Writing Sample: Economic Forecast

I am always excited when I get the opportunity to tackle a new topic with my writing skills. This is my first article on the subject of the economy. During the December 2011 Housing Forecast Breakfast, I listened to various speakers and questions from the audience. This article ran in the January 2012 issue of the Home Building News (HBN). You can also see it online here. Please note that I am not only the editor of the HBN, I am a contributing writer even though I don’t get the by line.

Improving market on the horizon, housing experts explain recovery

Promising outlook presented at annual Housing Forecast Breakfast
by Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland
December 2011

With nearly 400 housing professionals and elected officials in attendance at the annual Housing Forecast Breakfast on December 14, 2012, HBA’s largest audience in four years was eager to hear the outlook. Three industry experts gave us a peek at the economic horizon:  Slow growth is expected in 2012.

Graph A
Graph A

National Economist Perspective

“The worst is behind us,” said Robert Denk, Assistant VP for Forecasting and Analysis at the National Association of Home Builders. But there is still “a lot of uncertainty,” said Denk. The high unemployment rate coupled with the sluggish growth of GDP contributes to a low level of confidence among Americans.  Denk pointed out that of the eight recessions in the last 50 years, the current one comes in second to last in the speed of recovery. The economy is just “bouncing along the bottom, stuck in a holding pattern,” added Denk.

Graph B
Graph B

Denk uses the level of production between 2000-2003 as the standard for “normal”. According to his calculations, the national average for single-family housing starts bottomed at 28% of “normal” production. He indicates that all four measurements of housing prices (Case-Shiller, FHFA, NAR, and Flow of Funds), although not NASA precise, tell the same story (see graph A).  According to Denk, the national average on single family starts has grown to 42% of “normal” indicating that we are on our way back.  However, Oregon will be one of the slower states to recover.

Graph C
Graph C

When comparing median house price to median income, “price declines are over.” At the peak of the recession, price/income ratio topped at 4.7 and now has stabilized at 3.2.  Price to income ratio represents the ratio of the median house price compared to the median annual income for a region.  For example, if the median home price is $250,000 and the median annual income is $50,000, then the price/income ratio is 5.0.  A price/income ratio of 3.2 is considered normal, and many economists felt that until a region’s ratio got down to 3.2, the area would still have problems.

Graph D
Graph D

When it comes to foreclosures, Denk made a distinction between “problem” versus “crisis”. In some states (mostly the southwest, Florida, and the rust belt), foreclosures grew to 6 times pre-recession average.  The national average, however, “only” doubled, growing from .5% to 1% at its peak. Oregon is hovering right at the national average of 1%, which means that while we’re not as bad as a few of the worst states, foreclosures still will play an impact in our recovery (see graph B). Denk uses graphs C and D to illustrate the rate of recovery in 2012 and 2013.

Regional Land Supply Analysis

Taking a different perspective, analyst Todd Britsch of New Home Trends talked about the availability of lots and land. Currently, 10% of plats in the pipeline do not have a lender associated. “The odds are a majority will go back to the bank,” said Britsch.

When the market turns, Britsch doesn’t see the likelihood that larger banks will be the first to begin to loan on vertical development.  He predicts smaller regional banks and private lenders will make money available first.  National builders and local builders who survived the downturn will continue to build.

“We need first time home buyers back in the market. It fuels the step up buyer,” emphasized Britsch.

With 11,357 foreclosures in the four county (Clark, Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington) area in 2011, the perception has been “the banks did this to me.” But Britsch noted when rent rates go up, it fuels housing starts. He pointed out it’s now “less expensive to own today than rent,” as vacancy rates have decreased and rents are starting to rise.  These are also positive indicators for a housing recovery.

Graph E
Graph E

Britsch doesn’t believe unemployment is a major positive factor until it is down to 5%, as recent drops are also a result of some people just not looking for jobs anymore.   He believes a better barometer is the number of people employed along with net jobs added, and he sees a slight increase in the number of people holding jobs (see graph E).

Finally, Britsch also noted that there is a perception that the cost of new homes has come down.  The reality, he said, is that builders have had to decrease amenities in new homes to be competitive with the existing home market, so that has given the appearance of price declines.  As the market recovers, builders are likely to begin adding amenities back in as well as building larger homes that the market will demand again.

Local Sales Market Impacts

Ken Perry, President and CEO of Knowledge Group, emphasized “we have a perception problem in the US.” If there is no social problem to giving your house back, you will give your house back,” he said.  “What that means is there are a lot of people who gave their house bank to the bank in 2008 and 2009 because it simply didn’t make sense to keep it.”  The good news, said Perry, “Once someone has tasted the sweet nectar of home ownership, they want to own again.” It will only take those who lost their homes 2 or 3 years to get back into another mortgage because most people kept their credit scores high buy paying on their credit cards instead of their mortgages.  Perry believes this buying group, along with all those who delayed forming households during the recession, will cause a high demand for housing in 2-3 years.

Perry also stated that we’re at a point where much of the public perceptions of the economy and the housing market are driven by their conversations with others.  Perry’s solution? The CPCI – Christmas Party Conversation Index.  When you talk down about the industry, the listener will go to the next party and repeat those words: “Business sucks. It’s a bad market out there.”  When you talk positive, the positivity spreads.

It should be noted that Perry is not a blind optimist.  When he spoke at the HBA Housing Forecast breakfast in 2008, Perry said our industry just finished the biggest party of its life (the housing market boom) and was now waking up with the worst hangover it had ever experienced.  At that time (2008), he believed the hangover would last a few more years.  Due to his track record, Perry’s optimism about slow growth in 2012 followed by rising growth in 2013 has credibility.

Conclusion

These three industry experts, all coming from different perspectives, are giving us cautious but growing optimism for the housing market recovery.  So, think about how you can spread the word at your next social event: “The economy is growing – slowly but surely.”

A Short Essay: Leadership and the Committee

“Lola adds the ability to lead and inspire others around her to do more than they themselves knew they could do.” – Steve Russell, Windermere Realty

Approval by committee can be a complicated process unless managed effectively. Strong leadership helps avoid confusion, indecisiveness, and disagreements. Setting expectations and properly managing them can be the winning strategy when leading a team. My approach is to get to know each member and understand what personally motivations them. It is easier to gain respect when you build a committee from scratch, like I did with the Senior Advisory Council for Volunteers of America. However, when you walk into an existing committee, many members already have relationship patterns and it’s harder to gain the leadership edge. I experienced this on both the Heart Ball committee and the Board of Licensed Social Workers. It takes time to prove yourself and your dedication. By creating a relationship with each member, you can break down barriers and address preconceptions. Participating on a committee should be a fun and rewarding experience.

The above essay was written during the interview process at the Home Builders Association (HBA). After I received the job and became liaison to the Communications Committee, I was delighted by the following comment given to my CEO. 

“I just wanted to let you know how impressed I am with the HBA’s new hire, Lola Rain.  I’ve sat on many committees and a few boards and she is a great facilitator and thinker that surprises all of us in each communication meeting.  Her leadership, processes and programs she comes up with are very refreshing and helpful.” – Jason Coles, HBA Member

Thank you Jason for the kind words. The Home Builders Association truly has been the best organization I have ever worked for. I will miss it very much.

Writing Sample: Serving Up Style

This article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Home Building News.

Serving Up Style was an epiphany Debbie McCabe had several years ago while at an Elle Decor dining competition in New York City. Although she isn’t a designer, she has great admiration for architecture and décor. In fact, her daughter Megan is an architect in California. Her other daughter is Molly, of Molly’s Fund.

Molly was diagnosed with lupus eight years ago when she was only 25 years old. Lupus is a horribly debilitating disease that many people live with in silence, as it is nearly invisible to the eye. People who suffer with lupus have severe pain that often imprisons them in bed alone, leaving their family and children not understanding why this disease has such a traumatic impact on their lives. McCabe wanted to tell her daughter’s story and educate others about Lupus, so she founded Molly’s Fund in 2008.

Serving Up Style transformed the way McCabe was able to tell the story of Molly and lupus. During the 3rd annual Serving Up Style last month, she was astonished with the talented turnout of the twelve participating designers and their respective dining creations. In 2009, they started with just five design teams, grew to ten teams in 2010, and now McCabe is already receiving calls from designers who want to participate in the 2012 show.

As part of the Fall Home and Garden show, Molly’s fund is able to reach over 10,000 people and Serving up Style is just starting to gain followers – designers involved say this is the largest design competition in the Portland area.  Coupled with the design competition is the annual gala – a sit down dinner with silent and live auctions. This year the benefit gala drew in 350 people and raised over $100,000 for Molly’s Fund. “As the word gets out, our numbers increase for the gala,” said McCabe. Melanie Wingo, KATU anchor, is the emcee. “People were so generous this year,” McCabe exclaimed. One auction item, a weeklong vacation to a home in the Florida Keys (with its own lagoon and tennis court) went for $8,000 including airfare for four. Ikea donated its dining room to a raffle that sold $2,500 worth of tickets.

According to McCabe, Serving Up Style has room to grow but it depends on sponsors. Lighting the twelve dining spaces can be expensive, and if it grows in 2012, they are looking at one hefty electric bill.

McCabe expressed her gratitude to the Fall Home and Garden Show and the Home Builders Association. “We couldn’t do it without them. They are an amazing partner. Their contribution and faith in us is so important.”

Writing Sample: Portland Fall Home & Garden Show

From the November 2011 issue of the Home Building News

Portland Fall Home & Garden Show
The HBA Ask the Expert Booth at the Portland Expo Center Sept. 29-Oct.2, 2011

Recently, homeowners looking to improve the value and beauty of their homes turned out for the Fall Home and Garden Show at the Portland Expo Center.  “This year’s traffic was up nearly 20% over fall 2010,” says Dave Nielsen, CEO of the HBA.  “Members reported they had numerous solid leads and that the show was successful for them.”

This year’s show attracted traffic using billboards, a print media campaign with a weekday coupon, and special appearances by local morning show personalities. With 343 booths promoting household products, landscapers, builders and remodelers, attendees had a plethora of options and ideas to consider.

“Every couple who walks through the door is there for a purpose,” said Terry O’Loughlin, event producer with O’Loughlin Trade Shows. “They have a reason for attending the show. These people are here looking for a service, product, or to learn something,” explains O’Loughlin.

Home and Garden chair and fall vendor, Mitch Stanley of Stanley Renovation & Design, talked with several people looking for options for their upcoming projects. Because Stanley offers full-service remodeling, he appeals to a special clientele. “I had 7 or 8 conversations with qualified clients who are looking to start projects in the spring,” he said. Stanley plans on returning to the Expo center in February to continue building relationships with potential clients at the Spring Home and Garden Show.

“The Home and Garden shows are for vendors to market, brand, and follow up leads from the last show. If you make an impression on these people they will come back looking for you,” said O’Loughlin. Stanley agrees the show is good for branding and getting his name out there.

For the last three years Steve Heiteen from Portland Remodel has held a booth at the Home and Garden shows. “Most people want information,” said Heiteen. It’s about “connecting with people as you talk to them. Let them understand we can be a resource for them. A lot of people will call when they are ready,” he explained. Heinteen secured three appointments during the show.

Returning this year was the design showcase Serving Up Style, which featured dining room designs from twelve of the best local designers in the business. The exhibit helped raise over $100,000 for Molly’s Fund, a local nonprofit that supports lupus awareness, education, and research for a cure. This was a 150% increase from funds raised in 2010 used in the fight against this debilitating disease.

The first place award for both the designer’s choice and people’s choice of Serving Up Style went to Portland interior designer Wendy O’Brien, an HBA member. Her design, incorporating a life-sized giraffe made from rusted metal, impressed the attendees as well as the fellow craftsmen at the show.

Other features included a plant sale benefiting Leach Botanical Garden and dozens of animal adoptions through the efforts of Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals.

The Portland Spring Home & Garden Show is coming this February.  Be sure to visit www.otshows.com  for the latest information about how to get involved.

My Own Private River, Idaho

It was a packed house at the Portland Hollywood Theatre‘s premier of Gus Van Sant‘s re-mastered piece, “My Own Private Idaho.” Actor James Franco, a student of Rhode Island School of Design and Spidey Man’s on-screen best friend, had his way with film that had only seen Gus’ cutting room floor back in 1991. This new, yet remade movie is reminiscent of the original. Kind of like a long lost cousin you met once when you were five, or a roll of film taken at the beach you never processed but you fondly remember that day.

Gus, I love how you invent stories that make the audience feel uncomfortable due to the fact they reveal a side of the world we tend to sweep under the rug and stand on until the truth burns a hole through the fabric and destroys the lives we have tried so desperately to build. James did you proud with one of the opening scenes of River with his pants down. Those tight, expressive close-ups of River bring tears to the eyes of anyone who knew the depth of his talent and the life that once ran through those veins. In the movie “My Own Private River,” I am more connected with his character than I was during the original. It might be because I have more life experience now than I did 20 years ago. Today, I was dragged through the character’s self torture and disappointment like it was my own.

In the original, I was so much more involved in the relationship between River and Keanu. This time, it was all about River. Is it because he is gone? Is it because he is the star of this film? Or is it because James crafted the film in a way that only a skilled editor could?

I had the chance to ask James about the original impact “My Own Private Idaho” made on him. He expressed how, although he had his own family, these make-shift relationships resonated with him. At that age, he wasn’t looking for a film career or a life in Hollywood, he just liked how River dressed and James tried to mimic him in real life. But he said it came down to the way the film was directed and how it played out on the screen. Like him, I fell in love with “My Own Private Idaho” as a teen and I will never forget the way it made me feel.

Thank you James, Gus, and especially River for teaching me a few things about myself today:

Gus and James on stage at Hollywood Theatre in Portland
Artist Talk, September 25, 2011

1. There is a difference between regret and disappointment. I can control regret, but I can’t control disappointment.

2. Life is about relationships. It is important to build them, but realize when they are dangerous.

3. Don’t let expectations destroy my will to live.

4. The rain in Portland can be loved. It is a small detail that makes this place unique.

CircOddyssey: A Decadent Feast

As a board member and the volunteer event manager, I am excited to be a part of this year’s Circus Project benefit show on December 2, 2011, at the Portland Art Museum. Tickets can be purchased at www.thecircusproject.org.

The Circus Project proudly presents:
CircOddyssey: A Decadent Feast for a Noble Cause

The Circus Project does hereby invite all honorable citizens of the Northwest and beyond, to partake in a feast of epic proportions as only the Gods of Olympus could assemble.

Commence the holiday season with a gala sure to saturate your senses and rejuvenate your spirits.  Join us as we embark on the timeless journey of Odysseus of Ithaca, as told by dancers, musicians, acrobats, and aerialists.  Directed by Jenn Cohen with Tracy Broyles, and featuring performances by Circus Project students, graduates, and eminent guest artists including NANDA, entertainers are sure to astound even the most discerning of guests.

A three-course plated dinner, bestowed by Vibrant Table Catering and ample libations will nourish the body and lubricate the palate, while silent & live auctions brimming with worldly treasures will delight your collections.  Don’t miss this heroic journey of discovery, triumph, and homecoming, to benefit a most noble cause.

Passionate About Supporting Home Bound Seniors

I am very passionate about serving seniors in my community. I worry about older folks who have trouble with basic activities of daily living such as cooking and grocery shopping. Luckily there are organizations like Store to Door and Meals on Wheels that serve this population. Here is the most recent news on hunger and food security in Oregon and across America.


Serious Health Risks for Seniors without Access to Food

Portland Nonprofit Provides Grocery Service to Home Bound Seniors and People with Disabilities

September 1, 2011 (Portland) – “Access to food is a rising concern of older adults in Oregon,” says Helen Bernstein, executive director of Store to Door. “It’s not just the cost of food that has many seniors concerned, it’s access to stores because of the inability to get around safely.”

Store to Door has served the Portland metro for over 22 years, providing low-cost grocery shopping and delivery. Many clients cannot do their own shopping due to mobility issues caused by diabetes, blindness, heart disease, Parkinson’s and other health problems. Access to transportation is also difficult for people with disabilities. Add in economic factors, and many older adults are struggling to keep food on the table.

A report released Tuesday by the AARP Foundation found that more than nine percent of Americans over the age of 50 were at risk of hunger, an increase by almost 80% from 2001. At Store to Door, the number of clients has remained consistent, but the number of weekly shopping trips per client has declined over the last year.

“People are making meals stretch,” says Judith Auslander of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

Nutrition is a primary concern to senior advocates and professionals working with older adults. The lack of proper nutrition has consequences including an increased risk of depression and dementia. A poor diet, or skipping meals completely, can cause dizziness resulting in falls and hospitalization.

By providing access to food, including grocery shopping and delivery service, medical risks and cost associated can be reduced significantly.

About Store to Door

Support Store to Doors mission to facilitate independent living for Portland area seniors and people with disabilities by providing a low-cost, personalized grocery shopping and delivery service. To donate or volunteer, visit www.StoretoDoorofOregon.org or contact Helen Bernstein at 503-200-3335.


The Brand Experience: A Real Life Example

As a marketing professional, I build strategies. More often than not, my clients pick and choose elements from a customized plan I build for their brand. In my marketing I use industry best practices and evidence based strategies — and I always throw something unique in to ensure the brand stands out and communicates the essence of the organization. However, the client always has the last say and usually sticks with safe over shockingly superb.

In a recent “Marc’s Remarks” email from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland president, I was shocked and delighted by Marc Blattner’s refreshing and genuine approach. First off, I was surprised at the content: The Brand Experience. But then I realized he was subtley making a point about the experience you can expect from him and his organization. The name of the newsletter is friendly, his writing is conversational, and the content is different. He tells his own experience in a very vivid way. Second, Marc makes a wonderful point to all business leaders. Every business needs to take into consideration how they approach and interact with their clients. Thank you Marc for sharing this with us. Here is what he said:

This past week, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc., stepped down from his role.  Mr. Jobs is credited for revitalizing Apple and turning the company into a world leader in technology and entertainment. Their products and stores are simply amazing – each with a remarkable look, feel, capability, and user experience. In fact, Apple, with the charismatic Steve Jobs as the chief sales/spokesperson, is able to sell products people did not even know they needed until the company invented it. The Apple “brand” is synonymous with cool and excellence. Yet, it takes more than that for one’s brand to be successful.

I recently read an article by Dan Pallotta titled, A Logo is Not a Brand. His thesis – “brand is everything and everything is brand.” Pallotta writes:

  • Brand is your strategy – your aspirations and the progress you make toward them
  • Brand is your call to action – what do you ask of your constituents
  • Brand is your customer service – if people get caught in “voice mail hell,” cannot figure out who to talk to, or not get the information they requested, what does it say about your organization
  • Brand is the way you speak – using jargon and acronyms will contaminate your message
  • Brand is the whole array of your communication tools – website, voice mail, mailings, which all must be of the highest quality
  • Brand is your people and the way they represent one’s organization – Friendly? Welcoming? Interested in you?
  • Brand is your facilities – is your place clean and uncluttered? Does it look and feel alive?
  • Brand is your logo and visuals – every organization deserves great graphic design

Large companies like Apple take their brand very seriously. Think of them in the context of the above descriptions and they hit a bullseye in almost every way. Yet, no matter how big or small, every organization/company can make their brand stand out. Let me share a recent local experience with you.

For my wife’s birthday we went to The Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park to see Portland’s own Rose City Rollers. Yes, we went to women’s roller derby! (This was her idea! She had remembered that on our flight from Philadelphia to Portland when my family moved here one year ago, the Rose City Rollers were on our plane following a tournament in the area – my wife was fascinated by them.) Now, I must admit this was not the same roller derby I remember as a child when the attractive blond-haired, blue eyed Los Angeles Thunderbirds would compete against those mean nasty New York Bombers on television. Those matches resembled professional wrestling with “good guys and bad guys” competing against each other in pre-determined matches. Instead, this was real!

The local Wheels of Justice (Portland’s “A-level” team) took on the Boston Derby Dames. We had special tickets (purchased online at the team’s website in a very simple and direct manner) and sat in the “Rock Star section” where we were treated to excellent rink-side seats. Although the facilities were not necessarily the cleanest (port-a-potties were the bathroom of choice), nor most comfortable (metal high-rise bleachers one would see in a high school gym), the ambiance was perfect for a night of roller derby. The crowd was colorful (and I do not mean just the tattoos), fun-loving, knowledgeable and supportive of the home team.

Beyond the fun of watching the match and seeing the true athleticism and skating skills of these women, it was the actual experience that cemented their brand in my mind. Signage was everywhere. Rules were displayed in easy to understand language on the scoreboard prior to the game so everyone could better understand what was happening on the rink (do you know what the “jammer” does or what the role of the “pivot” is?). A representative from Voodoo Donuts (one of the team’s many sponsors) was in our section and heard that this was our “first adventure to The Hangar” and the next thing we know he handed us four donuts with the team’s mascot in frosting free of charge. The people who worked the arena and for the team could not have been more helpful and welcoming every step of the way. Following the match, because I bought my tickets online, I received a simple survey from the team asking about my experiences and what I would like to see at roller derby in the future. They made the entire experience (before, during and after) so enjoyable – and hit on every point of Pallotta’s article.

By the end of the night, my family was hooked. Who knows, maybe we get season tickets next year? But what I can tell you – if you want an experience that will solidify a brand in your head – skip the Apple store and go see the Rose City Rollers.

Ultimately, “brand” is caring about your business/organization at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers, and every interaction anyone has with you, no matter how small.

Shabbat Shalom,

Marc

(Since I am sure you are wondering, the Wheels of Justice rolled all over Boston’s team and won by a large margin.)

Learning the Walkabout

For the last ten years I have desired to go on a walkabout. Ever since I saw a modern photo of the Great Wall of China with people on it, I have wanted to walk it — all 5,500 miles of it. Unfortunately, the wall itself is in sections and it would be nearly impossible for me to walk it. Plus the cost of airfare, amount of time needed, and the logistics seemed daunting.

Then I decided to walk from San Diego to the tip of the Baja Peninsula. It’s only 775 mile. But many people think it wouldn’t be safe for me to do it alone and I couldn’t find anyone to tag along. “Why don’t you hike the Pacific Crest Trail?” someone asked. “I don’t want to hike, I want to go on a walkabout,” was my response.

To me a walkabout is a destiny with a purpose. Just like the Australian Aborigines spiritual journeys that take up to 6 months for an adolescent to trace the paths of their ancestors. I want to take a journey that will allow my spirit to grow. One that will open my eyes to new things. One that will allow me to meet new people and have new experiences. I don’t want to walk a trail in the mountains alone. I want to form connections and grow to a higher level of conscientiousness.

Today, I walked two miles with Don Baack of the SW Trails in Portland. AARP Oregon organized this walk and 20 people joined in. Twenty people with different backgrounds. Twenty people with different life experiences. Twenty people who desired to learn something new and learn it together.

I don’t wander and meander through life like some people do. I want to walk with a purpose. It is my life goal to find my purpose, but until I do I will continue to walk with one.

Someday, I will do a pilgrimage called the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. I am not Catholic and will not be doing it as a dedication to my religion or for the signed certificate of the Church that will guarantee my admission to Heaven. I will do it because it has a beginning and an end. In the middle, I will meet new people and experience new things. It is said to be 500 miles, but there are groups who arrange the details and one group does a 100 mile journey in 10-days.

At the end of the journey, I imagine my feet will hurt pretty bad. But I will have succeeded at achieving a life’s goal and it will feel pretty good.

 

Daunting Tasks: The Online Job Application

Looking for a job? How many applications can you submit in one day?

It took me nearly two hours to complete an online application that did not have enough fields for past employment, didn’t support enough characters for educational info, and had some “I accept terms” that could make you feel like you were applying to be a foster parent not an employee.

“Please be advised that we may also obtain an investigative report including information as to your character, general reputation, personal characteristics, and mode of living,” said one of the final pages of the online form.

Mode of living? What if I live in a trailer court, on someone’s couch, or with my parents? Of course “I agreed” because I just spent 2 hours filling out the application and I wasn’t about to give up.

I knew that some companies look at your credit history (aka the consumer report), but I was under the impression those were positions in banks and financial institutions. The job I just applied for was a marketing program manager for a company that provides email marketing solutions to a variety of clients. Do they really need my credit score?

I will admit my score is low, probably in the 400s, but after the recession and losing my job, my house, and almost my marriage, I think having a low credit score is a small scar to bear.  Bankruptcy is not the end of the world. The State of Oregon didn’t hold it against me when I was appointed to a consumer protection board and became a Certified Ombudsman. Honestly, I represent the average American and I advocate for the rights of people who need the extra support. Although I am extremely happy to provide a voice for those who need it, the work doesn’t pay the bills. Being a volunteer is extremely rewarding, but it doesn’t help me build my retirement fund or pay for new shoes and shampoo.

As I power ahead to find the employer who will recognize my skills and invest in me, I have to take a moment to realize that the online application is a flawed system used to filter large applicant pools. I have done the hiring before. I know what a tough job it is to read through a stack of 100+ resumes without using HR software. It is not a fun job — nor is submitting them. I hope someday the system will change, but in the meantime we all must adapt and remain relentless in the face of adversity.

The next time you go to hit the submit button on an application, beware you may get this text: Disclosure to Employment Applicant Regarding Procurement of A Consumer Report. “I agree” may be the only button that separates you and your future employer.