What does it take to get a job with a record? When I teach, I allude to factors like knowing your strengths, having a plan, dealing with setbacks and never giving up. But it’s not often that I get an opportunity to show this in action.
Recently, however, a reader wrote in with a story that allows me do just that. Although he didn’t want his name used, this man, who I’ll call Thomas, agreed to let me share his experiences on the chance that they might help someone else.
When I first heard from Thomas he admitted he was desperate:
I’m hoping maybe you can suggest something that I’m overlooking ….I ’ve now been a year and a half with no job. I can’t even get a reply to my Pizza Hut delivery driver application. Right now it is 4:25 AM and I can’t sleep because my nine year marriage is about to collapse primarily because of the job situation…..
Thomas had been convicted nearly 20 years ago. He’d done his time, made reparations to the victims and then moved overseas. There, miraculously, he says, he was hired at the second place he applied for a job, even after he’d told the employer about his conviction. Within two years he’d been promoted to supervisor and then to a more senior position. This led to a better job at a Fortune 500 company.
His troubles began when he moved back to the U.S. Even with his work experience, no one would hire him. When he wrote me he’d given up on his former profession and was considering going to truck driving school. He’d found a cheaper program in a nearby state and gotten a small veteran’s scholarship and a loan to pay for part of it. Yet he still wasn’t sure how he could afford living expenses. He wasn’t writing to ask for money, but to see if I had any ideas on how he could finance it.
I sent a note of encouragement and some suggestions. He thanked me and I didn’t expect to hear from him again.
Two days later, he emailed. He’d called the school and gotten an offer of work study. He’d contacted parishes and re-entry organizations in the area to find leads for a place to stay. He figured he could cut meal costs by relying on local food pantries, use free internet at the library and cut travel costs by using
He’d also investigated trucking firms to see which ones were receptive to hiring ex-offenders. His only concern was he might have to hold off till the next class sesssion because time was running out and he didn’t want to set himself up for failure. So he also got in touch with some former colleagues he hadn’t talked to in years and three of them agreed to be references. Then he began looking for jobs.
Two weeks later, I received this note:
I got a job offer yesterday. After reading a study that said 90% of people would not consider hiring someone with a violent felony conviction, I was getting pretty discouraged, but then it dawned on me that if 90% don’t that still means 10% do…so logically then it is just a numbers game. Assuming that the study was accurate, that means that submitting 100 applications will result in 10 people who are willing to give an ex-con a try. I have to admit, that after 30+ “No” answers, it takes a certain amount of determination to believe that the “Yes” is still lurking out there…but it was. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to go all the way to 100.
It turned out the position for which he was hired hadn’t been advertised. He’d simply seen a new business opening and gone to apply. “The job was one that I had no direct experience with,” he said, “ but I decided to apply anyway because what is the worst they could do…tell me “no”?”
Obviously, things didn’t happen overnight for Thomas. But what I like about this story is that even when he was asking for help, he was helping himself. He was researching possible options before asking for suggestions, and he kept on doing his homework afterwards. When truck driving school seemed like it might not work, he went to Plan B, contacting references and looking around for potential jobs. He also went beyond employment ads, contacting companies directly and ultimately finding a job that hadn’t even been advertised yet.
My hat is off to him, and to everyone else out there who refuses to give up.
Is there something you can do to jumpstart your job search today?