Before coming to Snagajob, I worked at an organization where a big part of my job was helping people who were newly released from prison find jobs. I worked with a lot of people who had court costs and fines and child support payments hanging over their heads. They needed and wanted work, but it was hard for them to get hired. Over time I noticed some things that seemed to help a great deal. Here are a few job searching do's and don'ts for those who have a felony on their records:
Do: Connect with a workforce development center or a community organization.
Don't: Try to do it by yourself.
Resources will vary by state and locality, but there are many organizations out there that can help you with your job search, develop a resume and start networking. Some programs may even have on-the-job training or work experience programs. Goodwill is a good resource that may be able to help you or connect you with an organization that can. There's nothing wrong with asking for help. Personally, I've never found a job without the help of someone else.
Do: Prepare yourself as much as you can for your job search.
Don't: Think that your felony conviction is the only thing keeping you from finding employment.
Lack of work experience, mistakes or misspellings on applications, poor interviewing skills and inadequate education or training are among a few things that could be keeping you from getting that job offer. Have someone review your applications before you submit them, and practice interviewing.
Do: Schedule your job search into your day, every day.
Don't: Wing it.
Some people experience challenges with their newfound freedom. Many of my clients went from having their whole day mapped out for them to a life with minimal structure. The shift was difficult. But the ones who created a job search schedule and stuck by it were the ones who found jobs faster. Try to plan your job search for each day of the upcoming week. Your full-time job is to look for a job, but job searching involves more than just applications. It also involves everything that can help keep you going in your job search, as well. Throw in a day to volunteer or block some time out to get exercise.
Do: Network and volunteer.
Don't: Isolate yourself.
Maybe the crowd you use to run with is how you got into trouble in the first place, so you've decided you want to steer clear of them this time around. Which is a good idea, but don't take it too far and separate yourself altogether. The solution is not for you to isolate yourself completely but to find a new, positive circle of friends. Getting involved in community organizations and volunteering are great ways to do this. More on how volunteering can help your job search.
Do: Read every question on the application carefully.
Don't: Forget to double-check your application for errors – or lie on your application.
Check your spelling, read the questions carefully and be honest. Resist the temptation to lie on your application when asked about your felony conviction. That's almost a guaranteed way not to get the job, since most employers do background checks. Don't put too much information, though. I had a client who, when asked if he had ever committed a felony, wrote, "Yes. I set the car on fire." Yikes. Keep it honest but brief.
Certainly the felony on your record is a big obstacle to overcome in your job search, but it does not make impossible to find a job. You may hear a lot of "no's" in your job search – and that's frustrating. You can't do much about the employers who will turn you down because of your record. But think of it this way: if you had to hear 100 "no's" to get that one "yes," wouldn't it be worth it? Remember that you only need one "yes."