There is no question that ex-offenders face many challenges in their job search. The biggest hurdle they face is the prejudice by some employers toward ex-offenders. How the ex-offender job seeker reacts to and defuses this prejudice will determine how successful they are in securing meaningful employment.
The Process is the Same
The process, the steps to securing meaningful employment, is the same for ex-offenders as it is for non-offenders. This JobSearch Guide will focus only on those issues that are unique to the ex-offender. The job-seeker is directed to all of the other JobSearch guides for information on the process.
The biggest obstacle to a successful job search is you. You have been in prison and prison is harsh. It has made you feel worthless, paranoid, hopeless and alone. You distrust most people, the system and yourself. It is easy to convince yourself that what you feel is the way things really are…that you really are worthless. To move forward you must question the origin and validity of each belief. Am I really not very smart? Should I really never trust another person? Is it true that everyone is out to get me? These are all negative thoughts and negative thoughts are cancerous.
Attitude and Desire
Attitude and desire are the two most important factors in your job search. If you really don’t want to succeed, you won’t, plain and simple. The world is full of talented people who failed because they didn’t have the desire to succeed. Conversely, there are millions of stories of average and below average people who accomplished a great deal because they wanted to succeed. Doubt and negativity are killers. You can control your attitude! It takes practice and desire. Successful ex-offenders turn the negative attitude, I can’t into I can. They constantly tell themselves that they can attain their chosen goal. They abandon the negative talk of prison for the positive attitude of successful people.
It has often been said that incarceration dehumanized the individual. It is now time to rediscover yourself and the outside world.
The Challenge of Being an Ex-Offender
What makes you different from the average job-seeker is the fact that you have a criminal record and you will need to tell the prospective employer about your past. You might be asked on the application or you may be asked about it in the interview. As stated earlier, many people are suspicious and possibly frightened of ex-offenders. The reasons for these attitudes are many but usually relate to the fact that they do not trust you. Your challenge is to convince them that you can be trusted.
It is important that the job-seeker understand that most employers view their company in the same manner that we view our family and home. We are extremely protective of family members and will defend our home and property against any threat. Likewise, employers want to protect the integrity, assets and employees of their company from harm. It is, therefore incumbent upon the ex-offender job seeker to convince the employer that they are not a threat. Remember, usually the only thing an employer knows about the penal system is what they have viewed on television and in the movies. They do no have a very realistic viewpoint of the system or the people who have been incarcerated. You have an opportunity to educate them.
Communicating Your Record on the Application
It is legal for an employer to ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony. You do not need to mention any arrest unless there was a conviction including any pending court action. Any convictions while you were a juvenile are kept confidential and, therefore, do not need to be mentioned.
When asked on the application if you have been convicted of a felony, be honest and say, yes. Rather than attempt to explain on the application (even if you have space), write, will explain in the interview. If they require you to explain no the application, be as brief as possible. State your offense, the date it happened, where it happened, the sentence you received and the date that you were released. Finish the explanation with, I will be happy to supply more details in the interview.
DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR RECORD.
Communicating Your Record During the Interview
The most difficult question you will be asked in the job interview is the one about your criminal record. Prepare your response well before you enter the interview room. Practice your response with you parole officer or a career counselor.
The Outside is Different
It is not going to be easy to adapt to the real world, but you have to in order to survive. Inside prison you had to be tough, suspicious and aloof. To be successful on the outside you have to be almost the opposite…trustworthy, friendly and flexible.
Finally, the language of the real world is different from the language you have adopted while incarcerated. Slang expressions, swear words and phrases, and insider code may have been acceptable on the inside, but are unacceptable on the outside. Watch what you say and how you say it.