By David Joel Miller.
Are there jobs for felons and ex-felons?
Just because you have been to prison does not exclude you from getting a job. I know lots of people on parole get discouraged and give up looking because they feel that no one will hire them with a serious crime on their record.
The truth is that many people with a jail or prison record do get jobs, but having that record may make it harder to find work.
Here are some suggestions for finding a job if you have a less than perfect past.
1. Start your job search where you have the best chances.
There are government programs that offer tax incentives to companies who hire people on parole or with a history of incarceration. They save money on their taxes by taking a chance on you.
These programs come and go but if you are on parole ask your agent about these programs. Some of these jobs are difficult grungy work, they have high turnover. If you really want to work again you need to prove yourself. Work on this kind of job for a while, do good work even if the conditions and pay are not so good and you have a reference that might help you land a better job.
2. The connection between your crime and the job you are applying for.
If you were convicted of embezzlement or theft you aren’t going to get a job as head cashier. Companies often take out insurance (called a bond or bonding) on employees that handle cash or valuable merchandise. If you are convicted of stealing you probably will not get a job handling valuable things but you can get a job doing construction or physical labor.
If you were arrested for abusing a child or domestic violence forget working around women and children. That will not keep you out of many other jobs.
These days’ drug convictions are less of a problem than they used to be. If some companies did not hire people with drug convictions on their record they would have no employees. Just don’t expect to work in a pharmacy or a job where you would be handling drugs as part of the job.
3. Do something to show you are changing.
Start doing positive things and show that you want a new crime free life. This is hard when you are first starting out but do what you can. Even though you may have paid your “debt to society” the prospective employer is thinking to themselves will this guy do it again? How much of a chance am I taking?
Besides doing this for the job consider doing this for yourself. Do good things and you become a good person. Do bad, selfish things and you – Well you get the idea.
If you had a drug crime go to A.A. or N.A. Consider joining or attending a religious group in the faith of your choice. When possible do volunteer work. Also make those amends.
Consider going back to school or getting some vocational training. Completing a GED or a college degree says that you are willing to make some effort to improve yourself.
It does not look good to a prospective employer if you are ducking you child support payments and you drive on a suspended license. Get that wreckage of the past cleaned up even if that means working a really crummy job to get those fines and fees paid off.
4. Be honest on your application but do take every opportunity to be positive and explain your situation.
That question on the application – you know the one I mean. “Have you ever been convicted of a —?” Read it carefully. If the question asks for felonies do not include all the misdemeanors and parking tickets. If it asks about misdemeanors include them.
When possible put down something like “Will explain in interview.” Then make sure you have a good explanation. If you were convicted of a drug crime the prospective employer would like to hear you completed a drug treatment program and have the certificate to prove it. If there was an assault did you do the anger management or batters class you were required to do? Have you learned something from this experience and have you changed? Or are you still blaming your ex and talking about why your prison stretch is all someone else’s fault?
5. Go to the interview looking like a professional not a prisoner.
Cover up tattoos and consider getting them removed. Avoid anything that looks gang related. The customary recommendation is to dress a little better than you would dress if you got the job. So if you are applying to work on a hog farm a suit may not be needed but do not come in for the interview looking like one of the pigs.
Have a resume if that is appropriate or a master job application. Practice interviewing. Doing well on the interview is a skill just like the other skills you need to do the work if you want to get the job.
6. If you do not get the job do not give up or get discouraged.
There are lots of people out there going for interviews. Many of them do not have a prison record. Yes they have an advantage, but if you don’t get the job it may well not be your record that is holding you back. Do not take it personally or blame the system. Keep working on yourself and on your job skills.
I know it is hard, but many people with a criminal conviction on their records do get jobs if they are willing to do the footwork. Yes it is difficult and it takes time.
Don’t expect miracles or overnight success. You lost a lot of time while you were locked up. You may be 40 but you can still be starting out alongside some twenty-year-old’s. Do not expect to move up overnight. But if you keep on the path, then recovery and a happy life are possible no matter where you have been.
The alternative to going through the process of change and doing the hard work is to end up back in prison. Unfortunately the system makes going back easier for most than the alternative of staying out. Some people do make it and recover. Do you want to be one of the ones who recover?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books