Lessons Learned While Watching MTVs True Life: I Have Broke Parents

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Hi, my name is Yolander and I sort of have an addiction. What am I addicted to? Well, it’s not dangerous, it’s not expensive, and I can safely operate a vehicle after I’ve indulged in it… I’m addicted to the MTV documentary series, True Life. I tend to be a bit of a voyeur which makes me particularly attracted to documentary style shows and movies but I actually love True Life because I often learn things while watching people live their lives.

This weekend I watched True Life: I Have Broke Parents which followed two families struggling to make ends meet after losing jobs. Some of the things they did in this episode were, from an outside point of view, counterintuitive to actually fixing their financial and employment situation. As I watched I started to wonder if many people make the same mistakes as the adults in these families were, so I thought I would talk about some of them.

1. Look for work WHILE you are on unemployment. One of the parents in this episode did not begin looking for a job until his unemployment benefits were about to run out. He had been hustling for cans and bottles to recycle and had been selling blood but it wasn’t until after his unemployment was close to running out that he talked about really hitting the pavement and actively looking for employment.

2. When you need money, NO JOB is embarrassing. One of the parents found that applying for work at a grocery store was embarrassing. If you are about to lose your home and can’t feed your family, then NO JOB is embarrassing. Wearing a life jacket while walking around the mall is embarrassing, but it sure isn’t embarrassing to be wearing one when you fall off a boat. That embarrassing job could be your family’s life jacket while you are drowning in financial ruin.

3. If you need money now, college is NOT the answer. A couple of the people in this episode decided that they needed to go to college in order to get work. While a college education is a good idea for your long-term career aspirations, if you need money and a job right now, college is a bad, bad idea. First, you’ll decide that living on student loans makes sense — and it doesn’t. Second, college takes a lot of time and effort and not everyone will make it through. You could be wasting time and money on something that you won’t even finish. Third, college does NOT guarantee you a job. It is not like a golden ticket into Willy Wonka’s factory. There is not mathematical equation that says college diploma = job. Instead, you need to focus on getting a job that feeds your family now, and enrolling in college once you are settled into your new routine.

4. Don’t make employment awkward. In one scene, one of the parents comes on way too strong with a potential employer and is extremely inappropriate. He stands too close to the employer, makes a desperate plea for “under the table” work at a pay rate that is less than minimum wage and tells the employer that he’s trying to make an offer the employer can’t refuse. You can’t bully, cajole, or beg people into employing you — and it’s not a good idea to try. Also, suggesting illegal actions to a potential employer puts you in a really bad light. Lastly, there is a difference between eager and grateful and desperate. Everyone wants their employees to be eager and grateful, no one wants them desperate.

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks

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Author Info

This post was written by Yolander Prinzel. Yolander is a financial writer as well as a series 7, 66 and 2-15 licensed representative. During her decade of financial industry experience she has been an insurance agency director of marketing and director of operations, a life insurance underwriter, and a trading service specialist for Raymond James Financial Services. She was a featured speaker at the 2006 Hartford National Sales Conference and the 2006 Brookstreet Securities Annual Conference. Check out her portfolio at YolanderPrinzel.com

7 Responses to “Lessons Learned While Watching MTVs True Life: I Have Broke Parents”

  1. Lillie |  Feb 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I loved this article. It definitely highlighted some of the reasons that many people are unemployed. I always thought that if you are unemployed and getting unemployment, you had to be looking for a job. Too, some income is definitely better than none, so what’s the grip about doing honest work? On the other hand, college might be a good choice, if it’s financed by grants and offers techniques on how to do a resume and perfect polished job hunting skills.

  2. Niki Arinze |  Feb 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    @Yolander: Excellent article. I enjoyed it.

  3. STLPlace |  Feb 11, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    i also think this is a good article.

  4. Yo Prinzel |  Feb 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

    @Lillie believe it or not, not everyone can qualify for grants. They use your last year’s tax return which for some out of work people could be just high enough to edge them out. Also, the energy it takes for an adult to go back to school usually makes it hard to work at the same time, and you can’t live on grants. There are many free resources with information about resumes and interviewing techniques–like your local library. I definitely agree that some income is better than no income, and if my writing career fails I will be happy to bag your groceries :)

    Thanks @Niki and STL :)

  5. Kayla |  Apr 20, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I also want to say, that I don’t care what you are trying to apply for. You have to dress for the part. One of the fathers in the episode wore a bleach stained t-shirt and ripped up jeans to go get a job. I would not hire someone who showed up for the application process like that.
    I also wanted to add that the daughter with the baby had no job and made no attempts to find a job, during the episode. Anyone of legal age to work, should work in situations like this.

    • April |  Nov 04, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      I agree 100%. Why couldn’t Ashley get a job? Not only was she 18, but but her parents were supporting her AND her baby! All while her baby’s daddy was living high on the hog…no responsibilities or anything. Ashley definitely should’ve taken him for child support…as well as find a job. She’s an able-bodied 18 y/o who actually has a better chance of getting a job than her father. Also, if you’re hard up for $, how could you afford a cell phone & a laptop? That wasn’t just ANY cell phone, either. It was touch screen. That family needs to get their priorities straight. I wonder where they are now.

  6. Monica |  May 24, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Great article. I truly agree. I’m a social work major and I took a social welfare class. We covered Detroit in one of our class discussions. Unfortunately, the closing of the GM plant has devastated this area and most of the people will not recover from this. I try to reason with this situation. I can only imagine if this man worked for GM, let’s say 30 years, I can only imagine how hard it is to find another job in that area. Also, keep in mind the older we get the harder it is to find employment. That’s facts! My heart goes out to these innocent children that’s missing their childhood. sigh!