Hello there, Readers! Today’s topic is
Work After a Felony – Learning to be Career Flexible
I want to talk to you about being labeled a felon after a conviction and some ideas on finding work a little faster. If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years of having a record tied to my name, it’s that being flexible about the kind of work I’m available for, is often the best way to keep the income coming in.
After my conviction, I was pushed to gain my GED by a deadline in my probation papers, and this helped fill in the first -good- part of my resume for work in all honesty. In some cases, your own convictions and the following supervision period (probation, parole, etc) may have included similar pushes to become a proactive member of society again.
Often, you’ll have to complete these either while serving time or while getting probation or parole over with. If not, I suggest getting this generalized diploma as soon as you feel you can pass the test. There are tons of GED classes available in most areas, as well as numerous free sources online that you can use (like Kahn Academy – I use it for homeschooling too!) to get your basics in shape for the test.
After I got the GED out of the way, I marched around town (7 months pregnant at the time on top of it), and put in an application to nearly every business I happened across. Did I get any of the jobs? Absolutely not. My conviction was too recent, my name too recently brought up as the worst name in the books, and I was too far along in my pregnancy for any employers to want to invest their money training me for a job I’d statistically either thieve from or leave from too soon (thus wasting their time and money).
Did it stop me? Again – absolutely not.
It did take a while for me to finally find a job that would employ me, and that first job after the conviction (I’ll leave you guessing with this one) had actually left me with some majorly mixed emotions – even to this day- and helped push me into a state of mind where I was very uncomfortable with myself.
Normally, this isn’t a great thing, but it allowed me to realize that in order to get my good (or even just neutralized) name back in the surrounding area, I’d have to find a way to do good things and prove that I wasn’t the person I had been before.
I started applying to the diners and cafes in the area so that I could interact with people and let them get to know me as a person. There’s nothing like a customer service job in a small town to influence your reputation.
Adapting to Collateral Consequences…
My probation wasn’t quite up at the time, and the incident I had been involved in was still relatively known and discussed, so even a slight misstep was often considered cause enough to get myself fired in those early days (who am I kidding… it was years) after conviction. The pay was low, and customers were fairly rude (to which I learned to respond with kindness – that was bloody difficult), and the tips were unreliable. But it covered my bills and allowed me to positively influence the perception of a few people (it does happen – I assure you).
Once probation was finally over and I passed the age of 21, the option of working in bars opened up as well. This proved rather lucrative, as when the locals came and drank on my shift, they would get drunk and they really began to give me time to talk to them and they tipped even more than the morning rushes I had served at the diners. I even managed to make a couple of friends. However, thanks to my inability to move from the area, there were still rumors flying around and one lodged itself in my boss’s ear. It was time to move on yet again. Which is fine – change gives us the challenge to grow.
This was still only about four years into my felon status, so things were still pretty raw when it came to jobs that actually ran background checks. Now, after ten years, it’s not so much an issue for me – but I still feel the same old hopelessness creep up every single time I bring it up. It’s a little easier to overcome now, but it has taken practice.
I found that ever since I had no option EXCEPT to keep moving forward, I decided to just push myself through it every time the job search is renewed. Growth might be painful sometimes – but it isn’t the end of the rope.
Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t win by lying to your (potential) employer. The background checks now are quite often not limited to a certain number of years as everything is becoming digital and can be retrieved at a low rate by nearly every company. Heck, it’s easy to find your own court records online for your own county. Seriously – be honest about the background – it gives you a tiny bit more leverage with hiring managers. (Also see my posts on Resumes and Interviews)
One application I made for a part-time independent contract ‘inspection agent’ position proved this, as I found that even after ten years and one month past my conviction date, my record was still readily available and staring me in the face in an (accusatory feeling) email. However, they did give me the chance to “discuss the conviction” and how I’ve proven that I’m not a naughty person any longer. Not all companies will do this, and even when they do, it’s likely something required by law and they’re just covering the bases before throwing us to the wolves again. (Update: They decided against me anyway.)
Felony Relief Programs
That’s where the certifications and proof of positive change come in to save the day (in some situations anyway).
That’s all for now, keep checking back!
Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)