from the school demanding Mom and Dad send enough supplies for three kids. Parents used to be responsible, for the most part, for their own children. They used to teach their kids responsibility, and if they ever got a call from a teacher letting them know that their precious darling never came to class prepared, they would supply the discipline and provide a lesson in responsibility. Yeah, um, can we get back to that please? If you know you can’t provide the supplies required, at least make sure you’re teaching your kid to appreciate what’s given to them by others. If you can afford to provide and don’t because you know they’ll get the stuff they need from the teachers, then you’re a lazy, entitled asshole who is the primary reason for the system – which used to be perfectly functional – collapsing. You should feel ashamed. And finally, if you’re a parent who gives their kid every advantage you can, has their whole supply list ready on meet-the-teacher night, and pays attention to the school/class/teacher/student needs throughout the year, keep up the good work.

Teachers – Keep trying to hold students accountable. I know, it’s difficult, and you are all doing your best. I know there’s no magical way to actually teach kids to keep up with their supplies, just like there’s no magical way to make parents send them. The best ideas, in my opinion, I’ve heard so far are to sell the supplies to students who forget them, “orphan cups,” or to have a class set that you allow students to sign out on a sheet when they borrow something, and then a few minutes before the class ends review the sheet and reclaim the supplies so they don’t grow legs and walk out of the classroom. No system is going to be perfect, and I know you feel bad when kids don’t have what they need. But for certain cases – when it isn’t a matter of parents not being able to afford to provide supplies – it may take a few times of students not being prepared to get them to be responsible. They won’t learn if there are no consequences, and once they graduate they won’t have a nice teacher to hand them pencils every time they forget. If they don’t learn now, and their parents can’t or won’t teach them, when will they? I know it shouldn’t be your responsibility to teach this kind of discipline and responsibility, but as a natural educator, I don’t think it hurts to try.

Students – We all have a job to do, a part to play in your education. Take ownership of it – study as hard as you can, come to class prepared, and have a little respect for the people who work so hard to make your future brighter. Really, we do this for you.

It’s Not Over

I don’t think one (incredibly long, sorry) blog post is going to spark an immediate change, but even if I make just one person think, share a helpful idea, or start an initiative for positive change, then little by little the educational system can improve. Yes, even if it’s just a school supply list.

Sigh. It’s not the end of the world. Just the end of the summer.

Getting Started – The “Put Me In Charge” Piece

In honor of my maiden post for this blog, I wanted to write about the reason this blog now has a hosted domain name. For some time –  years, actually – I’ve been quietly and diplomatically trying to correct misinformation that floats around social media sites like Facebook. Sometimes these corrections turn into long, civilized debates between intelligent people with varying opinions. Sometimes, they end with friends blocking me while they continue to post things that aren’t true. I really hate that. Admit when you’re wrong. For clarification, I’m absolutely not saying that anyone’s opinion is right or wrong, but the “facts” that get shared are often inflated, skewed, or outright untrue.

This particular post has a little of both. A few years old, it’s recently being recirculated and getting some of the same ignorant, fallacious comments it received the first time it made the rounds. Today, it sparked me to take action on an idea for a project I’d been considering for awhile – this blog. A place where I could rant, correct misinformation, and voice my opinion on hot-button political and current event issues without offending friends in my personal social media sphere. So here it is…first, the post, then the facts, and finally, my opinion. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on any portion of this post.


“This was written by a 21 yr old female who gets it. It’s her future she’s worried about and this is how she feels about the social welfare big government state that she’s being forced to live in! These solutions are just common sense in her opinion.

This was in the Waco Tribune Herald, Waco , TX , Nov 18, 2011


Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho’s, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal legations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, or smoke, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good..”

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND While you are on Gov’t subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes, that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov’t welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.

Now, if you have the guts – PASS IT ON…”


Do Your Research, People

First, this article has been mis-attributed. It was not written by a 21 year old girl wearing a low cut shirt to showcase her ample chest, as depicted on Facebook. In fact, it was written by a 56-year-old man who truthfully does not want the responsibility of being put in charge of these programs, but was simply trying to get people to think.  While I appreciate the effort, I think there could have been a better way to accomplish this.

What I Agree With

I know, crazy right. Me, agreeing with click-bait fodder? Believe or not, the author makes a few points that I could see as benefiting the welfare system. For one, I actually do think there should be tighter restrictions on what can be purchased with Lonestar cards, SNAP assistance, food stamps, or whatever your state government calls them. I also agree with creating a system for ‘government jobs’ for those receiving assistance who are unemployed but capable of working. Why not allow them to earn their benefits by setting them to tasks that benefit the taxpayers? This, unfortunately, is where my agreement ends.

Wrong for So Many Reasons, and How to Fix It

Let’s just take this line by line…

Getting rid of Lonestar in favor of meager pantry staples. No. Why? Because you’re creating more problems for taxpayers. Think that rice, beans, cheese, and powdered milk complete a healthy diet? Hah – you’re going to have those people in the hospital for malnutrition, intestinal issues, and heart problems so fast your head will spin. And who’s going to be picking up the tab for that? Yep, you got it – the hard-working tax payers.

What should be done instead? Sure, place restrictions on what food stamps will purchase. Cut out sodas, chips, cookies, over-processed snack food, sugary cereals, and ice cream. If they want to spend their daily food allowance (somewhere in the neighborhood of $4/day/person) on ground beef, tilapia, or fresh vegetables, let them. If they want to buy frozen pizzas, canned tuna, and deli meat, go for it. These types of foods are part of a healthy diet. If cost is what you’re worried about, I’d rather a food stamp recipient spend $5 on a frozen pizza than $20 on a delivery one. The argument is that food stamp recipients are dining on steak and lobster, while hard-working tax payers are scraping by with frozen vegetables and boxed mac n cheese, right? Read this.

Birth control and drug testing. Think that will help? Normally, I’m on the other side of the birth control debate. I believe in women having control over their own bodies, and making decisions about their health with the two people who have any input – themselves, and their doctor. I don’t believe the government has the right to dictate a woman’s birth control. Period. Their job is to make sure women who want it have ample access to it. I could go on an entirely different rant about this, but my stance on this particular instance is that it would be violating women’s religious and personal freedoms to force them to use the birth control mentioned. And a tubal ligation? Seriously? You’re complaining about handing her a few dollars a month to feed herself, and you want to put her through a potentially risky surgery that could prevent her from ever having children? What is wrong with you? Do you not realize that many government assistance recipients aren’t actually milking the system (rhetorical question, obviously you don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this discussion), and are using the funds to supplement a temporary loss of income. Why in the hell would you think it’s okay to take away a woman’s right – her basic, intrinsic, natural right – to reproduce, permanently?

To address the drug testing portion. Here’s my argument against it…it’s expensive. Screw the argument about it being demeaning. Sure, it is, but companies are allowed to drug test their employees, and this shouldn’t be any different. Screw the discrimination argument. Duh, this would affect only the poor, but again, it’s not like they’re the only people in the country subjected to drug testing, so really, it’s not. My argument stems purely from the fact that it isn’t cost effective to drug test welfare recipients. The tests are expensive, and there has been no studies that prove there is a higher rate of welfare recipients on drugs than citizens who do not receive assistance. So yes, there are a few users who would be receiving benefits. But you’re going to pay less to them in food stamps than it would cost to drug test every applicant. Simple math.

Government housing inspections. A couple of things here. For one, there are already government funded homes that are regularly inspected, so I’m not sure what improvement the author was trying to make here. Inventorying possession? I mean, sure, search for illegal weapons or drugs if you feel you must…but really, who the heck has time to go around inventorying everyone’s possessions? Do you realize how many people are on welfare? And do you really think the states can afford to pay inspectors to keep an up-to-date list of every possession in government housing? About shoving welfare recipients into barracks… seriously? Does everyone realize that not every welfare recipient is homeless? I mean sure, there is absolutely a ridiculously high homeless population, and we should channel more funding into getting homeless people off the streets. That’s not what this person is implying. Not everyone who receives welfare lives in government housing or homeless shelters. And to remove people from their homes to shove them in bunk beds in crowded rooms (which will increase the chances of sickness, and the bill for the tax payers who will be paying for the doctors visits and medications) is ludicrous.

– Presenting weekly check stubs, selling possessions, etc. So the obvious dig at this one is, “What if they are paid bi-monthly?” Hah. Anyway, when you apply for assistance you are required to list incomes. If you’re unemployed, they give you a form that you need to have signed when you interview/apply for a job proving that you are trying to find employment. Skipping over the fact that this is truly embarrassing for some, and could potentially subject them to discrimination (I’ve seen this first-hand), it seems like that system is already taken care of.

Selling the possessions they already own… please. I’ve made this argument several times, when people complain that a woman pulled a Lonestar card out of a Coach purse before loading her groceries into a newer model SUV. Look outside of your narrow view and see the bigger picture. How do you know that this woman didn’t just lose her job, is embarrassed as hell to be on government assistance, and isn’t actively looking for work to get off of it? What if the purse was a gift (or a knockoff found at a flea market) and the SUV was borrowed from a friend because she doesn’t have a car? Quit being so damned judgmental just because things don’t seem the way they should be in your narrow-minded view. Yes, there are likely some welfare recipients who don’t manage their money well, who buy things they shouldn’t, and who abuse the system. But there are others who are truly trying to make ends meet, to feed their families, and doing everything they can so they don’t have to receive assistance. Do you think – with the tight restrictions on income for those eligible to receive benefits – that they really are spending that $4/day on food so that they can buy $1,000 purses left and right? Get real.

– You want our money, accept our rules… Sigh. This is where so many ignorant, short-sighted people infuriate me. No, this isn’t about raising their self-esteem. I promise you, what was left of it was crushed the moment they walked into that welfare office to apply for benefits. Here’s the thing though. IT’S THEIR MONEY TOO! Do you honestly think that most of these people have never done an honest day’s work in their lives? And by that, I mean have never, ever worked at a tax paying job. Guess where those taxes went? This applies to people on disability as well. These people, at one point, held jobs, paid taxes, and supported other citizens on welfare. Heck, some of them are working and paying taxes right now. Get off your high horse and stop pretending we’re all doing these people some massive favor by handing them a few dollars a day. They’ve worked for it too. By the way, the amount spent to fund welfare is something like $20/year per citizen. So…really, you’re doing all this griping for $20?

This isn’t a ‘reward for bad choices.’ It’s a benefit, for those who had the misfortune to be laid off, become ill, live in a disaster zone, etc.

– Voting… This is probably the point that infuriates me the most. Do you realize that by not allowing the poorest citizens to have a say in what happens in the government, you’ve effectively turned this democracy into an oligarchy? You know, that system of government where the wealthy make the decisions. Hmm…where have we heard about that before… And who is going to benefit from the rich making decisions? Oh, that’s right…the wealthy citizens. Gosh, now doesn’t that sound like a perfect system? I’m sorry, but when you talk about taking away basic rights of a democracy, you’ve lost my respect and I no longer believe you have anything worth saying.

The Point

I’ll sum it up in a few simple sentences… Quit being so quick to judge. Think before you speak. Google a fact every now and again. And have a little compassion.

You’ll thank me when you get sick, lose your job, then end up on welfare and someone writes an article trying to make your life worse.