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Job Search Preparation

Worried that your past might get in the way of your job search? Make sure you know your rights, have a positive attitude, and are willing to ask for help.

Most job seekers have a hard time talking with employers. This can be even more difficult for people with a criminal conviction. Some employers will have a negative reaction to your past and might not hire you because of it.

Know Your Rights

Employers can ask about your criminal record and drug use. They often ask during the job interview. They may do a background check. It's important to know how your response might affect your chances of getting hired.

In most cases, it is legal for an employer to ask if you've been convicted of a felony. But a conviction cannot automatically disqualify you from being hired from most jobs. An employer has to show how hiring someone with that type of conviction would negatively affect their business.

Attitude Affects Everything

You have to work hard to find the right job and right company. But that perfect job will never come along if you don't show confidence in your skills and have a professional attitude. You need to let employers know that you would be an honest and loyal employee.

Job seekers who feel that their past might get in the way of their current job search should keep a few things in mind.

  • Don't let fear of rejection keep you from applying for jobs. While some employers might stop the application process after the criminal check, it does not mean that all companies will. Work with a career coach to practice ways to change employers' negative attitudes.
  • Rebuild your resume one step at a time. The first job you are offered after being incarcerated might not be what you want. But any employment is a positive step toward gaining work experience. It will show future employers that you are a good employee. Even if the job is not in your career path, the skills you gain and people you meet can help you with your next job.
  • Being honest will keep the application process going. When asked about a gap in employment or your criminal background during a job interview, let the interviewer know that something could show up on your background check. Failure to disclose information or lying will end the hiring process at all companies.
  • Think about the big picture. It might be hard to find satisfying work after being incarcerated, but it is doable. As time goes on, your criminal record will be farther in the past. And you will gain more and more positive work experience. Stay focused on your career goals. Continue to look for ways to prove yourself and gain new skills.

Don't Job Search Alone

Sometimes a job search doesn't go the way you'd like. It can be hard to know if it's because of things you can change or things that are out of your control. Working with an organization or professional with experience helping people with a criminal conviction can make a difference.

Community organizations, job clubs, and employment services, like CareerForce, have free and low-cost job search, employment assistance, and job training programs. Most job seekers need help:

  • Creating a resume
  • Practicing interviewing skills
  • Navigating the hiring process
  • Networking
  • Staying motivated and keeping a positive attitude

People with a criminal conviction often have questions about how to combat negative stereotypes, and how to gain work skills and experience. Getting help from a trained workforce professional is better than trying to figure things out on your own.

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