Forget Loans! GET FREE MONEY!!!

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by Willette Coleman

You have a dream – Computer programmer, gemologist, tattoo artist (see Tattoo Schools – outstanding artists may have a Fine Arts background), musician, singer, dancer, actor/actress, educator, health professional, minister, video games audio technician, video game designer, engineer – there are many types; scientist, writer, truck driver, filmmaker, or owner of a lavender flower farm business (the ancient plant is prized for its medicinal properties, fragrance, culinary uses, and pests resistance).  To make your career dream a reality – whatever it is – you need….(dramatic pause)…..knowledge/education/training/skills.

Education/training, etc. costs $$$$ – on the low end, nearly $10,000/year (i.e., University of Akron); nearly$60,000/year on the high end.  So, students and parents seek out loans.  But, millions of borrowers end up in debt.  Even low interest loans, such as the Federal Government’s Perkins Loan Program, can be difficult for some to manage.  The Atlantic magazine reported in The Disproportionate Burden of Student-Loan Debt on Minorities that U.S. citizens “hold about $1.2 trillion in student debt.”

Instead of loans, I advocate getting FREE MONEY… in scholarships and grants (I’ll discuss similarities and differences between the two in another post).  Sadly, despite the plethora of FREE MONEY opportunities, millions of students don’t apply for these hundreds and thousands of dollars and apply for the near “instant gratification” of getting a loan.  Why?

Four common fears (what I call self-created barriers/self-sabotage thinking) I hear from high school, college and vocational school students are: 

“I’ll never win one!” 

Or, you could win a bunch!  Yes, applying for scholarships is a competitive pursuit.  So is hours and hours of playing video games.  Like video games, those who work the hardest are the winners.  Winning at games takes commitment and dedication.  So does applying for scholarships and grants. Also, video games are associated with “fun.”  Well, winning $500 or $5,000 is more than fun.

“I don’t like to write” or “I don’t write well.”  

First.  Not all scholarships require an essay, such as No Essay” College ScholarshipTM  where you apply every month for $2,000, the $500 High School Senior Scholarship and Cappex $1,000 GPA Isn’t Everything Scholarship.  You can also search “no-essay scholarships” on, and  

Second.  Once you’ve written the first 1-2 essays, you can cut/paste some of the  information into other applications.  Soon you’ll have fun applying to 1-2 applications per week; then per day.  Winners send out an average of 60-100 applications a year.  One/day equals 365 applications/year!!!

I Don’t Have Time!

Really?  Think “time management” and “investment”…in YOU.  Scholarship winners say, “If a $200 scholarship application takes two hours to complete, and you actually win, that’s equivalent to $100 per hour of your time.”  A GREAT return on your TIME investment don’t you think?!  Honor yourself and commit 1 or 2 hours out of your busy schedule or “just messin’ around” day (like talking hours and hours on your cell phone) to search for and identify donors, assess guidelines, complete applications, organize and submit documents and write essays (where required).

“My GPA is below 3.0.”

Plenty of scholarships exist for students with 2.0 and 2.5 GPAs.  I just mentioned Cappex $1,000 GPA Isn’t Everything Scholarship (no GPA/no essay).  Another is The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards (2.5 GPA) provided to students that have volunteered for someone or an organization in their community.  Others include:

Courage to Grow Scholarship (2.5 GPA/Essay) Scholarship (2.5 GPA/Essay)

Global Lift Equipment Scholarship (2.5 GPA/Essay)

Got A Spine Scholarship (2.5 GPA/Essay)

Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Essay Contest (2.0/Essay)

Applicants must live in the states where they conduct business.

“From Failure to Promise” Essay Contest (2.5 GPA/Essay)

High school seniors and graduate students are eligible for a $10,000 award.

Resume Companion (I saw no required GPA in the guidelines.)  Note:  Applications submitted now through July 14, 2016 will be eligible the scholarship for the Fall semester 2016. (2.5/Essay)

For more help on getting scholarships, check out (from the library)

Winning Scholarships for College:  An Insider’s Guide.

A Few Words of Caution:

  1. Be careful applying for scholarships that are in the form of contests. These “donors” might secretly be “data collectors” for marketing purposes and “information sellers.”
  1. Be leery of scholarship donors that say “you must be 13-years-old to apply” but don’t require a parent’s or adult guardian’s approval. Could be a predator.  Remember:  Scholarship website can be made to look authentic/credible.
  1. If a scholarship donor asks you to scan your student ID, “to verify student status,” as Scholarship requested last year, don’t apply. Scanning your ID leaves you vulnerable to identity theft and predatorsHackers constantly phish.  You never know who’s looking at your information.

Two More Things

  1. After you WIN your scholarship or grant, always send a “Thank You” letter or email to the donor. Actually, some donors – particularly colleges and universities – require a “Thank You” letter before they give the school or you any money.  (More on this in my next post.)
  1. If you already have student loan debt, check out Loan forgiveness programs. Note:  This program is only for federal student loans.  Private loan borrowers are not eligible.

Wishing you Magic, Miracles, Blessings and Much Success!  And, remember, share your success with others.


“When You Learn, Teach. When You Get, Give. ~ Maya Angelou

~     ~      ~

Are you a Scholarship recipient?  Share your search experience.  How much time did it take?  Did you develop a fast-track search strategy?  How many scholarships did you apply for?

SELF-DEFEATING JOB INTERVIEWS: Do You Display Annoying Behaviors? (Updated)

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by Willette Coleman (c)2014

People talk.  And Human Resource people talk to each other about workforce issues – from new labor policies and regulations, to how some people they interviewed behave. One interviewer told her peer that an applicant said “if he was hired, he’d teach me ballroom dancing at no charge, and started demonstrating.”

Following is a short list of a long list of examples of obnoxious and ridiculous (although humorous) behaviors that resulted in self-defeating job interviews.

– An applicant “returned that afternoon asking if we could redo the entire interview.”

– Another “took three cellular phone calls; said she had a similar business on the side.” – Applicant “walked in and inquired ‘why am I here’. ”

– Another, “After being asked a difficult question, wanted to leave the room momentarily to meditate.”

– Candidate was told to take his time answering, “so he began writing down each of his answers before speaking.”

– Another “arrived with a snake around her neck; said she took her pet everywhere.”

– Applicant “handed me an employment contract and said I’d have to sign it if he was going to be hired.”

– When asked about his ambitions, an applicant said, “Losing 20 pounds and getting along better with his little sister.”

– Another “walked in and sat in my chair and insisted I sit in the interviewee’s chair.”

– Candidate “said he left his last job when his computer started speaking to him.”

– Another “wanted to borrow the fax machine to send out some letters.”

Then there is the candidate who annoyingly, albeit unconsciously, repeatedly responds with “like” and “uh”.   I overheard a candidate say in a 20-minute interview:  “Uh, like, I was responsible for organizing,like, uh, the files, that, like, had to be set up in a way that the managers could, like, uh, get to right away.”

Other examples, such as “No problem” or “No worries,” are found in Annoying and Overused Phrases to Avoid on Job Interviews.  Pay close attention to distracting mannerisms you may unconsciously exhibit.

Ask yourself:  Do I

  • – bite my nails,
  • – fidget with my clothes,
  • – shake my leg/frequently cross and uncross my legs,
  • – chew and pop gum (an absolute NO NO!),
  • – suck my teeth?


– Tell jokes.  They have no place in an interview. “Humor and a degree of casualness can be fine, but win over the interviewer with well-informed answers and a bit of humility,” says career adviser, Trudy Steinfeld.

– Mention politics and religion. They can cause discomfort and controversy.  Interviewers are interviewing you because of your credentials and experience, not your religion or politics.

– Wear enough cologne or perfume to choke two cows and a horse.  An interviewer could be allergic to or turned off by your chosen scent.  Even perfumed lotions can be annoying.  Best bet?  Keep it clean.

Before going on an interview, ask a professional, friends and relatives to gently point out any annoying habits you may fail to see, or video tape yourself doing a mock interview.  Keep in mind that behavior is as important as appearance (attire), knowledge and experience.  Showcase the professional you.

See more self-defeating behaviors at 15 Ways to Annoy Your Job Interviewer.

Thanks for reading,

Magic, Miracles & Blessings,



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by Willette Coleman ©2014

“Are there any scholarships for older adults who want to go back to school?”  I get that question often. You’d be happy to know you could be eligible for state, federal, corporate and private organizations’ scholarships, or free tuition, to earn an undergraduate or Associate’s Degree, or a certificate, as I told listeners of  “Part II – Learning Forever: Who else is Returning to the Classroom and How to Pay for It?” on the Sage-ing Baby Boomer Show

Some individuals go back to school to gain new or update skills to compete in today’s job or business market.  Others just like the challenge.  Charlie Ball, an 89-year-old veteran, graduated from Arkansas Tech University in May 2012 (see video here).  Whatever your reason, consider these scholarship (or free tuition) opportunities.

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) – Community CollegePlus 50 Initiative. Over 130 community colleges across the nation receive grants from AACC to give scholarships to unemployed older adults to train and help them get back to work.  If your school of choice isn’t listed on their website, contact AACC and ask if your school is eligible.

American-Opportunity-Tax-Credit   You could claim up to $2,500 per year for tuition and other school-related expenses.  

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  THERE IS NO! AGE LIMIT to apply for –

Pell Grant:  $555 – $5,550 for undergraduates who demonstrate financial need.

Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant:  $100 – $4,000 for undergraduates with exceptional financial need.

Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.  Awards up to $1,000 to students age 55 and older for 350 hours of volunteer service can be used for your own education or transferred to your child, foster child or grandchild.  On the website, click on “Get Involved,” select your state or jurisdiction, select the service you want to provide, and sign up.

Talbots Women’s Scholarship Fund awards five (5) $10,000 scholarships and fifty (50) $1,000 scholarships to women seeking an undergraduate degree.  Check here for guidelines and watch their online video.

AARP Foundation Women’s Scholarship Program.  Low-income, 50-plus women can qualify for this scholarship for “education, training, and skills upgrades….” in any course of study at an accredited education institution or technical school.   You might also qualify for another AARP scholarship which is offered through community colleges and universities that train mature workers in health care fields.  For example, Anne Arundel Community College (Arnold, Md.) provides two free online webinars to older students interested in health care careers in the college’s “Allied Health Pathway for Encore Careers” initiative.  More details here.

Emerge Scholarships are offered to “women whose educations have been interrupted, who have overcome significant obstacles, and who give back to their communities.”

Dr. Wynetta A. Frazier –Sister to Sister Scholarship annually allocates $500 to “two recipients, 25 or older, that are returning to college without the moral or financial assistance of a spouse.”  

Jeanette Rankin Foundation Grants for Low Income Women provides “scholarships and support for low-income women, 35 and older, to build better lives through college completion.” 

TheAmerican Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations’ (AFL-CIO) Union Plus Scholarship targets adult members, spouses and dependent children.  Awards range from $500 to $4,000.  If you or family members are in a different union, talk to your union representative.

The AMVETS National Scholarship Program annually awards scholarships to veterans, their offspring including grandchildren of deceased veterans.  

The AFCEA EducationalFoundation offers scholarships and training programs to individuals of  ANY AGE who served in the military and are engaged in the “hard science” disciplines related to C4ISR [Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance].


Contact the Financial Aid Office at the institution you choose and ask the Officer about

  • scholarship opportunities for mature students,
  • tuition and fee waivers,  
  • a reduced tuition rate for credit, or 
  • taking non-credit classes.   

Also, check the Higher Education Assistance Authority in your state or territory (e.g., google Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority) to learn about more opportunities for mature adults.


Mature adults have mucho experience and skills that can correlate to any number of academic subjects.   To shorten the number of subjects and hours you may need when you return to school, consider earning college credits for your life experience through the College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP), which is administered at more than 2,900 colleges and universities and costs $80.  

Numerous companies, such as McDonald’s USA National Employee ScholarshipProgram that “selects one outstanding student-employee applicant from each state and the District of Columbia to receive a $2,500”, encourages returning college students.  Their “McScholar of the Year” gets a $5,000 scholarship.   

To find other businesses check here.  If your company isn’t on this list, talk with your supervisor or human resources personnel.  Ask about any age limit.

NOTE: Employers might stipulate specific criteria for financial education support, such as you agreeing to work for the company for a designated number of years after graduation.  Others like The Target Tuition Reimbursement Program, pays “for job-related courses at accredited technical schools, colleges or universities.  Operative words:  “job-related”.

So, all you mature adults thinking about going back to school……GO FOR ITThe $$$ are out there!
Thanks for reading,

Magic, Miracles & Blessings,


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by Willette Coleman ©2014


People who are desperate for a job may give potential employers all kinds of personal information.  Should a copy – yes, a COPY – of their Social Security card – yes, CARD – be included?  Is it even legal?



That’s the question Marie (name changed) asked personnel at a temp-to-perm executive employment agency.  She had filled out the job application with her social security (SS) number, so why did the employer need a COPY of her card on file?  “You can’t work for us if we don’t have a copy,” the company’s associate stated flatly.  This was Marie’s first experience with an employer making this demand.  Usually recruiters looked at her card, then, initialed the application to confirm seeing it.  “What do you do with the copy?” Marie asked.  “We scan it into our system for E-Verify,” the associate quipped.  Marie almost laughed when the woman declared, “your information is secure.” 
Your Information is Secure…HA!
Charles C. Mann’s and David H. Freeman’s book, At Large, “blows the lid off the frightening vulnerability of the global online network, which leaves not only systems, but also individuals, exposed.”  According to the Pew Research Center, 11% of Internet users have had personal information stolen.  Studies also show that “21% of users had had an email or social network account compromised.”
In 2013, hackers stole millions of social security numbers and IDs, including First Lady, Michelle Obama (Michelle Obama’s IDdetails hacked from data brokers), “Bill Gates, Beyonce Knowles, Jay-Z, Ashton Kutcher and many others,” before being shut down. 
According to experts, hackers break into systems numerous ways, from using computer programs like “Trojan horse” (spyware disguised to look like one of Unix’s or Windows’ legitimate components), that are available on the Internet, to obtaining or guessing “root-access, which, [experts say], is as easy as getting your or my password, because servers are often shipped from the factory loaded with supposedly default ‘backdoor’ passwords…” meant to be “used by vendor technicians….”  Also, hackers can access individuals’ PCs “through a PC in a nearby home or a neighborhood cable switch,” because “cable companies that provide home Internet access treat entire neighborhoods like one local-area network,” said Freeman.
You’d think that government agencies and financial institutions would be invincible, but “Banks get hit by cyberattackers all the time and typically have some of the best defenses against them. This time, they were outgunned,” David Goldman wrote in, Major Banks Hit with Biggest Cyberattacks in History.  The 2008 World Bank Hacked, Sensitive Data Exposed article reported, the bank had “had multiple hacks…..”  If I were going into e-crime, I’d hit a bank,” said security specialist, Jon David, in Forbes Magazine‘s How to Hack A Bank.  Hacked companies include Sony, Google Inc., Lockheed Martin,  Target is still reeling from the 2013 security breach.
An employer (or anyone) who has a copy of your SS card – which contains your signature – puts your identity at risk.  In 2011, “More than 11.6 million adults became a victim of identify fraud in the United States,” Javelin Strategy & Research reported.  The risk is equally great when you put your SS number on online job applications.  Months before the 2012 tax season, applicants couldn’t submit H.R. Block’s job application without inputting their SS number.  Consequently, H.R. Block has and will receive hundreds, maybe thousands, of applicants’ SS numbers.  With many employers using resume scanners to search keywords and phrases to select compatible candidates, what’s the point of having SS numbers of individuals in whom there’s no interest?

Job scams, which go hand-in-hand with identify theft, are another reason to NOT put your SS number online, nor allow an employer to make a copy of your SS card.  Not all companies are as legit as they appear.  Even legitimate companies may – unknowingly – have an unscrupulous employee who steals IDs.  Considering the risk, you’d think that an employer’s common sense would dictate that having individuals’ SS cards – hard copy or online – poses a security threat.
CareerBuilder is among few job search databases that alert job seekers:  
“For your privacy and protection, when applying to a job online:
Never give your social security number to a prospective employer;
provide credit card or bank account information, or perform
any sort of monetary transaction.”  (Author’s emphasis.)

Curious about the associate’s by-the-book spiel about “e-verify,” Marie learned that E-Verify is “an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.”
Her online search also revealed an employer that queried online human resource advisors whether it’s “illegal to make and keep copies of employees’ social security cards.”  Part of the reply stated:   “…the I-9 form specifically gives employers the right to make copies of the supporting documents the employee presents….”; it would “be unlawful for you to require that job applicants — as opposed to employees — fill out an I-9 or give copies of identity documents. That is why the I-9 is completed AFTER a job offer has been accepted, but before the employee has worked for 3 days.”  (Author’s emphasis.)  Since Marie was an applicant, not an employee, no one asked her to complete an I-9.  Yet, they wanted a copy of her SS card.  

While the I-9 form “gives employers the right to make copies of the supporting documents…,” (e.g., SS cards), under Section 2, on the I-9 form, it clearly states:  “Employers may, but are not required to photocopy the documents presented.”  (Author’s emphasis.)  Even had she been offered and accepted the job, the employer wasn’t REQUIRED to copy her card despite the recruiter’s emphatic reply to Marie’s email thanking them for the interview and confirming her refusal to allow them to copy her card.  Marie stood firm knowing that the employer’s “copying policy” is ILLEGAL.

In today’s “wired/wireless” world, when and where possible, I minimize threats to my personal information.  I don’t my put home address on my resume and marketing materials.  I have a P.O. Box.  As I stated in 6 TIPS TO AVOID JOB SCAMS, anyone, I mean ANYONE, can see where you live via electronic “maps.”  Research shows that twelve percent of users have been stalked or harassed.  Just having his email address on his resume, Tyrone (name changed) said he’s noticed an increase in spam urging him to: “Follow up on your job application,” or claiming “Job application status pending.”  The point is: He NEVER applied for a job to these individuals or entities.     

So, to be as safe as reasonably possible, take CareerBuilder’s advice and just say “no thanks” should an employer request your SS number online.  [NOTE:  Government online applications, such as, force you to input your SS number.]  And, if an employer reaches for your SS card to make a copy, quote the I-9, Section 2  Homeland Security law. 

Share your thoughts on this issue.
Thanks for reading.
Magic, Miracles & Blessings,


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by Willette Coleman ©2013 

IT’s enough to be out of work and struggling to pay the rent; it’s worse that heartless and unscrupulous people prey on individuals who simply want to work and take care of themselves and their families.  These predators use unmonitored job search websites, like craigslist, to “phish” for personal information (e.g., home addresses on resumes; Internet maps can show your exact location), or lure unsuspecting applicants into job scams.  So, we all need to be careful in this “unseen virtual” world and use good instincts discussed in How to Avoid Job Scams onCraigslist.

“Angela” (name changed) didn’t follow her instincts and soon became anxious about her social security number and fingerprints being in the hands of….who?, and would she lose her money? 

This all began when Angela’s qualifications matched a tutoring job description on craigslist.  Observing no contact information and no website link, red flags waved; her gut said “let it go.”

~ Tip 1 ~

Listen to your gut!  If it doesn’t feel right, do not apply!

Angela ignored her gut.  The perfect part-time hours fitted her schedule and, unlike other tutoring jobs, she didn’t need a car.  So, she Googled the company’s name.  The website looked authentic (but that’s easy to do).  She clicked on the“contact” tab, and dialed the Northern Virginianumber.  The person who answered seemed surprised that someone was calling.  Angela explained that she wanted to be sure the ad wasn’t another job scam because no contact information was provided.  The woman, who didn’t identify herself (and Angela failed to ask her name), gave the name and email address of the individual to whom Angela should send her resume.  Within two hours,“Sallie” (name changed) acknowledged Angela’s cover letter and resume and scheduled an interview at a popular book store in a mall in a nearby suburb.  Angela was hopeful.

The November llth interview went well.  Angela was even encouraged to be a Tutor Coordinator and given documents explaining the company’s policies, and the job’s tasks and responsibilities; some documents needed her signature.  Sallie confirmed the job post’s statement that Angela would need to get a background check and fingerprints, and said she’d be reimbursed for the cost by the 15thof the month, “when we cut checks.”   

~ Tip 2 ~

Don’t Pay a Fee for a Background Check Without ASSURANCE You Have the Job! 

Angela paid for the process without an official offer.  A week later, Angela met Sallie outside (not inside) another mall and handed her the signed documents containing her social security number, the card with her fingerprints she’d secured through the local police department, and the original receipt for the $10 fee.  Sallie, in athletic attire and pushing her carriaged one-year-old daughter, thanked a professionally dressed Angela, and reassured her she’d be reimbursed. 

~ TIP 3 ~

Don’t Fill Out Forms Online that Require Your SSN

Angela had kindly declined to put her social security number on forms via email.  Sallie said she understood.  Only the hard copies she gave Sallie had that information. “I would prefer to keep that number safe until hired, but it is not always possible,” wrote Susan M. Heathfield in You Want My Social Security Number?“It might cost you the employment opportunity,” but she suggests you write in the required space, “SSN available upon job offer.”  {Note:  You have no choice when filling out government job applications on}

~ TIP #4 ~

Document Emails, Receipts – Everything!

Angela did the right thing here.  She has all her emails and hard copies of documents and the receipt.  Over the course of two weeks, Sallie emailed Angela and other candidates she’d interviewed about public and charter schools that needed tutors, and that she would confirm assignments soon.  Then, on December 6, Sallie emailed all candidates saying:

Sadly, I decided Commonwealth Education is not a good fit for me at this time.

Randi Franklin or Ryan Garton will be taking over – I forwared all of your paperwork – please check with them regarding new students, reimbursement, and payroll. For those of you waiting to be reimbursed, Randi will be sending checks out on the 15th of the month. For those of you still waiting for background checks, I will send them to Randi as I receive them.

I was such a pleasure meeting everyone and I’m sorry if this causes any future inconveniences. I wish you all the best of luck.

[Email printed with permission, and includes the actual spelling and grammar errors.]

Two weeks later, Angela hadn’t heard from either individual Sallie had said would contact candidates.  She began to feel uneasy about her exposed social security number and fingerprints.  They were in the hands of….who?  So, she emailed three other individuals Sallie had interviewed and inquired whether they’d been contacted.  One person responded saying that “Janice” (name changed) had contacted her.  Angela asked for Janice’s email address and emailed her December 21.  Janice replied the same day:  [Email printed with permission.]
Thank you for emailing us.I did receive confirmation of your fingerprints and am in the process of checking with PrinceGeorges Countyto see where we stand. You are on my list and I will get with you next week to let you know what I have found out.

Thank you for your patience and have a very joyous holiday!

Angela thought it odd they were “in the process of checking… to see where we stand.”  The craigslist’s post and Sallie’s emails had listed confirmedlocations and stated that tutors only needed to be assigned.  Angela also noted that Janice didn’t mention why she hadn’t contacted her since Sallie’s departure, nor said anything about reimbursing her.  Another two weeks later, Janice hadn’t kept her promise to get back to Angela.  So, on January 17, Angela emailed Janice:

I am following up on your last email on December 21.  Although you said you would get back with me a week later, I’ve not heard from you.

I am a little concerned that no timely communications is coming from [*company name].  Therefore, I have moved forward in my job search and may not be available to tutor should a schedule be finalized.

In the meantime, when [Angela gave “Sallie’s” real name] interviewed me, she said that the company would reimburse me the $10 I paid for my fingerprints.  To date, I’ve not received the reimbursement.  I would appreciate it if you would inform me of the status of reimbursement.  Also, since it appears I will not be in (*company’s name) employ, I am inquiring about your policy for returning to me my fingerprint card and all information that shows my social security number.   *Author omitted company’s name.

With no response, on February 2, Janice called the number at the start of this situation.  The individual (Angela got her name that time) took her information and concerns, and said that Janice would call her back.  She didn’t.

Angela felt scammed, and rightly so.  The company possessed her social security number, fingerprints and background information.  No job and $10 short, she had also spent valuable time and commuting funds in this employment effort.  Concerned that her identity could be at risk, Angela considered emailing the Better Business Bureau (BBB) until she learned that filing a complaint could be a waste of time. 

BBB is a private franchise – yes, franchise – not a local, state or federal government agency.  Companies can purchase membership.  Which provoked one person to ask the BBB in Canada: If all your funding comes from business, how can you be fair to the consumer?  BBB‘s reply was more like a promo statement.  As a franchise and a non-profit (yes, non-profit) “…the BBB receives millions in grant money every year from the US Government,” according to Rip-off Report .  The ABC News program 20/20  investigated the BBB in November, 2010. 

While Angela’s situation may not be a scam in the word’s exact meaning, it clearly is a rip off. From now on, Angela says she won’t bypass her gut reaction, puts her P.O. Box number on her resumes (she has 5) instead of her home address, and is extra diligent about giving out her SS number. 

~ TIP #5 ~

Take the Time to Check Out Companies

Searching whether a company has a bad rap sheet takes vigilance and patience.  It’s time-consuming and tedious, but it’s worth it in the long run.  Ask:

1.    Does the company belong to a professional association?  At the time, Angela didn’t think to check the National Tutoring Association, or the American Tutoring Association.

2.    Is it licensed?  According to, “Every business needs one or more federal, state or local licenses or permits to operate.” Licenses can range from a basic operating license to specific permits.  Regulations vary by industry, state and locality.  None-compliance with regulations can lead to fines. 

3.    For a fee, Angela could have viewed the company’s business details in Dun &Bradstreet or databases.

4.    WetFeet.comand, as I noted in POWER INTERVIEWS: How to Sharpen Your Query Skills, are helpful for searching information about companies.  Keep in mind that not all companies are listed on these sites, and opinions can be bias for valid or invalid reasons.

Afterwards, Angela contacted the Virginia State Attorney General’s office and a representative said they covered such cases and instructed Angela to download and mail the multi-page complaint form on their website.She sent the document by certified mail.Some four months later, the Attorney General’s office replied:  “Your complaint is not in our jurisdiction.”

Six months later, another Commonwealth Education representative emailed Angela: [Partial email printed with permission.]

Regarding your query about fingerprints, I do not believe we ever received anything from PG County with your fingerprints.  If we still have any docs in our office with your ssn, we will gladly mail them back to you (along with a check for $10).  Please send me your address so we can get a check sent to you.

Again, my sincerest apologies for our oversight on this matter,…

Angela sent her address, and corrected him that:

An email from Randi Franklin on December 21, 2011 confirmed that Commonwealth Education received confirmation regarding my fingerprints[Author’s emphasis.]

Angela never heard from anyone from Commonwealth Education again.  Frustrated, she filed a review on

At least Angela’s experience wasn’t deadly as it was for three unfortunate men who responded to a job posted on craigslist to work on an Ohio cattle farm.  On November 18, 2011, WEWS-TV reported the scam led to one man’s death and the other injured.   Another man’s body was found on the farm  ten days later.

~ Tip ~

Don’t Let a Desperate Need for money Place You in a Questionable Situation



If you’ve been scammed, ripped off or undeservedly disappointed, I’m listening


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Fun & Work: Can They Just Get Along?

by Willette Coleman ©2013

Generally, you look for a company where you can efficiently and effectively use your knowledge and skills in your job search.  Right?  Right.  Well, there’s one other thing you might look for – Fun.  

Knowing whether a company’s culture includes fun will give you some insight into the employer’s management style.  Are employees made to feel like prisoners?  Or, does management show appreciation and incorporate fun?  “Putting subtle cues in the environment that can suggest fun can be a powerful motivator,” Juliano Laran, Assistant Professor, Marketing, University of Miami, School of Business, said in Hans Villarica’s article, To Keep Willpower from Flagging, Remember the F-Word: ‘Fun’ 

Some managers consider fun in the workplace to be a distraction, unprofessional and not taking your work seriously, assuming that joking and laughing on the job means you’re goofing off.  If done too often and for long stretches of time during the work hours, those concerns have merit.   Nonetheless, employers are embracing the F-word to the extent of creating “fun committees” or appointing “a mirth manager” to schedule joyful and de-stressing events during work, without employees sacrificing their lunch hour.  “This openness” says Paul McGhee, PhD, author of Changing Corporate Perceptions of the Value of Humor, “has led many CEOs to consider the idea of putting humor and fun to work, to support the bottom line.”

Playfair, with a mission to increase fun-in-the-workplace awareness, says that business managers are beginning to understand that, “Having fun isn’t the same as goofing off.  It is a way to bolster productivity, teamwork and company loyalty by showing workers they are appreciated.”  In 1996, Playfair designated April 1st (or the first Thursday in April, if April 1 falls on a weekend) as International Fun at Work Day.  Initially, they were reluctant to associate the occasion with April Fool’s Day, “Then we realized it was actually the perfect time to spotlight the notion that fun, especially at work, does not have to equal foolish.”  No foolishness means, “non-toxic humor; absolutely no sarcasm, put-downs, or offensive jokes that targets any particular group or minority.” 

I’m fortunate to have worked in two environments where the managers embraced the F-word.  The former branch manager of the DC Public Libraries was unique among the 25 neighborhood branches.  Major Shackleford encouraged staff to participate in events – yoga, dance classes, meditation, health seminars, lectures, movies and plays – that took place at the library.  Without shirking our duties, we could get involved in any activity, if we chose.  Staff also had fun planning and managing the monthly yard sale fundraiser.  Mr. Shack, as many employees called him, encouraged me to produce a quarterly newsletter for the “Friends” of the branch, as he’d observed that, for me, writing and researching, while labor intensive, was (and is) fun.  A kind and caring man, Shack made sure staff celebrated birthdays, retirements or promotions.  He also gave each staff member a generous appreciation bonus each Christmas, out of his own pocket.  Even after retirement, Mr. Shack continues to surprise us with his generosity. 

The former executive director of a small national profit, Linda Haithcox, who loves to bake, make homemade ice cream (yummy!), and entertain, is the other F-word embracer.  The loyal sports fan orchestrated football fantasy competitions, betting (no money) whose team would win the season.  Staff birthdays and milestones were always celebrated at an upscale restaurant of choice.  We went to Atlantic City and danced until 3:00 A.M for her birthday.  Charitable events included buying new clothes for orphans during Christmas, and having staff and board members participate in community service, such as at the organization’s 2010 Economic Development Conference, where they got sweaty, dirty and laughed a lot while helping Habitat for Humanity help New Orleans, LA Katrina victims rebuild their homes.  And, I’ll always remember the fun staff had decorating individual White House Christmas tree ornaments.  “I’m afraid I won’t find another place to work where there’s so much laughter,” an intern lamented as her year’s stay at the organization ended. 

Fun is a healthy component to work that increases productivity and reduces stress what with going to meetings, traveling, and meeting company deadlines and goals.  Reduced stress and relief from corporal tunnel syndrome, eyes, back and neck strain from long hours sitting at computers translates to better health.  Better health translates to employees taking fewer sick days.  Decreased sick days translate to a cost-saving bottom line for employers that provide health insurance for employees.  

Finally, the F-word makes us smile.  “Smiling is a natural drug,” Dr. Stibich, adjunct faculty member of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in Top 10 Reasons to Smile.   “Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin.  Together these three make us feel good.”   

Finding Companies that Embrace the F-Word.  Olivera Perkins’ article, Northeast Ohio Companies Encourage Employees to Have Fun at Work, sites examples of companies that subsidize on-site message therapy sessions; have free fitness centers and offer rejuvenation stations with cushy recliners and cleansing ocean sounds.  To find F-word-friendly companies, you’ll need to do some research.  Technology companies, the arts organizations and those that focus on education, philanthropy and enriching the lives of others appear to lead the pack as fun places to work.  Some careers, such as cartoonist, photographer, writer, website designer and clown, are inherently fun.  McGhee says companies today must “find ways to make work enjoyable, if they want to survive and thrive in the 21st century.” 

Fun Ideas for the Workplace. 

  • Traveling Bouquet.  Give a bouquet of flowers to a co-worker.  Say:  “Keep this on your desk for the next hour.  Then pass it on to someone else and tell them to do the same.” 
  • Company Limo Lottery.  Hold a lottery where the winner is driven to and from work in a limo for a day or week.  Don’t have a company limo?  Rent one.
  • Offer employees unusual gifts (e.g., free housecleaning certificates) to show your appreciation.
  • On-site Masseuse  – weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
  • Pop-champagne Wednesday (or sparkling apple juice).  Comedian Sinbad  popularized Wednesday as “hump day.”  Each Wednesday, toast each other for successes and fabulous failures of the past week.
  • Add 5-minute “stretch-n-breathe” breaks (preferably every hour or two)
  • Take “Joy Breaks” during the day, and enjoy low-tech games like marbles, ball-and-jacks, or building a 5,000 piece puzzle.
  • On-site exercise, yoga, dance or juggle classes (juggling has HUGE brain benefits).
  • Celebrate new accounts, employees’ career milestones, or the company’s existence. 
  • Chili or barbecue cook-offs; Easter egg dyeing and decorating.
  • More tips at 11 Easy Ways to Make Work Fun.

Hal Rosenbluth, former CEO of Rosenbluth International, and consultant for Walgreen’s healthcare services, told Dr. McGhee that it’s “almost inhumane if companies create a climate where people can’t naturally have fun….  Our role and responsibility as leaders and associates is to create a place where people can enjoy themselves.”

So, the verdict is in:  Fun and work CAN get along!  They merge to create an environment where people WANT to work and are motivated to provide quality services and products. 

Is your workplace F-word friendly?  If so, share.

Magic, Miracles & Blessings,



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by Willette Coleman

As a member of the 43rd Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference’s Bloggers Row (September 18-21), I sat with a cup of hot, strong black coffee and planned my workshop-going and networking strategy.  From among nearly 50 Braintrusts and forums on health, education, media, community and global violence, business, politics, finance, and international affairs, held at Washington, DC’s Convention Center, “I’d be lucky to cover 20,” I mused.

Networking is a career lifeskill. The conference’s bold and motivating theme, IT STARTS WITH YOU, that urged participants to be active in their communities to improve them, also applied to networking.  Here are some basic networking lifeskills’ “do’s” and “don’ts” at conferences (or anywhere).


1.     Register.  Conference fees can be beyond a lot of people’s budget, so consider these tips to get FREE access. 

·        Register as “Press,” if you have a professional blog, website or newsletter.

·        Ask about “general registration” for forums/seminars open to the public.

·        Intern

·        Volunteer


2.     Purpose.  Before stepping into the networking arena, pinpoint your purpose.  Clarity about who you are, what you are about and what your boundaries are, is your foundation; your strength, and makes networking easier.  My purpose included education, careers, scholarships and exposing my blog to more people.  Renown author and motivational speaker, Ilyana Vanzant, encouraged over 300 participants at the Networking Luncheon, to “Be Clear and authentic about your purpose,” because “Networking comes from inside you.”  I witnessed hundreds of 20 through 30-somethings clearly articulate their purposes with and get career guidance from mature leaders, such as former Congressman Ronald Dellums, at the Emerging Leaders – Instant Apprentice Power Luncheon


3.     Dress professionally.  Pretend you’re going to a job interview.


4.     Smile.  Even if you’re nervous (networking can be intimidating) do 7 deep belly breathing exercises, look the person you approach in the eyes and smile.  If you’re shy, participating in a networking group beforehand can be helpful.  While some career advisors recommend shy individuals begin by networking on sites like LinkedIn, the Internet doesn’t provide the face-to-face interaction needed.   I recommend role-playing with family, friends, or, if you’re a student, teachers.  It isn’t easy pretending they are strangers, but the practice helps you act out your anxieties.  Remember those 7 deep belly breaths.  Keep practicing.  Over time, you’ll relax. 


5.     Familiarize Yourself with the Program’s Agenda (choose sessions that relate to your purpose) & Read about the Speakers and Panelists.  For example, the Beacons for the Future:  Trailblazers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education for African Americans correlated to a proposal I’m editing for a nonprofit that offers a STEM program for underserved children and youth.  I networked with Dr. Reagan Flowers, founder and CEO of C-STEM.  And, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson offered exceptional networking opportunities at her Science & Technology Braintrust.


6.     Pay Attention to Speakers (or anyone you approach); Take Notes.  Taking notes helps you approach an individual or a panelist at the end of a session with clear intention, and shows you were paying attention.  Refer to something a panelist said in their presentation that stood out for you.  Connect that statement to your purpose.  This will get and hold their attention. 


7.     Business Cards – essential networking tools.  Students can order or create your own cards that contain your name, email address, and phone number.  To make it interesting/ stand out, include your major, school you’re attending and a brief statement of your plan  (e.g., Future marine biologist, chemistry teacher, fashion designer, novelist, airline pilot, mechanical engineer, yoga instructor, etc.).  Ask permission to give your card.  Usually, when you hand it over, he/she will return the favor.   Don’t force it, if they don’t. 


8.     Followup/Reconnect. 

·        In a quiet space, put business cards in alphabetical order by his/her last name, or company or school.  Review each.  If you need to, make additional notes on the back. 

·        Browse her/his company’s or school’s website.  If you’re looking for a job, search for a career tab.

·        Email a “thank you” to individuals you really want to connect with.  Remind him/her of your conversation at the event.  Refer to the statement in your notes that connects to our purpose.  Ask:  “May I stay in touch with you to (regarding your purpose)?” 


Many conference speakers represent companies that offer scholarship, so, again, search their website.


1.     Don’t just “work the room.”  Interface with individuals on more than a superficial level. 


2.     Don’t ask for a favor.  If you have a business, don’t ask anyone to send you customers, or blatantly ask for a job.  Allow people to get familiar with you first.  Networking, like relationship building, takes time.  Although waiting can be frustrating, being pushy will reap you little success.


3.     Don’t spend a lot of time…. texting, tweeting or scrolling pictures on your iPhone in a workshop session.  Again, pay attention. 

 4.     Dress Code:  Again, think “job interview.”  Males:  No saggin’ pants/jeans, shirts hanging outside pants, or tee-shirts.  Females: No thigh-revealing dresses or skirts, too-tight fitting pants; cleavage-revealing dresses or tops, and spiked heels; kill the bat-wing eyelashes and heavy makeup.  Remember – Leggins’ are not pants/slacks.  Males & Females:  Cancel the heavy cologne or perfume.  Some people are allergic, others gag on heavy aromas.  Unfortunately, some people tend to exhibit poor grooming when policies aren’t in place, which is why Newsweek Magazine enacted dress ethics.


5.     Don’t lie about your accomplishments or what you can do.  Operate in Integrity


6.     Don’t Interrupt.  If you approach someone engaged in a conversation, wait.  Don’t show impatience if you aren’t acknowledged immediately.  If they acknowledge you, say:  “Forgive me for interrupting…”


If nothing else, networking is fun, especially if you like meeting and talking with people – near and far.  Kenyan and South African panelists, on the Africa Braintrust, provided numerous networking opportunities, as did Congresswoman Maxine WatersBanking Issue Forum, the Avoice Student Voting Rights Workshop, and the Author’s Pavilion that showcased prolific authors like Terry McMillian (How Stella Got Her Groove On, and other best-sellers), and actress/author Victoria Rowell (The Young and the Restless daytime soap), whose book, The Women Who Raised Me, documents her life in foster care.

My own networking yielded a surprise.  Along with being allowed into numerous receptions (plenty of music and delicious food), Donna Brazille’s associate, at the Not for Sistah’s Only Political Conversation with Heroic Women session, unexpectedly, gave me a ticket ($300 value) to the conference’s 2013 Phoenix Awards Dinner.  President Obama was the keynote speaker.  To say it was thrilling to see him and the First Lady walk onstage, hand-in-hand, in the flesh – a breathing reality of pictures on the many Obama-themed calendars hanging on walls throughout my living space – is an understatement.  On a profoundly personal level, I was honored to be a witness, for my ancestors who have transitioned to the Other Side, to the first African American president.  Thank God for favoring me. 

Go here for more information, videos and pictures at the 43rd Black Caucus Legislative Foundation Conference.

“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re getting……”  But you do know that if you want to build and maintain an effective network, It Starts With You.

Resources for successful networking strategies.

How To Network

How To Network Like A Pro

Magic, Miracles & Blessings,


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