Having a strike on your record can seem like the end of the world when you try to restart your life after prison. Opportunities can seem few and far between when it comes to looking for a job and getting back on your feet. The stigma that surrounds felony convictions is rooted in misinformation, systemic racism, and classism. It can hinder your chances of success, and you need to plan accordingly.
With the right approach, you can avoid pitfalls as you reenter the workforce after a felony. Plus, you can position yourself for a rewarding career and a life that suits you perfectly.
Tips to Get Back into the Workforce After a Felony
Expect roadblocks as you search for a new job. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to manage and overcome these challenges, such as:
1. Make a Career Plan
Figure out what you want to accomplish in your career. Next, you can determine the steps you’ll need to complete to make your vision of a purpose-driven career a reality.
Consider past jobs you liked and disliked. Think about what you enjoyed or did not enjoy about various roles. You can then make a list of what you want to get out of your dream job.
Additionally, conduct research into different career paths. Start with an online search of roles and industries you may want to join. This allows you to learn about the career paths associated with a wide range of jobs. Plus, you can get insights into the career opportunities available at organizations in your preferred industries.
2. Submit Job Applications
Craft a resume that highlights your skills and experience. Tailor your resume to the job you want to land. This requires you to read a job description and tweak your resume as needed.
When you apply for a job, provide an employer with all of the information it requests. If the company wants a resume and cover letter, provide both. Also, if the business wants professional references, share them. Before you do, reach out to potential references and make sure they are willing to put in a good word on your behalf.
Most states let employers use criminal records for hiring decisions. To do so, an employer must show that viewing an applicant’s criminal record is a “business necessity.” It must also show that its policy for viewing an applicant’s criminal record is reasonably related to a job’s requirements.
If an employer asks for information about any felonies, share it. Lying on a job application won’t do you any favors. If an employer finds out you were not truthful, it will likely remove you from consideration from any roles with it.
Follow up with an employer after you submit your job application. You can send an email or call an employer to verify it has received your application materials. Meanwhile, your email or call can further illustrate your interest in landing a role with the employer. This can help you stand out from other applicants.
3. Ace Your Job Interview
It can be daunting to interview for a job with a criminal record. Regardless, if you’re well-prepared, you can ace your interview.
Conduct a mock job interview with a family member or friend. For example, a family member or friend can review a job description. He or she can then put together a list of potential questions you’ll face during an interview. At this point, your family member or friend can interview you in the same way you’ll be asked questions when you meet with an employer. That way, you’ll be able to consider how to answer interview questions. When your interview date arrives, you’ll be more confident answering questions.
Dress appropriately for your interview. Many companies prefer business casual, but business dress codes vary. If you are struggling to decipher an employer’s dress code, reach out for information about it.
Arrive at least a few minutes early for your interview. If you are commuting to an interview, plan out your trip in advance. Or, if you are interviewing over the phone or through video chat, set up a quiet space where you can focus on the meeting.
Be honest during your interview. Consider each question carefully and provide a thoughtful response.
Consider potential interview questions about your criminal history in advance. It is legal for an employer to ask a candidate about their criminal history. The employer can ask questions as it relates to “business necessity” and the duties associated with a job. Prepare for these questions, and you can answer them carefully during your interview.
At the end of your interview, ask questions. Learn as much as you can about the career opportunity. This helps you determine if a job may be right for you.
4. Build Your Skill Set
Sign up for training programs and workshops. You can even go back to school to pursue a college or university degree or industry certification.
Consider both in-person and virtual classes. You can choose classes that align with your everyday schedule.
It is usually a good idea to start slow with coursework. At first, you may want to sign up for one class. As you become more accustomed to schoolwork, you can complete multiple courses at once.
You can enroll in classes as you look for a job. This allows you to bolster your existing skills or develop new ones. At the same time, it enables you to show employers you are doing what you can to improve your skill set.
Get Ready to Rejoin the Workforce
Remain persistent and search for a job that meets your expectations. With this approach, you are well-equipped to move past your felony and rejoin the workforce. Most importantly, you can build and maintain a rewarding career and enjoy your life to the fullest extent.
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Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.