Tackling the World's Problems, One Job at a Time
Carla Emil didn't like what she was reading in the newspaper or seeing on TV. Day after day, dismal unemployment figures -- often coupled with a story about a family hurt by the poor economy -- started to wear on her.
"I thought about it a lot," says Emil, a 62-year-old retired ad agency executive who lives in San Francisco, "and I found it disturbing, and I kept wishing I could do something."
Emil decided that she could do something. In February, she launched an online campaign, One Job for America, asking business owners nationwide to each pledge to hire one new employee.
Emil's reasoning: What if every business in America created just one job? How many new jobs would that be?
Making It a Reality
That would be an additional 27.5 million jobs, based on 2009 figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. Compare that with May 2011, when 54,000 jobs were created.
Emil and her husband, Rich Silverstein, got very excited.
"The best ideas in the world are stupidly smart, like the slogan 'I (heart) New York,'" says Silverstein, a partner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the advertising agency where Emil previously worked as creative director. "I just got this right away. It seeps into the bloodstream very quickly. 'One Job for America.' All we're asking is 'Can't you find a way to make one job for one person?' If you look at it that way, it doesn't seem overwhelming."
Silverstein's agency built the website for free, while Emil has spent the bulk of her time promoting the site. Her first essay was for The Huffington Post. She has also been recruiting businesses to make the pledge.
In six months, 204 businesses have pledged 220 jobs and have actually created 73, according to Emil's website.
Emil's husband's company pledged a job, but other hires have not come so easily. Every day, Emil reaches out to acquaintances from a long list of relationships she has cultivated over the years, through the ad agency and through her philanthropic work in the community.
"I'm just reaching out to everyone I know," Emil says. "I never tell them to make a pledge. That's not my style, and that would be presumptuous. I try to make them aware of what we're doing and, again, I encourage them to think about hiring someone."
An Uphill Struggle
It has been a slow, frustrating process for Emil, who isn't nearly satisfied by the number of jobs created. She vows to keep plugging away, in part because everyone she comes in contact with says her website is a good idea. "That's what keeps me going," Emil says.
It isn't simple to create a job, especially for a small-business owner. "The costs go far beyond the paycheck," says Dr. David Clifton, an associate professor of business at Ivy Tech Community College Southern Indiana. "If the job is going to be full time -- and by full time implying a full slate of benefits -- you have that, and Social Security and payroll taxes."
Some of the jobs that have been pledged remain unfilled, perhaps because they don't include benefits -- or even a guaranteed salary. "Looking for a candidate who is willing to start at a 25 percent commission rate of sales basis until funding is developed to be able to offer salary," reads an ad on LinkedIn for Cool Blue Company LLC, a startup that made a pledge on One Job for America.
Among the jobs that have been filled through the site are a marketing and social media associate at Strategies 360, a strategic brand positioning company in Seattle; a vice president of customer experience at Lingotek in Draper, Utah; and an assistant director at Fraenkel Gallery, a photography gallery in San Francisco.
Providing an Extra Push
Emil remains upbeat about her effort.
"We're getting feedback and talking to companies, and my sense is that it seems to appeal to people who are like-minded and talk about the unemployment situation in the same way that I do," she says. "This might sound super idealistic or even Pollyanna-ish, but they seem to want to make a difference... I've heard a number of business owners say they were thinking of hiring someone and that this gave them an extra push."
Emil thinks there are other ideas out there that could help get the economy moving.
"I would be thrilled if this inspired other people to take a chance to suggest some other way to help the economy," Emil says.
SecondAct contributor Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist based in Loveland, Ohio, and the author of several books, including C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America.