By Erica Maloney, Data Evaluation Manager, PA Women Work
Hunger in the U.S. may look different than it does in the developing world, but struggling to put food on the table is a serious challenge for nearly 40 million Americans each year. Here in the United States, hunger might look like a mom skipping meals so she can feed her children, a senior who rations medicine in order to have money to buy food, or a child whose parents get behind on school lunch payments. In fact, hunger can even look like obesity because fresh fruits, proteins, and vegetables are expensive and hard to access, while cheap, unhealthy, processed foods abound.
SNAP is a lifeline program that ensures a basic level of nutrition to Americans who struggle to feed themselves and their children. Contrary to popular belief, the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work, do work, and the benefits are modest, at $4 per person, per day. At Pennsylvania Women Work, the overwhelming majority of our clients are eligible for SNAP, which helps them sustain their families while they work hard to develop skills that will empower them to secure new or better employment. However, more than 200,000 Pennsylvanians, including some of our own clients, are at risk of losing their benefits due to a new SNAP rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
At PA Women Work, we serve hundreds of people each year who are struggling to find work and put food on the table. This new rule would prevent states from modifying income guidelines to allow people to more gradually exit the program as they increase their income from employment We often work with clients who have to decide between taking a pay raise or losing benefits such as childcare or healthcare. We have observed that hardworking women often lose benefits faster than they increase income, driving them and their children off of a sort of benefits cliff where work no longer increases a family’s spending power. This broken system creates a disincentive to work.
Additionally, this rule would prevent poor families, seniors, and people with disabilities from saving money or keeping their savings (which is almost always a good idea), because the rule would mandate an asset test disqualifying them for benefits. This rule would especially impact seniors and people with disabilities, requiring them to eliminate their savings to access nutrition assistance, leaving them with no safety net. It can also prevent families who are trying to get on their feet from saving money which could help them to break the cycle of poverty.
These mandates proposed by the USDA will expand the poverty trap for millions of Americans, yet they only save taxpayers 2.5 billion dollars, about 6/100ths of one percent (you read that right) of total budget spending. This proposed cut will make it even harder for our clients to support their families while they try to find work, and we hope the administration will reconsider enacting this rule.
If you would like to have your voice heard on this issue, you can make a public comment here.
By Jill Patterson, Key Account Executive, ZipRecruiter, and former Board President, PA Women Work
Jill Patterson was Pennsylvania Women Work’s Board President for more than six years and has been involved with our organization for even longer. During her tenure as our president, Jill helped us transform thousands of lives, introduce a variety of new programs and initiatives, reshape our organization’s mission and vision, and so much more. She has given countless hours of her time and dedication to helping women find family-sustaining employment.
As Jill’s time as our Board President came to a close at the end of June, we asked her to reflect on her time with our organization.
Q: Why did you first get involved with PA Women Work?
I was introduced to Pennsylvania Women Work through a colleague, and it was – as some say – love at first site. The mission, vision and values of PA Women Work fit exactly what I was looking for – a way to give back to the community in a meaningful and dedicated way while still holding a full-time job.
Q: What are you most proud of during your tenure as board president?
We’ve accomplished so many different milestones as an organization over the last six years – it’s hard to pick just one. We’ve expanded services; we’ve changed offices; we’ve diversified funding. But, during my tenure, there are two events that truly come to mind as monumental:
1. After an executive director change, we launched a search for the next PA Women Work leader. During this time, we had more than 40 quality applicants. As the leader of the search committee, I conducted phone interviews with every qualified candidate and assisted in the process until the final two applicants presented their plans to the board.
Ultimately, Julie Marx-Lally, our current CEO, was selected. While I didn’t have a final vote in who was hired, we have reaped the benefits of having an amazing leader from so many quality candidates.
2. Secondly – as many nonprofit organizations – money is always an issue. When I started my tenure, funding was isolated to a single grant from the government. This year, our line item was in the Governor’s budget – not added after the fact. Not only that, we actually received increased funding for the first time in more than two decades. I am extremely proud to have played a small role in this huge accomplishment.
Q: What’s your favorite memory?
There are so many memories that come to mind, but one that stands out happened in the last few years. We were meeting with a funding organization who asked us to have a client and board member present.
At the beginning of the meeting, our client entered the room and seemed annoyed to be there. Her body language was not welcoming, and she was rather silent for most of the meeting. Then, out of the blue, she asked if she could talk, and her somewhat distracted demeanor turned into a beautifully told story about failure-to-success.
She explained how PA Women Work changed her life, and the impact was felt by everyone in the room (some tears were even shed).
It’s hearing stories like those that always provide a gentle – but GREAT – reminder that the work we do changes lives – and changes generations to come.
Q: As a professional who has worked for several large online job-search companies, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make?
There are three main mistakes that job-seekers make over and over again.
Mistake #1: Thinking a one-size resume fits all. With today’s technology – it’s important to take the time to understand a job and customize your resume for the position in which you are applying. If you don’t, you could be eliminated before you even begin.
Mistake #2: Applying for jobs in which you don’t meet the minimum requirements. By law, companies that post minimum requirements cannot review candidates that don’t meet the minimum requirements. Don’t waste your time, or a recruiter’s time – only apply for jobs that are relevant to you and that you meet the minimum requirements.
Mistake #3: Ghosting employers during the application process. If you are offered an interview over the phone or an in-person meeting, attend the interview. If, for some reason, the job is not a fit, you can always call and let the interviewer know – be honest and communicate well – doing nothing should not ever be an option.
Q: What is your top tip for job-seekers?
Network and show appreciation along the way. Why wait until a desperate situation to ask for referrals and recommendations? You should continue to look for growth and development options and find examples of your work before you are in the job market. And, if you appreciate someone’s work, recognize them for that even when they don’t need it.
Jill will remain a volunteer with PA Women Work and will serve as our Board Ex Officio for the next year. Leslye Herrmann, our current Board President, looks forward to working with Jill and the PA Women Work team to continue to make an impact on thousands of women across Pennsylvania.
By Erin Weber, Financial Advisor with The Weber Group at Hefren-Tillotson, Inc., and PA Women Work volunteer and supporter
“If you want to be rich, be financially literate.” -Robert Kiyosaki.
A lack of financial literacy among women can affect their ability to accumulate and manage assets, and secure a promising financial future. The basic problem is, we don’t know what we don’t know, until we don’t know it. Learning the basics of saving, budgeting, and investing, will set you up for financial freedom and prevent disasters from occurring.
Below are five simple steps that you can take to help lead you to financial success. As Warren Buffet states, “The most important investment you can make is in yourself.” The time is now. Put your needs first, and everything else can follow suit.
1. Put yourself first - A man is not a plan! Take the time to learn and educate yourself to become financially literate. Having basic financial knowledge will allow you to guide and plan for your OWN success.
2. Set SMART goals - Don’t be a dummy, be SMART by setting goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. This will allow you to set the foundation for future success, both personally and financially.
3. Budget - Don’t live the rosé life, on a Miller Lite budget! Budgeting is a physical practice, not mental. Identify what you value most by creating a budget sheet. This will show you how much money is coming in, and how it is going out. Your budget sheet will give you the opportunity to evaluate your true needs and wants to ensure that your values are in line with your beliefs and your budget.
4. Pay off debt - Paying off debt can be very liberating. Pay off your most expensive debt first, the debt with the highest interest rate. Once you are debt free, you can shift and start saving even more for your future.
5. Save…save…save! - Pay yourself first! If you want that Louis Vuitton tomorrow, you need to save today. Start saving from day one: your first paycheck. This will allow you to learn to live without that income. You never saw it, therefore it is like it never existed.
The sooner you start planning and saving, the better off you will be. However, it is never too late to take hold of your finances. In fact, it is better late than NEVER. Putting off until tomorrow, for what you should be doing today, is a recipe for disaster in all aspects of life. Stop the storm, and create the sunshine for your bright financial future today.
By Kim Macey, Program Manager, Jose Ramirez Moran, Group Manager; and Sara Shingozhina, Senior Analyst, BNY Mellon
Over the last two months, we participated as facilitators for PA Women Work’s Job Club where we supported individuals experiencing a career transition through various professional development discussions. One of our most popular topics was centered on how a job-seeker can ensure their social media sites are more professional.
Potential employers search for prospective employees and qualified job candidates using various means including LinkedIn and other social sites to find the best fit for their organization. In today’s world, the Internet has made it possible to share everything about our lives through social media channels. The ease of access and almost excessive sharing allows for personal information to be available for anyone to see, so it is very important for job-seekers to understand their online footprint and take the necessary steps to keep their pages or sites professional.
The following are our top four recommendations for maintaining a professional social media presence.
1. Privacy Setting – Review each of your social media sites and adjust your privacy settings as appropriate. Remember, any site listed as public is fair game for potential employers to review. Consider keeping personal sites private so that any content on these sites does not detract from your professional persona on public sites.
2. Housekeeping – Regularly monitor your social media accounts. Audit your sites for inappropriate photos and posts. Un-tag yourself and delete content that could be potentially misconstrued or present you in a negative light. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and delete. Also, it’s equally important to manage your members, followers and affiliations, as well as those whose content is captured on your main pages and news feeds.
3. Personal Brand – For all public sites, ensure your bios and profile photos are consistent. Post profile images in which your attire is professional and shot from your shoulders up. Maintain consistent professional handles across your public sites. Leverage your profile page to provide a solid representative first impression.
4. Keep it Current – Especially while you are job searching, keep your public sites up-to-date. Use keywords in your profile to maximize hits from recruiters and peer professionals. Maintain relevant career-focused connections (individuals and groups). Do not forget to leverage the functionality of the sites, such as LinkedIn skill endorsements and work samples, and do not shy away from talking about your professional achievements.
As a final note, ensure your contact information (such as email address and/or phone number) is clear and easy to see on your social media profiles; you want to make it as easy as possible for potential recruiters to get in touch with you. And remember to include your link(s) on your resume and email signature.
By Taneshya Williams, Program Manager, 3 Cups of Coffee
When I was starting my professional career, I was a single mom, looking for a job, and trying to make ends meet. I wanted to be successful and worked hard to achieve my goals. I was determined to not accept help, but honestly, I didn’t even know there were resources available to me.
Now, as the PA Women Work 3 Cups of Coffee program manager, I often reflect on that period of my life. I know that I could have benefited from a mentor – a professional taking me under her wing to help me define my goals, answer my questions and find a path to success. Being in the position I’m in now, I’m honored to have the opportunity to help women facing similar challenges by connecting them with individuals who can mentor and guide them.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to give back, consider being a career mentor to another professional or job-seeker. In my experience, here are the top four benefits to mentoring:
1. Give back – Mentoring someone is an incredible way to give back in a meaningful way. With 3 Cups of Coffee, it’s a small time commitment that can be worked around your schedule. It allows you to help others grow from your personal experiences, and you can make a real impact on someone’s life.
2. Develop professionally – When you open yourself up to meeting new people – whether that’s your mentee or other mentors – you will inevitably learn new ideas and skills. Not only that, skilled volunteerism helps you grow as a leader and offers a great opportunity to build your resume or LinkedIn profile.
3. Build your network – Mentoring will build your mentee’s network – that’s a given. But what many don’t consider is how it can actually be a great networking opportunity for mentors as well. When you sign up to mentor with an organization, such as PA Women Work’s 3 Cups of Coffee program, you can be connected to other like-minded professionals, along with job-seeking mentees that could provide talent and diversity to help your company reach its hiring goals.
4. It feels good – When you mentor someone, you will help change their life. Your professional advice, positive encouragement and experience will provide your mentee with the support she needs to discover her goals, search for the right job, and ultimately get started on a new path to success. Not only that, when you invest your time and energy into someone’s life and see them succeed, it is an extremely gratifying experience.
As a career mentor, you will make an impact. PA Women Work’s 3 Cups of Coffee is a short-term mentoring program, so the time commitment is minimal – just three one-hour meetings.
Whether you sign up as a mentor with our program, or you make the choice to mentor a professional at work, we hope you’ll choose to offer your skills and expertise to someone in our community who could benefit. We know you have so much to offer.