Several years ago I wrote about the notion of government affecting change in society by giving it little “nudges” rather than expansive all-encompassing entitlement-like programs. The GOP under Trump is in a state of chaos, but luckily some of these programs still exist. I’d like to call out one in particular that I think should be a model for small government nudging of the economy and society as a whole. This was signed into law by a democrat, but I still think it’s right on the mark.
At the end of 2017 I left my last job. After almost 24 years in the corporate world, I decided it was time to strike out on my own. To help ease the pain of a transition in jobs, the State of NH has unemployment programs, just like most other states do. The NH benefit caps out at $10k and runs for several months. It’s not enough to live on, but it provides a reasonable safety net. That’s what it should do. The Massachusetts benefit I believe is more than twice as generous. I continue to think that is too much.
When you file for unemployment, the objective is to get a job as quickly as possible. You are expected to make job-searching/applying a full time job. For professional workers, this can be a little unreasonable. While searching, I found only 3 jobs in the local area that I qualified for. But I dutifully made efforts to find work. There are resume writing and job search workshops and other programs that are mandatory, and can aid in the process.
While meeting with my unemployment counselor and discussing my goals, she noted that I might qualify for a program called Pathway to Work, where the state recognizes that they can continue to pay my benefits, while I search for work in a non-traditional way…I am starting a business. I am creating my own work. This program shields me from the full-time-search requirements so I can focus. It was a blessing.
Months later my benefits have ended and I am on the path to actually generating revenue. But more importantly, the program assigned me a different type of mentoring relationship. I was paired with an advisor through a grant funded program at UNH. THIS HAS BEEN INVALUABLE TO MY SUCCESS. My advisor, Julie G, has done so much for helping me navigate decisions, the bureaucratic nightmare of starting a company and most importantly, has helped me build a local entrepreneurial network. Yesterday I met with someone based on her warm intro, and it could shake out to be one of the most productive partnerships I could have ever hoped for. I am still excited.
Here’s the lesson. The state could have just handed me some cash and told me to go out and do more of what I was doing. But instead it recognized that there is way to create growth, by a simple policy shift and flexibility that accounts for nuances and talents within the workforce. In this case, the government is actually helping me grow. I in return hope to pay this forward with profits and tax receipts and new jobs.
There is a place for a small government nudging its citizens forward. I have been lucky for the wind in my sails and hope others avail themselves of the same opportunities. Create your own pathway.