Tag Archives: ex-offender jobs

Out and Employed is BACK!

Yes, it’s been awhile.   More than a year and a half, actually.  When I took a break from writing this blog, it wasn’t because I’d lost interest in the issues faced by folks who have criminal records. Rather, it was that I needed to pursue some writing that actually earned me money.

So I did.  And I continue to.

But a funny thing happened along the way.  Many of you didn’t stop reading.  In fact, daily page views for Out and Employed steadily rose.  Some of you continued to share your struggles with me privately or even send me questions.  I felt bad about not always being able to respond.  I figured maybe other blogs or websites would pick up the slack, and they have.  There’s a lot more out there than when I started this blog in early 2009.

And yet…it still seems that there can never be enough.  So as of today, I will be relaunching this blog and getting back up to date on the state of the reentry challenge — what’s changed, what’s stayed the same and what the new issues are.  I’ve already updated my links to add new resources and fix the broken ones (thank you to the careful readers who pointed those out).  Please let me know if there are any other useful sites that I should have on my blogroll.

My initial impressions: Obviously, the job market hasn’t gotten any easier.  But the information out there to help ex-offenders and others with criminal records has definitely improved.  I remain in awe of The National Reentry Resource Center, which continues to offer the best one-stop shopping for anyone looking for assistance making the transition from incarceration back to working life.  In fact, a new addition on their site gets my…

Most useful help line:  Did you know that in many parts of the country you can dial 211 if you need help finding food, housing, health care, counseling or other community services?   I didn’t.  To see if this service is available in your area, go here and enter your zip code.

Most encouraging statistics:  Recidivism — that’s folks returning to prison — is significantly down in a number of states.  A report issued by the Council of State Governments in September found Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas and Vermont each were able to reduce their recidivism rates through a variety of measures. These included programs targeting those at highest risk for reoffending, improved training for parole officers, more community-based housing and increased use of home monitoring.  For each state, the study compared three-year post release recidivism rates for individuals released in 2005 with those released in 2007.  Michigan showed the biggest improvement with an 18% drop in its rate, while Kansas was second with at 15% reduction.  For more details you can read the report.

Most pressing questions:   Here’s where you can help me.  What are your questions?  What challenges are you facing right now?  What would you like to see me write about?  Please let me know and I’ll try to cover it in a future post.

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Filed under employment assistance ex-offenders, jobs ex-offenders, recidivism, reentry, reentry resources, starting over

Don’t sell yourself short: any experience counts!

After posting for 31 straight days as part of WordCount Blogathon 2010, I know I’ve fallen off a bit this week.  Please  forgive me.  I’ve been catching up on everything I’ve neglected, and working on some more involved future stories. I’m also in the process of putting together the final resumes for the students in my latest class, which is invariably a multi-step process.

Yesterday, I gave back their rough drafts  with my questions.  As always, I was amazed at the work experience and achievements people had left off their resumes.

Some examples from this and previous classes:

  • Developing  a fundraising campaign that brought in $5,000 over three days for a non-profit.
  • Helping with the relocation of an automotive business.
  • Managing the books for a clothing business.
  • Being selected employee of the month.
  • Winning the volunteer of the year award.

In four of these cases, the reason was because the work was done on a voluntary/unpaid basis.   To which I say, so what?  Experience is experience and if I were an employer I’d be very interested in someone who was a natural fundraiser or an organization’s best worker of the year, unpaid or not.

So when you’re making a list of what you have to offer an employer, don’t rule out volunteer work, or projects you’ve undertaken on your own. And don’t forget awards or recognition you’ve received, even they don’t seem that important.  Theses are the achievements that often make you unique, and hence, just the person the employer wants to hire.

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Filed under companies hiring ex-offenders, employment assistance ex-offenders, employment ex-offenders, inspiration, job search ex-offenders, jobs ex-offenders, resumes, Uncategorized

Job interviews and ex-offenders: maybe it’s not the crime that cost you the job

In my last two class sessions, we’ve been talking about answering job interview questions.  Yes, that includes the $64,000 biggie:  Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

And yet, for all the emphasis put on being able to look an employer in the eye and honestly discuss your record or those huge gaps in your work history —  it’s often the simple and seemingly benign questions that can trip up an ex-offender. 

This came to light last week after a lively class  discussion about what to say when an employer opens an interview by saying:  “Tell me about yourself.” 

Most of my students felt this was an easy question. 

It’s not. In fact, if you don’t handle this one carefully you can end up stumbling right out of the starting gate.   Despite seeming open-ended, an employer isn’t asking for your life history here. Nor does he want  a long-winded dissertation on why this job  is your dream come true.  As one inmate wisely noted, the employer doesn’t just want to know what you’ve done in the past, but who you are and what you can do for them.   In Michelle Rafter’s  blog for SecondAct.com, Georgia Tech University professor Nathan Bennett  offers good advice when he says,  focus not on what you enjoy, but on what you bring to an organization that is uinque and hard for others to copy.

So how do you  do this?   The key is tailoring your skills and abilities to the needs of the employer, but in a way that doesn’t come off sounding like a canned sales pitch.  Sally Chopping, a Pittsburgh-based interview and public speaking coach, suggests breaking the question down into 3 parts

  1. Identify the 3 most important qualities for the job.
  2. Mention the most relevant last job you had and highlight one of your achievements.
  3. Say why you’d like to work for the particular company. 

If you put these together as she does, you end up with a response that encapsulates your unique strengths and abilities in a way that shows how they will benefit the company. 

This video, courtesy of CollegeGrad.com, (which is equally applicable to jobs that don’t require college degrees, by the way) also spells out a good approach to the “Tell me about yourself”  query:

How about you?   What have you said when an employer opens with this question?  What’s worked and what hasn’t?

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Filed under background checks, companies hiring ex-offenders, criminal records, discrimination, employers hiring ex-offenders, employment assistance ex-offenders, job search ex-offenders, jobs ex-offenders, reentry, second chances, taking responsibility

Jail to Job’s Eric Mayo answers questions for ex-offenders

Today, we’re very fortunate to have Eric Mayo visiting Out and Employed  to answer some of the most common questions ex-offenders  have about their post-release job search.  Eric is an author, lecturer and motivational speaker who began working with the unemployed and underemployed 12 years ago.  When he found many of them had criminal histories, he began to focus on the barriers these individuals face.  He now writes the popular Jail to Job blog, where he regularly takes on all types of queries from former offenders and their families.  I recently named Jail to Job one of my must-read blogs.  It’s certainly one I turn to regularly for Mayo’s deeply researched and insightful answers to some tough questions.   Here’s what he had to say to some from my readers and students:

What is the most common question you hear from ex-offenders?

The most common question I get is “Where can I find a Job?”   Jobs are always where you find them.  There is no one place to get a job because jobs can be found just about anywhere.  You  have to be ready to dig, network and dig some more.

Many people got their job leads from people they know.  This is called networking.  Networking is the most effective method of finding employment leads.  Most jobs are never advertised because they are usually filled by personal contacts.  In fact, employers would rather hire someone referred to them by people they know rather than to painfully sort through resumes and applications.  People in your life who might be  potential leads for a job include:

·         Friends

·         Relatives

·         Neighbors

·         Parole/probation officers

·         Members of your religious group ( ministers, priests, imams, etc.)

·         Former teachers

·         Former co- workers

·         Former employers

·         Classmates

·         Casual acquaintances

·         People you do business with (hairstylists, barbers, doctors)

In each group, see if you can list five people that you can contact.  That is at least 55 people that could help you in your job search.  Let each person know that you are looking for a job and that any information they have for you would be helpful.  Have copies of your resume handy for your contacts to give to other people.

Never ask for a job.  Only ask for information about job leads or for advice.  The more people you’re able to contact, the more leads you will get.  Remember, this is a numbers game.  Often getting a job lead may circumvent the entire application process and the dreaded “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” question.

What’s the best way for ex-offenders to  answer questions about their  criminal record that appear on job applications?  Sometimes reentry counselors recommend writing “will discuss at interview.”  Is this a good strategy?

That totally depends on the question. The question is usually “Have you ever been convicted of a crime other that a traffic violation.”  “Will discuss at interview” does not answer the question.  Often applications with this response are removed from consideration.

What is the biggest mistake ex-offenders make when they look for jobs?

Many ex-offenders are simply not competitive.  Many lack interviewing skills, interpersonal skills and visual presentation.  Getting a job with a criminal record is tough enough.  Without even these basic skills, it’s that much tougher.

One-stop Career Centers provide an extensive list of services that can help anyone prepare for a successful job search.  I have posted a video on Youtube that speaks briefly to this.  You can find it here:


Often ex-offenders will decide to move to another place to escape their records.  Is this a good strategy?  Does it work?

In this age of computers that offer instant access to information, moving to escape records is nearly impossible.

Are there certain jobs that ex-offenders simply can’t get?   How difficult is it for a former felon to get a job with the federal government?  In the medical field?

The federal government does background checks, but having a record will not automatically disqualify ex-offenders or felons.  Licensing or certification in the medical field will vary from state to state  and is at the discretion of each state’s licensing board. Ex-offenders and felons can inquire directly to their state’s board to see if their  respective conviction will keep them from being licensed.

Are there particular companies or industries you know of that are more open to hiring ex-offenders?

It is my experience that ex-offenders and felons will be more successful in the building trades or construction fields.  Manufacturing, warehousing, restaurant and maintenance are other options.

Are ex-offenders required to disclose information about arrests that didn’t lead to convictions or juvenile offenses?  Can companies still use information obtained through a background check about these types of offenses as a reason not to hire an individual?

Applicant’s should pay careful attention to the wording because it will vary from application to application.  Typically applications will ask for convictions and not arrests.  Applicant should always give the information that is asked for.  As for juvenile convictions, they will not appear on most background checks.  Employers may have access to law enforcement background checks that will include all convictions including juvenile and sealed.  It is next to impossible, however, to contend exactly which information is used to disqualify an individual.

When should ex-offenders consider expungement?  In the days when so much information is available on line, does getting your record expunged still help?

It may help, but most states are very conservative when it comes to expungement and sealing of records.  I encourage ex-offenders and felons to simply look at their criminal records as handicaps that they will have to work extra hard to overcome.

What other misinformation or bad advice do you see out there for ex-offenders?

Often unscrupulous attorneys will claim to be able to have records expunged.  A little homework and a trip to the local legal aid office will help ex-offenders and felons get honest advice as well as assistance.

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