the state of Florida thinks unemployed people need capes

Florida, what’s wrong with you?

Workforce Central Florida, a federally-funded jobs agency, was just forced to kill an insulting $73,000 PR campaign that included $14,000 for 6,000 superhero capes, which they planned to give away to unemployed residents.

By friending the agency on Facebook, taking a “What kind of Superhero Are You?” quiz, or posing for a photo with a cutout of “Dr. Evil Unemployment” (on which they spent $2,300), unemployed Floridians could win a cape … or $125 worth of resume paper, which is almost more alarming than the capes, since you’ve got to hope that a jobs agency isn’t encouraging people to mail their resumes in this day and age. (Bring a copy to your interview, yes, but you’re hardly going to need $125 worth of paper for that. And for the record, plain paper will do just fine.)

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

{ 89 comments… read them below }

  1. Kate-Madonna*

    While I agree with your opinion about the capes and resume paper, I wanted to raise my voice to your ending quote.
    Most government-run job agencies lack the creativity and ideas the agency in Florida thought of. As an employee for the State of Minnesota workforce system, we often wanted to run, (cheaper,) and smaller-scaled versions of the above, but our budget and patriarchy forced us to just focus on the 8-5. I applaud the creativity of the campaign, but wonder where the foresight in how much was spent?
    I love the idea of giving job seekers capes. Why? Because after seeing thousands of down-trodden job seekers and those that were laid-off or fired, I learned there was one, common, trait: depression.

    Great idea, terrible execution.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m trying to imagine how someone depressed would be helped by a cape (as opposed to feeling insulted and condescended to)! If “patriarchy” kept you guys from giving out capes, I’m feeling better about patriarchy.

      1. The Nerdy Nurse*

        Kate is right about the capes and battling depression.

        After being turned down countless time, the unemployed need some sort of pick-me-up, and even though you may consider it condescending, many, I would even argue, most, would find it uplifting.
        People need to be able to feel proud of what they are good at. They need to feel like they are a Super Hero at something, anything. And if giving someone a cape and encouraging them to be proud at what they are good at can accomplish this, then it is money well spent.
        In fact, my husband has Literally done what this campaign set forth to do, without having any knowledge. – Cause he is a Stay at Home Dad, and he is super at it. He’s become confident in his role and contribution and wanted to help other SAHD (that are super) feel confident, laugh a little, and connect with their kids.

        So, Kate, you are right.
        It’s important to have the opportunity to feel good about yourself, especially when the world has done such a good job of bringing you down!

        1. Nancy*

          Ok, let’s say a small portion of unemployed people would find this an inspiring pick-me-up but lots more would find it a punch in the face. How about this agency challenging itself to find something that won’t alienate and insult a big portion of the people it wants to serve, even if some of them like it? It’s not surprising or hard to predict that lots of people would be very angry and insulted by this, even if you personally are not.

          1. The Nerdy Nurse*

            I wish that we could try our best to see our glass half-full and attempt to look at the efforts they made as positive.
            Could it be interpreted as insulting? Sure.
            But could it also be a pick me up, and a way to inspire some.
            If it can help to motivate and inspire people, then I think it’s an admirable effort, at the very least.
            We need to stop always looking for the negative and take a moment to look for the positive.
            You are going to find what you are looking for, so why not look for something worth finding.

        2. Elaine*

          Oh for heaven’s sake – why don’t you just give them each a magic wand? Or lucky stones?

          I’ve been there, and Alison is dead on (“feeling insulted and condescended to”).

          The only thing that will help a depressed unemployed person feel better is a decent job.

        3. ssmm*

          Nerdy Nerse, thank you for that sweet comment. I appreciate it.
          It often seems no one cares about the unemployed and the unemployment office (of Florida anyway) has treated me in such a cold and calculated way each time. Just because you have a government job doesn’t mean you have to act like a robot.
          With Love,
          Someone looking for a job : (

    2. Anonymous*

      Yeah, as an out-of-work job seeker I can say that getting a job with health insurance would do a lot more for my depression than getting a government-issued cape.

      Especially if the government spent almost 1/2 of an entry-level salary on those capes. That would make me kind of furious, actually. But still depressed.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s the sticking point to me. A free effort that only helps a few people–that’s one thing. An effort that spends money that might have been used to create a position for one of those unemployed people? Not such a good plan.

  2. Borb*

    “most government … agencies … have no idea what they’re doing”

    There, simpler and still just as accurate. :P

    1. Anonymous*

      Most government agencies are run by people. So by extension, we can perhaps also conclude that most small companies, small businesses, and large corporations also have no idea.

      Yeah sure the cape were a ridiculous idea, but um, may I recommend you read about the Zune, WindowsMe, Palm anything, New Coke, Google buying then ending the Flip, and about a gazillion other bad non-governmental ideas.

      It is really just a cheap shot to always come down on “the government”. You vote, I presume. You ARE the government. Make some changes. Or try it yourself – get a job inside and see how well you yourself can do…..


      1. Ask a Manager*

        “You ARE the government. Make some changes.”

        As someone who’s spent her whole career working in advocacy, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. But this doesn’t mean that the government is therefore beyond criticism; quite the opposite!

        1. Anonymous*

          No industry should be beyond criticism. However, it seems to be the general consensus among non-governmental employees that government employees are universally lazy, stupid, and overpaid. There are certainly some, but there are also plenty lazy, stupid, and overpaid folks in private industry.

          I work for the government. Call me, I answer the phone on the first ring. I finish my projects on time. I am always polite and helpful to whoever contacts me. I work long hours. I get paid industry standard wages when you take benefits into account. I am not the exception to the rule.

        2. Anonymous*

          The exact phrase you’re looking for is

          Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.

      2. class factotum*

        the cape were a ridiculous idea, but um, may I recommend you read about the Zune, WindowsMe, Palm anything, New Coke, Google buying then ending the Flip, and about a gazillion other bad non-governmental ideas.

        Unless I am a shareholder in any of these private sector companies, it is not my money that is being wasted on a stupid idea.

      3. ssmm*

        I disagree, employment agencies that are not government run have done a far better job and don’t have a cold and calculated attitude. Every time I call a representative of the government they act like “what are you doing calling here?” “I’m keeping you employed” is what I think to myself.

    2. bob*

      Yes it’s simpler but still just as condescending and insulting. I’ve had the displeasure of being out of work for nearly 2 years and, at least, in Colorado I’ve had absolutely no problems with the unemployment or Workforce offices at all. In fact my unemployment money hasn’t had so much as a hiccup and the folks at the Workforce office have been nothing but helpful and understanding when I’ve had to go there and they go out of their way to help people. Your comment and Alison’s were both completely unnecessary and a stereotype. Furthermore as a former government worker way back in my career I kicked ass and so did my colleagues on some important projects.

      Sorry Boss but you and Borb were out of line there.

  3. Kate-Madonna*

    Job Seekers ARE superheros. They often have accomplishment statements, traits and gifts that are forgotten about in the weight of their job search. A simple paper cape, might have been GREAT if it coined a link to the website, or an inspirational tip. I worked specifically with those on welfare. We implemented a new program for 10, of the hardest to place candidates. All ten, were interviewed and placed. Sometimes, job seekers simply need someone to listen, encourage and validate what the rest of the world and they, (themselves,) are missing. Not every expense is wasted when it’s really thought through.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Seriously, do you not see how condescending most job-seekers would find this? People need services that will actually help them, not insulting and condescending kindergarten games. These are serious issues, being faced by adults, and they deserve better. I mean, how would you feel if you were dealing with a serious loss and the people in charge of helping you handed you a paper crown and told you that you were a princess??

      1. Angela*

        I’ll give him a punch in the face for answer. XD kidding. but I’d certainly don’t like that. I’m job seeking right now, and I’m starting to feeling desperate. I certainly would appreciate something useful, some resource, advising. I’d take a paper crown or cape as a useless joke, yes, a joke.

      2. ssmm*

        The government won’t help unless you get the attention of someone higher up and to do that is a one in a million chance.

  4. Anonymous*

    As a citizen of he state of florida, I too think the cape idea is a bad idea. Kind of reminds me of “The Incredibles”. Edna would not give them capes because they could hang themselves. Is it really a good idea to give the depressed means to kill themselves? How about funneling that money into the ridiculously low unemployment that Florida pays (max is $275 is the 5th lowest in the country ).

  5. Kate-Madonna*

    I mean no disrespect here…. but being depressed, doesn’t mean one is automatically going to kill themselves. And a simple, (probably cheaply-made) cape isn’t going to hold up an adult human.

    As for the remark that I thought it was a decent idea? I saw what telling someone they were worth it in person was. Were the capes a great idea? In theory. (They didn’t need to be actual capes, as I stated above.) What job seekers need to be reminded of is their worth, value and the reminder works well if it comes with a reminder that they CAN do it.

    You’re so right! I mean, why spend ANY money on marketing the state agency in new and creative ways, (because all their funding comes from numbers of attendees and placements.) Why draw attention to themselves and help job seekers. I we used your mentality, there would be no ‘inspirational speeches,’ no ‘workbooks,’ because it could all be viewed as condescending. If you look at my earliest reply, I said the execution was awful, but idea behind inspiring job seekers was spot on.

    I’ll make sure to comment in the future. This went so well. Thanks!

    1. Nancy*

      Actually Kate-Madonna, you originally wrote “I love the idea of giving job seekers capes.” I agree with AaM that this is a preposterous idea and use of money.

      1. MillenniMedia*

        Err…no one said don’t spend any money. Just don’t spend it in ways that are condescending to job seekers, which will do exactly the opposite of encouraging them to work with the agency.

        I’m sure WCF is a great agency and have helped countless people, but now because of their boneheaded campaign, they are getting press for how insensitive and out of touch they are. Getting your name out there is important, but outside of Hollywood, the old “any PR is good PR” doesn’t quite hold water.

  6. Naama*

    I actually worked in a Minnesota unemployment-contracting nonprofit too. My particular area, a job club for people with limited technology literacy, had the funding for post-it notes and very little else. The reality for many of these organizations is that they would never, ever have access to this sort of funding, and they’re coming off several years of budget cuts. So they are acutely aware of what programming they can implement that will be actually effective for unemployed and disadvantaged populations, because they had those programs before, and they worked, but they were cut due to lack of money!
    This seems like a horribly mismanaged, misguided campaign that will tar the image of state-run jobs programs everywhere, despite the fact that if you handed my nonprofit $73k, it would have gone to programs that would have helped real people in real ways: job skills training, connecting to employers, training staff in job coaching and dealing with serious issues impacting disadvantaged job seekers…we would have loved $73k! And we would have known exactly what to do with it.
    The problem with judging state-run jobs programs by the examples of them you see is that the good examples are more or less invisible. All you see are the egregiously bad ones: this, and the form cover letters with handritten fill-in-the-blanks, and so on. But how can you tell the difference between a good application from someone who went to a good workforce center and got great coaching, and a good app from someone who did not? You can’t.
    AAM, I love you so very much, but I think you might get a lot out of actually talking to people who work in these state-run or contractor organizations and seeing what sort of work they do, when they do it well. This work saves lives. No exaggeration.

  7. MillenniMedia*

    My God. I was laid off a couple years ago, spent 10 weeks wondering if I would have to pack up my husband and leave NYC in the middle of the horrible job market, and was about as depressed as I’ve ever been. I’m pretty sure if someone had offered me a superhero cape, I would have punched them in the face. Twice. The fact that ANYONE would see this as anything other than useless and condescending mystifies me beyond words.

    I got *lucky* and found a job after only a couple months of unemployment. I worked my ass off and got creative – called recruiters, cold-emailed people on LinkedIn that I shared an industry, university, or extracurricular interest with, and researched like a crazy person. The ONLY reason someone at my current company ever saw my resume was because I did some LinkedIn stalking and found a person who I thought might be in the department I was applying for. That person turned out to be my current director, who was impressed at my resourcefulness and called me in for an interview.

    How about we take that $14k and use it to teach job seekers some real search techniques and marketable skills? Just a thought.

    //Rant over.

    1. Naama*

      Yes, exactly! It’s humiliating, and the money should have gone to programming teaching people to do…pretty much what you did.

      1. Jamie*

        Color me shocked that there’s any dissent on the statement of this idea being insulting and condescending. If I were unemployed and someone handed me a cape, I wouldn’t punch them in the face twice…because I think I would be too mortified to even formulate the thought – but I applaud the sentiment.

        Beyond ridiculous to spend one dime of taxpayer money on anything which isn’t providing actual training to make one more employable, or creating jobs – both of which I fully support.

        I really think the person who thought of this should be fired…and the one who put the kibosh on it needs to be up for some kind of commendation.

    2. ssmm*

      lucky and that’s exactly it… many people have worked as creatively as you and even harder than you and they still don’t have a job…

  8. areyoukidding*

    As a job seeker, I can tell you that the idea of someone giving me a cape, a crown, wings, or any other symbolic “you’re worth something” chotchke is RIDICULOUSLY insulting and obnoxious. Better ideas–tools to assist with:
    -Resume writing
    -Effective cover letters
    -Successful Interviewing class
    -Job searching
    -Professional development
    -Career change
    I want a JOB–I’m not a fricking idiot who wants to be sent to bed with a teddy bear and a nice bedtime story.

    1. Anonymous*

      The full quote is:

      “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

      I am sorry that pointing out the unintelligence of this campaign insults anyone in the unemployment industry, but this was poorly thought out, and poorly executed. It does nothing to help the unemployed and only makes the citizens mad and the client feel condescended.

  9. Erica*

    “I mean, how would you feel if you were dealing with a serious loss and the people in charge of helping you handed you a paper crown and told you that you were a princess??”

    This is pure genius.

    I applaud the idea of thinking of new and exciting ways to help people, and “out of the box” thinking (gag me!) but this was just so poorly conceived and insulting and … bad. Very, very bad.

  10. Pingback: Superhero Capes: Or, “Duck and Cover.” « girl meets geek

  11. Aubrey*

    Regardless of any implications about government agencies, this is an egregious waste of tax dollars. People need training, advice, and support; they don’t need superhero capes.

  12. Erica*

    And because I don’t think it’s been mentioned – if depression is a major issue with the unemployed, let’s address that! Not with face-punch-worthy paper capes, but with information about low cost resources, actual mental health professionals and support.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Exactly. And as a friend of mine just emailed me, “How the eff would a cape make a depressed person in an awful situation feel better – should we give them to homeless people too?”

        1. Kate-Madonna*

          …. Was that supposed to be a joke? (Because homelessness is hilarious.) We’re talking about being condescending about job seekers, but that takes the cake.

          I’m sure the State would LOVE to address mental health. Because the system is overworked and often-underfunded, (especially with recent cuts,) sliding – scale programs are a thing of the past. It could address mental health and depression with more funding, which was not earmarked for this campaign. (It would have had to come from a different bucket.)

          1. Erica*

            But wasn’t that your whole defense? “It will give them a boost! It’s for the depressed job-seeker!” Your whole defense seems to be based on the premise that this is a good idea because it addresses depression. (P.S. it doesn’t.)

            I won’t even dignify the “was that supposed to be a joke?” question.

            1. Luke*

              Right above the Nuremburg Defence “I was only obeying orders” What unemployed people need is things like trainging and contacts with peoploe who might be able to give them a job. Get them started and let them do the rest but don’t spend money on ridiculous gimmicks like this when it could be better use in other ways.

  13. Kate-Madonna*

    Apparently the emotions of this have missed the original point. This was a marketing campaign. (Though, mismanaged,) to get people IN the door, therefore increasing funding. We see poor marketing campaigns daily. Did the State ever have the intention of mailing the capes to ensure job seekers had a place to sleep, or to clothe themselves? Nope. They were going to do it as a ‘pick me up.’ As stated in the original reply: This was mismanaged, idiotic. But, it stemmed from a good thought. Often the biggest barrier to job seekers is, themselves. I still maintain a well-written letter/handout would work much better, (and be way more cost-effective.) Joking that homeless people could sleep in the ‘capes’ was out of line, and deters from your original point. But gosh, ya’all are witty.

  14. Erica*

    Well it’s good to finally know who draws the line!

    Giving paper capes to depressed job seekers = Great Idea

    Joking about useless capes as solution to other dire problem = Offensive

    Duly noted.

  15. Kate-Madonna*

    Erica, C’mon. With that logic, the state shouldn’t mail anything to job seekers as it would be seen as a misuse of funding. How about a mailer with the top 3 barriers to job search, a witty quote, a phrase from an expert and a reminder to visit? (Added bonus for giving it a shape like a cape and getting attention.) The last thing job seekers want to see is a bill or a letter from the state asking them to DO something else to keep benefits coming. That would certainly not be out of line, or offensive. What it would be, is smart, economical and a step up from what they did. And, I’m sorry- but joking that homeless people could use them to sleep under? I’m not sure how that’s funny. Help me out?

  16. Erica*

    C’mon, seriously? It’s condescending and a pithy response to a giant problem. It’s meant to be as absurd as the original premise of sending capes to job-seekers as a “pick me up.”

  17. Anonymous*

    Kate Madonna, you are digging yourself in deeper here and starting to seem nonsensical

  18. Rachel Jean*

    Ultimately, the question here should be “What can we do to put a face on unemployment and get people working again?” Yes, the Florida campaign was misguided and rightfully canned. Instead, the conversation here has turned into inflamed stereotypes about the unemployed, government and depressed people. By focusing on what isn’t working and pointing fingers, we’re doing nothing more than hurting the process and failing to come up with real solutions.

  19. Kate-Madonna*

    So do something about it. You know the state doesn’t have funding, and job seekers are hurting. Maybe you can help? Offering classes, or maybe an e-book on how to get past the barrier of unemployment? Maybe you have a great quote to share with a few of the LinkedIn groups where people are chronically unemployed. (They talk negatively about themselves and say they can’t compare.) Visit your local workforce center. You are an etiquette expert. Teach ‘thank you cards’ etiquette. Show them how to write a cover letter. But don’t sit here, telling me that the state sucks for trying and that they were condescending if you aren’t willing to help figure it out, too. You specialize in sticky situatuions, help job seekers out of theirs, instead of saying, “It’s the state’s fault.” You have a lot to give. It’s time to put your actions where your mouth are.

    1. Erica*

      I forgot that you can’t criticize poor marketing campaigns without making your own!

      Luckily, I help create great marketing campaigns all the time. Not for job seekers – though I have certainly offered advice thank you cards, resumes and cover letters all on my blog about the topic. All for free!

      What you are confusing here is a criticism of a specific campaign and the absurdity of it versus a criticism of the government trying to help. I applaud the concept of trying to help. I think this particular way was absolutely ridiculous. If they would like to hire me to help brainstorm other ways, I’d be happy to help.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh come on, Kate-Madonna. I don’t buy that type of argument at all. First, you never know what a stranger might do that you don’t know about. Second, as I think regular commenter Jamie pointed out not too long ago, people should do what they’re strongest in. Someone might be able able to make a much larger contribution working in an area that ISN’T working with job-seekers but they still could be analytical, smart, and insightful enough to have meaningful opinions to share. (Jamie’s example, if I remember correctly, is that she’s fantastic at I.T. but says she would be horrible at managing people — yet she still manages to leave extremely insightful, and smart comments about management here on a regular basis.) I think this whole “if you don’t like it, then do it yourself, and if you won’t then you don’t get to opine” argument is a lazy and not very insightful one.

      People should be engaged citizens, in general. They should keep up with the news, be active in their communities, vote, give to charity, help people when they spot opportunities, advocate to change laws for the better … and yes, form opinions and vocalize them about what their government is doing — and there’s no “involvement” litmus test to decide who should and shouldn’t speak up. (I mean, should you not get to vocalize your stance on Libya or marriage rights or tax reform or reproductive choice or environmental regulations or mental health policy unless you’re actively working on those issues?)

  20. Chris M.*

    Just had to say your comment left at the other blog (as I said in the comment I left there) sums it up perfectly:

    “I am all for building people up and giving them help. And I’m all for finding creative ways to reach people. Capes just aren’t it. ”

    What an insane way of spending government money, at any price! So many other things could be done with these dollars to truly help people in need of finding a job.

  21. Kate-Madonna*

    I never said they should spend the money. I said, they should take the idea and run with it more effectively and cheaper. We all can disagree, (and thank goodness we do.) It creates powerful conversation and passion around a subject, (that especially right now, IS NEEDED.) But if someone has a gift, and feels passionately, I believe they should share it. It’s simple: The more we criticize and the less we actually do- nothing changes. Thanks for your insight.

  22. Laura L*

    I was recently involved in a partly government funded program for job seekers through the local community college (participants also paid a small fee). I’m still in my 20’s, so I fortunately haven’t had much time to be chronically unemployed and some of the people in the program had bee and some hadn’t.

    But I generally found the advice and tips kind of annoying. I even had one session one-on-one with a career counselor that I felt was just more rehashing of the same advice I’d been hearing over and over.

    Unemployment, particularly in this case, and the economic crisis are both systemic problems. It’s not the individual’s fault that they are unemployed and the individual can do everything they can, follow every piece of advice, and subscribe to every inspirational trick in the book and STILL be unemployed.

    The chronically unemployed are in that situation for a variety of reasons. Some are the product of age discrimination, some are the product of outsourcing, and some have other major issues in their lives that prevent them from holding down a job. In all 3 cases, I don’t see how some small, quasi-inspirational gesture will help.

    People need jobs. As long as there are 4 to 5 job seekers for every 1 job opening and as long as jobs keep getting shipped overseas, this problem will persist. The local unemployment office can only do so much in the face of these major issues.

  23. Nancy*

    I’m sorry that Kate-Madonna got so ripped apart here but telling job seekers that they are ‘super heros’ is very condescending and unhelpful. When I was unemployed if the state agency helping me had told me that, I would have walked right out. If a FRIEND trying to help me had told me that, I would have walked out. It’s beyond out of touch with what people need & want.

    1. Kate-Madonna*

      (It’s alright.) It’s not about walking up to someone and saying, “You’re a Darn Superhero!” It’s about using a creative way to help remind job seekers of their abilities and empower them. (The usual and unoriginal ways no longer work.) Why are books like, “What color is your parachute,” and, “Who moved my cheese?” so effective? Because they use an analogy to tell a story. It’s as simple as that.

  24. Erica*

    But Kate-Madonna, what you keep trying to defend is something that no one is in contention about.
    No one is saying “don’t be creative or empowering.”

    Everyone is saying “This particular idea sucked and is condescending and insulting.”

  25. Chris M.*

    Everyone is saying “This particular idea sucked and is condescending and insulting.”

    Plus, completely ineffective. I fail to see how a cape, or literature in format of a cape, or any reference to super-hero (as suggested by Kate-Madonna, would represent even a tiny step in the right direction for the unemployed.

    Personally, the thing that would help boost my self-confidence would be to learn tips about networking and creative ways of finding a job AND get some type of response from a potential employer after applying such tips. Until I saw some sort of interest from potential hiring managers, I don’t think any amount of capes / crowns / outdoors saying “Chris, you rock” would have made any difference.

  26. Anonymous*

    Let’s put aside the idea of snail mail vs. email for a moment.

    I’ve been told by the college career center at my campus that you need to use resume paper. And here you say the good old plain paper is fine and dandy. There’s proof that a lot of people are out of touch.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Absolutely. I’ve ranted about (some) career centers before. It’s why this topic hits a nerve for me — there are too many entities out there that are supposed to be helping job seekers but which are instead failing them.

  27. Mary*


    First off, I love your blog.

    However, as a resident of Central Florida, I think the title of this post is misleading. It’s not the state of Florida that thought unemployed people need capes. It was a local government agency–Workforce Central Florida –in one region of the state (Central Florida). This is actually a pretty important distinction, because at the state government level this was pretty widely thought of as a foolish waste of taxpayer money. In fact, the state’s Agency for Workforce Innovation sent a letter to Workforce Central Florida criticizing the campaign.

    On another note, Workforce Central Florida helped me in a tangible way two years ago after I was laid off from my job in journalism. They offered free classes in Photoshop and Final Cut Pro to unemployed workers in the area with an interest in those programs. I took the Final Cut Pro class and it really strengthened my resume and helped me get my next communications job at a nonprofit. So yeah, this cape campaign was a huge misstep, but Workforce Central Florida has helped lots of folks when it sticks to operating programs that actually help make unemployed people more marketable.

  28. Robert Headley*

    First and foremost, I want to say that it is great to see that Mary received some skill training from Workforce Florida.I believe self-improvement is the answer to many problems, not just the answer of unemployment.

    However, I think $14,000 is a waste of funds. Any time you spend money, you have to look at your return on your investment, at $14,000 you would need to have a significant ROI in order to say you did not waste your investment. I do think that Kate’s suggestion of paper capes, has merit. Imagine if you gave every job seeker a stack of post it notes shaped like capes to remind them of their ability to achieve. They could use them to write down numbers for interviews, addresses, etc. This would have a great ROI. A lot of people don’t write things down often because they don’t generally have the paper/writing utensils to do so. Out of sight, out of mind.

    I think Workforce Florida’s heart was int he right place. Motivation and self-worth are real problems and I see this every Monday when I help out in #jobhuntchat on twitter. People need to know that they do have the ability to do anything they are willing to learn and motivated enough to seek out. Cloaking yourself in the resolve of a superhero certainly seems like a good thought to me.

  29. The Nerdy Nurse*

    It’s not about giving out toys.
    It’s about giving people a way to feel empowered.

    1. Nancy*

      But you’re missing all the people here telling you that it wouldn’t make them feel empowered. Your response to that is to insist that it should? It’s nice to try to help people feel empowered but as many others here have pointed out, this idea doesn’t do that for most people. For most people it makes them feel insulted.

      The defenders of this idea keep missing the point that the others are making, that empowerment is good but capes DON’T ACHIEVE THAT. I hear you that you think they should. Do you not hear all the others telling you that they don’t? Do you not care about that? Do you just want to tell them that that’s too bad because it SHOULD? (And do you not see that as condescending?)

  30. Anonymous*

    This crap is about as useful as someone telling an unemployed person to hang in there as they lose everything that resembles their former life as an employed person with value to the world.

    1. Robert Headley*

      Nobody is suggesting that campaigns like this should be your only program, but I think if affordable enough, they can function well as an addition to a program to build skill. They build you, not just your skills.

      1. Anonymous*

        That is just it, this does not build you up. You as a man, how do you feel, seeing your kids go hungry because you cannot find a job and have no money to buy food because your unemployment is only $275 a month? You as a man, how do you feel when your creditors call you wanting to know if you are going to keep your agreement to pay them the money you promised to pay and you know that there is only enough money to pay your rent or feed your kids because the state pays you $275 a week in unemployment? Someone comes around with a stupid cape telling you that you are a super hero and you want to punch them in the face. What the heck super power do they think you have: the power of ignoring the crying of your kids? Maybe the power of not feeling guilty for breaking your word of honor? This program was an insult to people. Instead of putting money into this, could not the money have been spent providing counseling or providing a few dollars more a week to unemployment compensation?
        But some genius government employee thought it was more important to make himself or herself look good and feel good by looking like they are doing something while not actually having to do anything. And the saddest thing I have seen is how those who are supposed to be “protecting” the unemployed see this as a great idea because it is creative rather than looking at whether it actually accomplishes that which it is supposed to accomplish!

        1. Laura L*

          It sucks to be an unemployed woman, too. And it sucks to be unemployed whether or not you have a family to support.

          1. Anonymous*

            Absolutely true. I feel truly incredibly bad for those unemployed who have mouths to feed. However, the reality is that if you are married you are more likely to have at least one income (aside from the small cases where both spouses are unemployed). And if you are a single parent of minor children you have access to financial support programs during unemployment that singletons without children do not. In these hard times unemployed and underemployed people with children get preferential treatment over people without. But the need for assistance isn’t any less just because they have no children.

  31. anonn*

    Personally as a job seeker its insulting. I would prefer that I went into a draw for $125 for use to help me with job seeking.

    For example that would pay my way through a bookkeeping course or help reduce fees for an IT certification. Or even offer a few hours of intensive assistance from a placement expert who could specifically target employers for me.

  32. Charles*

    Yep, In my 50s and unemployed for over 2 years – a cape WILL make me feel better about myself – it will let me say:

    I AM a SUPERhero! as one more person doesn’t hire me.

    (That’s sarcasm in case those misreading it are bloody f*ckwit social workers/government deadweight types who think that they are superior to the rest of us as they waste OUR money on horse hockey)

    Seriously, some of the nonsense that I have received/heard from my local unemployment (excuse me, it’s now called “Workforce Development”) office makes me think that some who truly cannot find work eventually get hired at that office.

  33. Do Not Text the Hiring Manager*

    I heard about this news item via the bluff the listener challenge on “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” Despite the ridiculousness of this idea, and yes, it is truly absurd to spend this much money on capes, i think the claim that “most government-run jobs agencies (including unemployment offices) have no idea what they’re doing” is a gross generalization. In Massachusetts, the state has long run an effective youth jobs programs, and the Governor’s recent “Mass It’s All Here” initiative stands to truly benefit the thousands of college students who will graduate from Massachusetts schools this year. What’s I find most insulting is that, while these programs struggle to maintain the funds to operate, Florida is flushing $73,000 down the toilet.

  34. Jamie*

    I wasn’t going to chime in again since I didn’t want to beat a dead horse, but I read this post earlier this morning and this comment stands out: “Job Seekers ARE superheros.”

    No they aren’t. It’s this kind of patronizing attitude (even without capes) that is so grating. Job seekers are a wide and varied group of people and painting everyone with the same brush in this hyperbolic way is just as wrong as those who don’t want to hire the unemployment because of the stigma of being out of work for a while. Both are equally meaningless, because it lumps people into a category rather than recognizing that “the unemployed” are just a bunch of individuals who share a common situation.

    Some job seekers are indeed star performers who due to circumstances are on the market. Some are mediocre, some sucked at their former jobs. Some people need access to training programs, some need to do some soul searching and revamp their work ethics, and some just need access to networking/job opportunities where they can get their foot in the door.

    When everyone is painted with the same sunshiny brush it diminishes everyone as a person.

    When everyone gets a “participation” trophy and the same accolades regardless of effort, contribution, or achievement it can have a severe negative impact on those really putting in the effort.

    I do believe everyone who wants to work has something to offer, and I think the agencies should be geared toward helping people find their fit and maximizing their skills – the best self-esteem builder for someone bummed about being unemployed is an offer letter. The government should put available resources in helping that happen for more people.

    1. The Nerdy Nurse*

      There is a difference between job-seekers and the unemployed. A big one.
      And those who continue to make efforts to gain employment and seek new opportunities, despite poor prospects and multiple denials, well I cannot think of a better definition of a hero.

      So as much as you want to say that giving someone a cape is an insult and that the money would be best spent elsewhere, you are really robbing someone people of the acknowledgement they deserve. The unemployed do not deserve a recognition, a cape, or any other trinket to remind them that they are jobless. But individuals who are actively seeking jobs, and attempting to make contributions to society should be honored.
      Yes a cape is silly, but I feel that the idea, and the individuals who dreamed it up should be praised for their acknowledgement that we all need to feel appreciated and acknowledge for our efforts.
      The reasons why social media has become some powerful goes to the very core of our humanity. We all want acceptance, acknowledgement for our feelings and efforts, and to connect with like-minded people.
      It’s not about capes. The picture is so much bigger than a cape.
      It’s about reminding people to not lose hope, that they have worth, and they are not alone.
      If that is condescending, we’ll put me on that wagon too.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You guys seem to be missing the point that multiple people keep making: No one has a problem with acknowledging effort or helping people not lose hope. It’s this specific idea — the capes and the “superhero” framing — that sucks so badly. And as I think someone else pointed out above, just because a few people say they’d enjoy it, that doesn’t trump the fact that the vast majority of people would be grossly offended by it. This agency needs to find a way to achieve their goal without pissing off most of their audience. Surely we can all agree on that?

        1. The Nerdy Nurse*

          But we haven’t missed the point.
          We’ve stated from the beginning that capes may not have been the best method to achieve their aim. However, their goal was a noble and it should be acknowledged as such.

          When people make statements like “I really think the person who thought of this should be fired”, it’s clear that they are the ones who do not “Get it”.

          What is so wrong with looking at the glass half-full?
          Are we so consumed in ourselves that we cannot see the good intentions despite poor execution?
          Give people the benefit of the doubt.

          Wouldn’t it be nice if we could come to a point where we were more surprised by someone doing something wrong than something right?

          Look for the positive in this. It’s there. I see it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If you agree that the capes and superhero framing were a bad idea, even if their intentions were good, then we’re all on the same page here.

            Good intentions are important. But they don’t cancel out effect, and anyone evaluating performance needs to look at actual effect, not just intentions.

  35. Jamie*

    You can certainly be unemployed without being a job-seeker, but I thought we were all referring to those who were looking for work – in this context I felt they were synonymous.

    And although I have now become the kind of person I hate by arguing semantics on a forum – I have one more. I thought we were using the word hero as hyperbole – but in the above post you don’t seem to be using it ironically. By definition a hero is “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.”

    Some job seekers may be those things, but not by virtue of continuing to look for work. Seeking employment is self preservation. Granted it’s hard, and it can be demoralizing, and there’s a plethora of talent out there being wasted … all of which totally sucks.

    I don’t think it’s particularly noble or virtuous to try to earn a living. Taking care of one’s financial obligations to provide for yourself and (when applicable) your children is part of the deal of living in society. Inexcusable to shirk this responsibility intentionally – but nothing remarkable about doing what you’re supposed to do…which is if you’re out of work you look until you find another job.

    I think of heroes as those who assume some personal risk in order to go above and beyond to help others. I just don’t see where it’s applicable here.

    Hopefully this was an aberration and I’ll go back to being one of those people not posting about semantics.

  36. Erica*

    I think part of it is that the term “hero” gets tossed around pretty easily and tend to agree with Jamie.

    These are normal people doing normal things (trying to get a job) in extraordinary times. The fact that they keep trying and trying is commendable, and I certainly think a few pep talks and reminders of positivity is a Good Thing. But they are not heroes, and certainly not superheroes, worthy of a cape. And okay, let’s say they are. Once they get a job, and become employed, are they still heroes? Are people who get jobs heroes? Do I deserve a cape for coming to work?

    But you know what? Even if they ARE superheroes? If the original contention is that Workforce agencies aren’t supposed to provide mental health counseling, then maybe they should stick to providing actual resources related to finding a job, and let the mental health professionals worry about the depression. Or, just provide some reminders that there’s always something you can do, etc. without the patronizing term of “hero.”

    And you know what, I didn’t say it before, but 80 comments in – why not?

    “Imagine if you gave every job seeker a stack of post it notes shaped like capes to remind them of their ability to achieve. They could use them to write down numbers for interviews, addresses, etc. This would have a great ROI. A lot of people don’t write things down often because they don’t generally have the paper/writing utensils to do so. Out of sight, out of mind.”

    If you really can’t figure out that you need to write things down, or can’t find paper and a pen, you may need more help then this agency can provide.

  37. Mooch*

    I’ve listed some not so common items homeless people would benefit from. These are actual items I use myself while living in my car in Los Angeles. http://

  38. Jamie*

    My daughter is taking a career planning class in high school and yesterday I was going over one of her assignments with her which was to write a practice resume/cover letter in preperation for her mock interview.

    The teacher stresses the importance of a well written and specifically tailored cover letter, leaving the objective off as irrelevant, key words, and not to waste money on resume paper because hiring managers don’t care.

    I almost want to meet with her teacher and mention your name to see if she’s a regular reader.

    I just wanted to share that the right things are being taught, somewhere. Even if it is in high school.

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