Old Navy or Banana Republic?

What will your life be like in 2020? That’s a question JVS youth, ages 15-16, grappled with as the adult world scrambled to get taxes done last week.

With their first day at work just one week away, the students learned about the aspect of adulthood that excited them the most – spending money.

“You want to live in the Sunset?” probed JVS Instructor Larry McClendon. “I never go to the Sunset. Why wouldn’t you want to live in the Tenderloin? It’s so close to work.”

“I live in the Tenderloin now,” one student said. “I don’t want to get asked for money 24/7!”

The students made choices. Would they shop at Old Navy or Banana Republic? Would they drive in a new car, take a bike or ride the bus? Would they live in SOMA or the Sunset?

They added up their living expenses and compared them to an income chart based on educational attainment – high school diploma to graduate school. Most seemed unphased by this news. They had spent the previous day doing virtual job shadows, which taught them about the education required for different professions and about salary ranges.

Then, they were given a harder task. McClendon paid each of five teams $859.50 (income for a 20-hour minimum wage job) and assigned some students a role – a utility, Uncle Sam or some other expense. With (fake) cash in their hands, they circled the room, paying the bill collectors and going to Wells Fargo or a check cashing store, as needed.

Negotiations were difficult.

“I wanted a car,” said one JVS youth. “I wanted to go fast, not get pick-pocketed on the bus, and be able to drive to work, but it was just too much money.”

Others held strong to keep their Mazda, but let someone live on their couch, adding $275 to their income.

“I can give you a loan, and then you can make your car payment,” offered McClendon, who acted as the check cashing store. “But remember, you don’t need a car to live in San Francisco.”

In the end, McClendon revealed their bottom line. Were they in the black, or in the red?

One team had nearly $400 leftover. The team saved money by living at home, and recognized that chores, a curfew, babysitting and no girlfriend visits would come as a cost. Another team spent $350 in check cashing, cut other expenses and added a roommate. Unfortunately, the team was still in the negative.

“What does it mean to start the month in the negative?” asked McClendon.

It was a sobering thought. Starting the next month with $300 of debt meant less money for expenses. It was clear that check cashing loans were not worth it.

Over the next 10 weeks, the youth will work 10 hours each week at local businesses, and will continue to receive coaching from McClendon and others at JVS.

“It’s helpful to bring up common financial mistakes that people in low income communities make,” said McClendon. “These youth will need to make tough decisions about their money. They need to know about predatory lending and how to decide of an expense is reasonable.”

JVS Youth in the Birdhouse

JVS youth visited the Birdhouse to get first-hand #careeradvice from Twitter employees.

From the beaks of Twitter’s brightest:

  • Don’t take “no” for an answer #persistencepays
  • Work/life balance is important #boundaries
  • Be Genuine. Be you. #NoOneButYou
  • Working full-time can be a struggle. Do everything you can, until you can start to delegate. #movingup
  • I thought I was going to be a basketball player, until I blew out my knee sophomore year of college #haveabackup

“Their backgrounds surprised me,” said Pepito, a JVS youth participant. The employees’ credits included working at BET, Nike and interning in Washington D.C.


Until this visit, many of our youth never dreamed of working at these kinds of places. The panelists helped to broaden their vision of what’s possible.


“I learned how to create a career.” – Pepito

Youth In Birdhouse3

JVS youth left with great swag, and valuable advice:

  • Hard work leads to success. Be aggressive and keep calling and looking for opportunities. #worthit
  • Everyone makes mistakes; you just have to know how to handle it. #handle it
  • There are no straight paths to success #ChallengeAccepted
  • These people worked hard; one of them talked about how they would drive an hour just to have coffee with someone. #noexcuses

Special thanks to our friends at Twitter for welcoming our youth and giving them a peek into life in the Birdhouse!


Kayla Glanville, Account Coordinator – Retail and Commerce

Andrew Hatch, Sales Operation Manager

Shavone Charles, Global Music and Culture Communications @Shavone

Sarah Mills-Krutilek, Lead Recruiter, Global Sales and Revenue @WomynAboutTown

JVS Youth: Called to the Field

It’s not every day that JVS youth earn a personal endorsement from the Chief of police, but that’s exactly what happened last Friday.

As part of the Mayor’s Youth Employment and Education Program (MYEEP) career day, San Francisco high school students explored worksites around the city. More than 30 local employers welcomed nearly 400 young San Franciscans for a tour and access to their staff. Youth paired up with employers based on their interests, and spent two hours exploring career paths through hands-on activities and asking questions.

“It was fantastic to tour SFPD’s tactical unit with the youth. The officers were amazing and answered every question,” said JVS’s Director of High School & Bridge programs, Kevin Hickey. Suited up in tactical gear and bomb suits, they got a glimpse into some of the more adventurous aspects of the field, such as operating robots and safely breaking down doors. As an added bonus, the Chief of Police, Greg Suhr, dropped in to say hello. He also offered each of them a personal letter of recommendation for the cadet program and shared his direct email address.

JVS is one of eight nonprofits in the city that coordinates MYEEP, in collaboration with the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC). Each year, we host between 75-100 of the approximately 1,500 low-income, high school aged youth to help them prepare for and succeed in the world of work. In the last 25 years, this program has transformed the lives of over 25,000 young San Franciscans.

While working in entry-level jobs, youth learn valuable real-world skills including time and financial management, problem solving, communication skills, community building and how to work as part of a team. Importantly, students get to explore a variety of career paths–and learn the skills and experience required to embark on those careers. By the end of the program, youth emerge with work experience and earnings, a career portfolio (resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation, a list of references), along with a great sense of empowerment and confidence.

Learn more about MYEEP and all of JVS’s youth programs at www.jvs.org/youth.

What We’re Reading

Don’t miss some of the biggest employment articles from the last days of January. Here is what JVS was reading:

Give the unemployed a second chance

Meet Bonita, a 46-year-old accounting certificate holder who feels employers don’t consider her because of her age and the two-year employment gap on her resume. Her situation is likely the result of bad timing, rather than skills gap or lack of talent. Employers must stop discriminating against applicants based on age and employment status, CNN reports and JVS agrees. Read more.

The truth behind SF’s rosy unemployment numbers

Are San Francisco’s unemployment numbers only “skin deep”? Are non-city residents moving into San Francisco to fill new lucrative tech jobs? For whom is the economic boom, asks The Examiner’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez in this Sherlockian quest. Read more.


Bay Area finally ready to tackle income inequality

San Francisco organizations and businesses are joining efforts to offer solutions to city’s income inequality problem. The San Francisco Foundation, the Tipping Point Community, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and other corporate partners create opportunities for nonprofit and for-profit skills programs. Read more.


The President’s Blueprint for Middle-Class Economics

America’s resurgence is real and the economy is growing, says President Obama. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and rising chances for everyone who makes the effort,” he asked. The President’s budget proposal aims to bring middle-class economics into the 21st Century. Read more.

What We’re Reading

Take a look at what came up on our radar in these first two weeks of 2015:

Where Men Aren’t Working

Did you know that in San Francisco – 17% of prime aged men (ages 25-54) aren’t working? Nationwide that number averages 16% (more than 3x what it was in 1968), and is as high as 40% in some regions of the country. Check out these interactive maps (try typing in a specific city) for a closer look at nonemployment for prime aged men across the US. Read more.

Missing Workers and Labor Force Participation

This article looks below the surface of the US Department of Labor’s recent news that the national unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6% in January (the lowest rate since June 2008). From stagnant wage growth to the implications for people who are long-term unemployed, this research reflects trends that we’re seeing in our local economy and what we’re tackling at JVS. Read more.

How Nonemployed Americans Spend Their Weekdays: Men vs. Women

This fascinating data from the American Time Use Survey shows how nonemployed Americans spend their days. Many JVS job seekers would add time spent in our technology center searching for work and time spent in 3-4 job search or computer skills workshops each week. Read more.

For a different take, check out how some of history’s most creative people spent their time.

What are your thoughts? Any standout takeaways? Let us know what job search or employment related articles you’re reading — and perhaps we’ll feature it in our next post!

#GivingTuesday the JVS Way

On the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s shopping madness, came the now global phenomenon, #GivingTuesday. Last Tuesday, everyone was encouraged to take a break from shopping, and think about the good that giving can do. Early results reveal that this year Americans donated $45 million as part of this event – an increase of 53% compared to 2013 and appearance of the hashtag #GivingTuesday on Twitter increased by 169%.

Your donations are critical to our ability to help job seekers, but they are certainly not the only way to help. On this #GivingTuesday, we offered you a different way to give back. Not by making donations to JVS – but by giving simple, but powerful gifts of time and action to help unemployed people get back on their feet.

We know that the holiday season can be an extra challenging time of year for job seekers. Many people searching for a job full-time are also struggling to pay their rent or put food on the table – let alone buy gifts for everyone in their life. There are so many ways to help, especially at this time of year.

Many of you joined the conversation on social media, and produced great ideas for helping job seekers on #GivingTuesday and through the holiday season. Here’s our top 10 favorite ideas for how to help the unemployed in our community:

1. Offer to give an informational interview

2. Connect a job seeker to an expert in their field for an informational interview

3. Offer to review the resume of a family member

4. Update your LinkedIn profile and make a connection for a friend

5. Write a LinkedIn recommendation or endorse the skills of a former colleague

6. Pass along a job opening at your company to JVS

7. Treat a job seeker to lunch with some of your colleagues – a fantastic networking opportunity

8. Gather a group of friends to volunteer at JVS, where you can review the resumes of job seekers or help them practice for interviews

9. Invite a job seeker to holiday parties – a great chance to beat the holiday season blues and practice conversational skills, network and connect in LinkedIn later

10. And last, but not least, tell a friend or family member about JVS!

One former JVS job seeker shared from experience, “Everyone can help someone who’s unemployed with time, caring, food, skills and yes, money!” It’s not always apparent what the job seeker in your life needs. When in doubt, simply ask your friend what he or she needs. It could be that the suit you no longer wear would make a great new interview outfit for them, that your expert eye on their cover letter might help them catch an employer’s interest, and it might just be something as easy as a home cooked meal and emotional support from a friend.

If you’ve ever been unemployed, you know that finding work is hardly a straight path. It takes a community – all of us – to help people build the connections and skills they need. The holiday season is a great time to give back and pay it forward – we hope these ideas inspire you to reach out to someone looking for work today!

Have you ever received help from a friend while unemployed? Tell us your story or share your recommendations for how to help job seekers this holiday season in the comments below.