At SnagAJob.com we get a lot of questions around advice and types of jobs for felons. Sometimes it's from family members looking to help their loved one get back to work, but mostly the questions come from people looking to turn their life around; people looking to make a positive change in their life by looking for a job after they've been released from jail. It's never been easier, but some say it's getting harder.
The LA Times reported as recently as November that felons, even those with degrees, were finding it incredibly difficult to find work. It’s difficult at every level, even for the insanely talented people who you might think would never have a hard time getting a job.
A few weeks ago Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, got a phone call from the President of the United States. Barack Obama was calling to praise him for his willingness to give their starting quarterback, Michael Vick, a second chance after being released from prison in 2009. There are a few things about Vick’s comeback that other job seekers can learn from.
1. Take your first offer: There was a lot of conversation after Michael Vick’s release from prison around what offers he’d receive, and while some teams were interested, only one was willing to take a chance on him. You are probably finding yourself in a similar situation. Lots of companies you come across in your job search might be interested in your otherwise commendable work history, but your criminal history may exclude you from consideration for a variety of reasons. It’s important that you take whatever jobs are offered to you, and be willing to prove yourself. Sometimes you need to be willing to take a step back to move forward, and this is one of those times. Once you prove yourself in one job, it will be easier for you to find others.
2. Get references: Speaking of proving yourself, sometimes your “word,” criminal past or not, just won’t be good enough. We recommended every person looking for jobs have a list of references, and this becomes even more important for felons. Michael Vick had several life coaches step in to vouch for his life changes including the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy. Not everyone is going to be able to get NFL coaches to come to their defense, but working with leaders in your community through churches or volunteer organizations can help boost your chances.
3. Take ownership of your past: Most hiring managers have heard every excuse in the book. What they don’t hear a lot of is honesty. Acknowledge the mistakes you’ve made by being completely honest instead of trying to explain them away. Upon returning to the NFL, Michael Vick addressed his past in public press conferences and spoke to his eagerness to prove himself as a changed man, he didn’t make excuses for his past. Because his crimes played out in the public arena, he didn’t ever have the ability to lie to potential employers, and you shouldn’t either. Never ever, ever, ever lie to a potential employer. Even if you get away with it in the interview process, it will still be grounds for termination should your past be discovered.
4. Prove yourself: Once you follow the first three tips, you’ll need to prove the stereotypes wrong. While your coworkers might have the luxury of slacking off and calling out, sick your employer will be watching you like a hawk. If you really want to get ahead, you’ll probably need to put in a little extra effort.
Photo credit: D. Hallowell; http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com