Five Things You Should Know About Felons

Hey guys, thank you for stopping by! I’m so grateful for all the supports, shares, follows, and likes in my various social media platforms.

Today, I’ve compiled a few things that felons need you (yes, YOU) to know.

Let’s take a look at what the felon community wants to share with everyone!

  1. Criminal Records are more common than you might think – weareallcriminals.org shares that ‘one in four people have a criminal record’. While this includes misdemeanors (which carry far less stigma – even if many convicted felons were only sentenced to probation or time in a county jail – which is the same punishment for many misdemeanors!), it really draws your attention to the fact that criminal records are actually quite common. That would be because…
  2. We all make mistakes – now, while only one in four has a criminal record – it can be safely assumed that at least three in four (if not four in four) have committed a crime of some level (misdemeanors included here again), they just weren’t caught or convicted. Again, weareallcriminals.org comes into play and shares stories of people who realized that they could have had their entire livelihood taken from them – had they been caught and joined the ranks of ‘convicts’.
  3.  Felons CAN change for the better – even if they’ve earned more than a few convictions. One participant in my poll describes how she’s earning a degree to work in social welfare after SIX convictions. It might take some of us longer to get out of the rut, but when we do – many of us want to contribute to the greater good. We aren’t hardwired to stay ‘bad’ like so much of society wants to think – we just have to find what will truly motivate us to make a positive change in our lives. That motivation varies for each of us – as well as the situations that lead us to our convictions.
  4. Background checks ONLY show the negatives – even when we’ve made positive changes. So, when you’re an employer that’s looking at an interviewee who has just opened up about their record – consider asking about the GOOD things that they’ve done. Rather than immediately assuming that felons are nothing but bad news – try to see the things that they are trying to change in their life. Because honestly, the income that we are seeking with you is going to be part of keeping a stable life that won’t push us back into old patterns of behavior. Many felons hang in the balance – trying to get back on track in a society that doesn’t want to let them have the chance – no matter how much we have changed for the better.
  5. Felons have a lot of GOOD to contribute – As a felon, I know that every time I find a new job – I have to work five times harder than my co-workers (and the felon community is very familiar with that sentiment) just to prove that I’m worth keeping as an employee. Employers are wasting talent when they deny felons work – especially when that work has NOTHING to do with the background. For instance, my theft record might prevent me from working in retail (thankfully I have literally zero interest in retail stores), but I’m qualified and capable in the field of psychology and coaching.

Overall, felons just want a chance to find a stable life. Our packaging might be a little bit damaged – but we have a lot to offer when given a chance. So, before you judge us based on your assumptions – take a moment and take a chance – there’s plenty of protection for employers (certificates of employability, certificates of good conduct, certificates of relief from disability [this one is a bit confusing in the title but still a great thing]). As far as society goes – who hasn’t made a mistake? We’re all flawed but we’re still beautiful people.

That’s all for today folks! Thank you for stopping by and feel free to click around and explore the various posts and links I share on the blog page. If you love what you see, please share it, especially if you know someone that needs the information I’m sharing with you!

Love and peace,
Aza

 

 

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I’m on Patreon! Support and Share!

Hey guys!

So, things have been incredibly insane the last couple weeks for me.

I had finally found 2 jobs I loved (on top of the freelancing I offer) and I was excited to finally be exactly where I wanted financially. They were part-time gigs but decently paying jobs that I really liked. They didn’t require me to be around people constantly – which was great – I’m awkward as can be in person. It really was perfect.

Until my new-ish car decided to show exactly how much of a Jynx (apparently it wanted to live up to the name I gave it) it was. And the lemon law only covers 500 miles in my area – where I had already driven over 10,000 miles (I was a busy, busy bee – I’m losing my mind now honestly because I don’t have enough Gigs to keep me occupied)

Anyway, both of my payroll jobs were based on driving my vehicle. Thanks to Jynx breaking down so badly I couldn’t afford to fix it, I’m now not only out of a job – but out of all options for work locally.

While I have been building my freelancing business – I was not prepared to become a full-time freelancer so suddenly.

In light of this, I was directed to check out Patreon by a few of the fellow authors I’ve talked with. So, I decided to take a chance to really push my freelancing and my goals to reach out to struggling felons in my area.

(Sidenote: this is part of the flexibility that I talk about with work and mindset – I’m freaking out and really anxious – but I’m applying that energy to do things that might help me in the long run with what I’ve really wanted to do with my time and contributions – even if it wasn’t my original plan to be here already)

So, I checked Patreon out and I love the platform. It helps me define clear goals that you guys can help me reach – and I only ask for $5 a month on it. Of course, if you want to donate more – you are free to do so. I hate asking for help, but if I’m going to be successful in helping those who need it – I can’t do it alone.

Find my Patreon page HERE and if you can’t support – please share it – you’ll still be an awesome part of my goals!

Thank you for checking me out, don’t miss out on my other great posts where I share information for felons who want to learn how to overcome their past.

Misinformation Round 1

Misinformation Round 2

Helpful Hints for Convicts

Looking Back – The Last 365 Days

Hey Readers!

I was looking back at some of the old posts on here and realized that it’s nearly my one year anniversary of publishing my first book!

It wasn’t but a few months before that I had created this blog in the first place, and was finally inspired to write about the helpful points of my own experience in overcoming my bad background.

Thus was born, the Friendly Felon’s Guide To Life After a Felony and all the subsequently birthed ‘side-quests’ that this endeavor opened up for me.

It’s really crazy to think about how quickly everything began taking off in some way, and somehow also how slow some things feel like they’re going.

After self-publishing using Smashwords and Amazon, I also reached out to an aligned publishing company (Microcosm – has generally awesome content, go check them out, even if you don’t want or need my book) and was approved and put into print. It was amazing to get that rush of accomplishment!

This positive feedback encouraged me to continue writing and has allowed me to grow in so many ways that I didn’t expect. I’ve had the pleasure of helping a few felons across the nation and the genuine reactions I’ve seen as they realized they weren’t out of options has been the absolute best part of everything. As time passed, I also began getting more messages from fellow felons across the nation – thanking me for showing them that they really could move forward with their lives.

I’ve pushed my expectations of myself for learning – especially when it comes to the marketing and seo stuff – and have made progress in ways I never thought possible thanks to my background (it’s a difficult mindset to shake honestly – more about that another day). It’s really amazing what you can do with even a touch of determination and research guys (Nope, I’ll never say it enough, -not sorry).

In addition, I jumped more fully into the freelance writing gig and have been experiencing slow but steady success in gaining clients and a great reputation as a writer – and this blog is even part of my portfolio (of course, if you saw my last post – you should know that already). It’s all come together so wonderfully, and it is incredibly rewarding even though it’s been a long, slow business working toward this level of fulfillment in life after my felony conviction.

It’s been a crazy 365 days guys, and it just goes to show you how things can turn for the better when you find a focus and work toward it without relent. Don’t be scared to learn new things or try new industries – you never know what might actually click better with your skills and personality until you try it out. I certainly never thought I’d actually be the slightest bit successful with my writing or my life in general for the longest time – but I proved myself wrong – and that’s one of the most important lessons I could have learned.

So long for now, stay strong and keep moving forward!

Love and Peace,
Aza

 

Making Progress and Portfolios

Hey guys!

Per usual, I’ve been a busy bee – writing assignments are stacking up nicely, and I’ve finally gotten around to making the one thing that every professional needs.

A portfolio

That neat little collection of the work you’ve done in whatever industry you tend to prefer. As I lean toward the writing side of things, even with all my other skills – I used a journalism based portfolio website to create my own collection.

You can check it out here: Aza’s Portfolio

Then, feel free to make your own to begin building up your own collection of results to prove to potential employers how awesome you are at your work. It’s a huge help for anyone, but we felons need all the positive evidence we can muster up to gain employers trust after our convictions.

Pointers

  • Focus on your skills
  • Don’t be too serious
  • Get familiar with converting files from one type to another
  • Do plenty of research for samples, examples, and how-to’s to help you get on track

Don’t forget to check out these other awesome posts I’ve made:

Misinformation

Work From Home

Improve Your Resume

Thanks for stopping by, and stay strong!

Love and Peace,
Aza

Improving Your Resume (Felon Tips)

Hey Readers!

I’ve been working on a new Gig lately, and while I can’t get into a lot of detail – I can say I’ve been learning a lot about the hiring process from the hiring manager’s perspective. It’s also reminded me of some of the resume struggles I had to overcome to up my game with interviews as a felon and that nasty, aggravating little note on my background.

So, in true fashion as the Friendly Felon, I want to share some of those tips that I’ve been learning (and some I’ve practiced myself) to help my fellow felons build their resumes and their careers just a little bit more easily (even if it takes more work).

  1. Keep track of your jobs
  2. Note supervisors and managers names
  3. Customize your resume for different employers
  4. Focus on your experiences and accomplishments
  5. Get great references through positive networking

First up, you absolutely have to keep a track record of all your work. Include side gigs that might be under the table (they count as experience if you’ve done them well – and keep track of the contact information for those people after asking if you can keep them as a reference).

Be sure to take note of your supervisor’s and your manager’s names – and try to leave a good impression with them even if the job ended on bad terms. With a bad background already in tow, you need to focus on making great impressions with every interaction with people. Especially the people in higher positions (in work or life in general) – they can be great keys to improved networking and better opportunities.

While it’s a hell of a lot easier to create one resume (a pain in the ass as it is, right – so many details!!!) and then print thirty or so copies…. it’s actually way better to customize resumes to each company – or at least each industry or type of work. For instance, when I apply to payroll jobs like waitressing, bartending, or automotive work – I showcase the experiences I have in only those industries. I also change my personal statement (or personal mission – something stating or explaining my goals with the career I’m applying for at that time). For example, when I applied to test for a psychology aid at a local facility, I stated that I was interested in furthering my knowledge and professional experience in the psychology field (this was when I though clinical psych might be my thing, but I decided to refocus on coaching and helping felons). But when I applied to the automotive stores for basic technician positions, I focused on the fact that I’m also interested in furthering my automotive knowledge and safely servicing vehicles for valued customers. So, while it might be necessary to adapt because of our bad records (as seen above – there really is a method to my madness, I promise) – it’s actually going to reward you in the long run.

Also, focus on your actual experiences and accomplishments. Don’t list out your skills on your resume as a super boring, general list of things you are capable of. Describe any sort of improvement you made using your skills and experiences. For instance, at my first auto technician job – I managed to increase sales (when the ‘only-men-can-work-on-cars-crowd’ might have been pissy with me – I really do know my maintenance). So basically, when I apply to auto-based jobs – I make sure to note how I improved sales at my other auto-based jobs (and every other auto-based accomplishment I’ve made at each job). It makes me a proven good candidate for that job and they’re more likely to overlook my felony.

Finally, just to reinforce the idea because it really is important –  personal referrals and networking are the best bet to get great jobs – and I’m so sickeningly serious (mostly because I hate networking with a passion, I am a hermit damnit and I like it that way) it’s ridiculous. Network, network, network. Make sure you’re leaving good impressions with people. Not only does this benefit every felon out there by leaving a better taste in society’s mouth when we interact with it (for the love of everything good, don’t live up to the negative expectations – no matter how much they test you [I’ve literally seen felon humiliating employment posts on some job websites – it took every fiber of my sometimes still shaky moral structure to not lash out at them with an angry response, simply because it would be exactly what they would expect of me]), it benefits you directly by creating pathways into the life you really want. Be the change you want to see in your life – it’s the only way to create those positive pathways. Even if you have to fake it a bit until you make it.

Keep up the great work guys!

Peace and love
-Aza

Time for a poll with the Friendly Felon!

Morning Thoughts

Before I run off to my first job of the week, I have been wondering how my Readers (with records) have dealt with their own backgrounds and getting jobs.

What have you found that has worked for you?

I’ve kind of experimented with ways to get into interviews and employment and some situations are based on sheer luck and circumstance.

Once, I got a job because the boss lived above me in my apartment complex, so she knew me to some extent and was able to slip me in before higher-ups noticed the record bit. They couldn’t fire me because I had been upfront about it on my application and after she left the company a few months later, I was able to stay because I had proven myself to them (I made senior tech within the first three months – a record time for that location).

I was even offered her job as Manager of the place, but the pay wasn’t what I wanted for the hours I would be putting in (kind of a bad choice in retrospect, because having that experience would probably be really handy in helping get better jobs down the line). This is one way that enforced the idea that networking with people outside our typical groups of friends is important. They can help you find people that are helpful and willing to give you references or even give you a chance themselves.

I’ve also tried hiding the fact that I was a felon, but that never panned out, especially since it seems that backgrounds don’t have an expiration date. If you get a job by lying about the past, it’s because you lucked out and got a company that doesn’t run backgrounds most likely. (Even with the chance of being charged with negligent hiring in the case that something bad happens…)

I’ve also discovered recently that a good percentage of background checks run the entire past, except for juvenile records (simply because it’s illegal to share those without extra special paperwork).

One of my most recent background checks had no problem finding the ten-year-old conviction on my record, plus I got charged 15 bucks to cover the business’s expenses. (Actually currently arguing with them about the record, because they’re trying to deny me a raise in position because of the background, which is not in line with equal opportunity law from what my early research is telling me – it’s old and isn’t connected to the work that I’m performing in any way.)

Has anyone else used equal opportunity laws to help them with keeping or getting a position with a company?

Another way to go about it is to avoid the background checks period. And the only way to really do that is to go into business for yourself. Sure, you’ll have to look into what you are good at doing, if it can be marketed, and if you need a license from the state you live in to do the work, but it can be very much worth it. You can build a better reputation through this, or at least learn a lot while trying. And it never hurts to learn (even if the learning itself might be a touch painful for some).

Anyway, I’ve got to run for now, and I’m looking forward to seeing my Readers interact and share their stories and ideas here in the comments.

Love and peace
Aza

P.S. – Please support The Friendly Felon – shares and purchases are always appreciated!

Timelines and Tips

In light of my graduation (still blows my mind that I’ve finished it), there has been a lot of recent reflection on time and how it affects our convictions and our careers. I know that I will have to invest a lot of research into the companies that I will be applying to, especially because I chose a human services pathway (for my focal career, I have lots of different interests though, so I’m also not limiting myself – a very important factor for getting by as a felon) and they really want good examples for employees – which is difficult to prove when you have a felony background. So, I’ve started to venture into the pool of knowledge and experiences of other like-minded individuals with similar circumstances. Much like you yourself are doing now, reading this post.

First off, some employers are just always going to reject you. They have this policy or that policy or sometimes it happens to be some sort of personal bias based on a negative experience. It isn’t your fault, and you shouldn’t let yourself base your worth off of their rejection, and you shouldn’t hate them for it either. They simply want to cover their behinds in the case of court situations (based on some sort of statistics that they’ve had created by their insurance agencies) or they’ve been taught to be this way in some shape or form at some point. But there are plenty of employers that are willing to take a chance on someone that is honest and upfront about their past, you just have to sift through the rest to find them.

If you need additional experience for your resume, consider volunteering in various organizations or even a local community garden. It shows that you have interests in the community and that you’re taking steps in socially preferred situations. It gives you more depth on your resume and if you stick with it for a while, you get serious brownie points with human resources people. Stability of some sort really makes them happy, at least from my experience. For instance, when approaching interviews with personal resumes (not the single application sheet), I’ve found that focusing on the jobs I held the longest has been more rewarding in terms of improved (over minimum wage) employment than listing more of the shorter jobs that I have had over the years.

I’m also considering putting together presentations that show the specific reasons why felons are good employees, to be used in the application process for certain jobs. For instance, I am considering offering various organizations my skills on an independent contract basis, if my background comes up, I will be prepared with why my background has proven to be an asset in both the personal and professional aspects of my life. While this is mostly for my own personal use, if anyone is interested in creating their own, I’d love to help you brainstorm ideas for yours.

Obviously, not gaining any new charges or convictions is also helpful, as the longer that you stay out of trouble the more things you can qualify for both in jobs, certifications for jobs, college financial aid, and even housing assistance in some states/counties. For instance, certifications of good conduct can be gained rather quickly in the state of Illinois, check your state laws to see if your area offers this and what conditions have to be met to earn it. If I recall my research into it a couple years ago when I earned mine, I found that I could have done it within a year or so of my conviction, instead of nearly 8 years later.

However, I didn’t even know something like that existed until right before I applied for it in 2015 after stumbling upon it while searching for expungement information (super lame in this state, which is why I decided to start owning my background and find a way to make it work FOR me instead of against me). I’m telling you, research is THE really big thing here. You kind of need to research until it FEELS like your eyes are bleeding and your skull is going to explode because some of it is very wordy and can be difficult to understand because laws have their own language and lawyers can muddle it up (sometimes in your favor if you’ve really proven to be recovered from making your bad choices, turns out State Attorneys can actually be nice people!). It pays off though, especially if your local court system isn’t even aware of the possibility and you are able to show them that it exists and that you deserve it. (It just makes your week, let me tell you that!)

And on that note, I’ve realized how tired I am so I bid you farewell until next time my dear Reader. If you have questions or suggestions for posts, please comment or contact me. I’d love to share useful information that you really want, instead of using random ideas that I get in the shower that become long rambles. 😛 (And I had the audacity to complain about 800 word essays each week in college…HA – now I write 800 words for FUN – well… and sometimes money if I like the topic)

Peace and love
Aza

 

Graduating College with a Felony!

Guess what, I’m now a felon that has a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology!

It’s been a long five years (had to take a break after family losses for mental health), but I made it!

I am living proof that our pasts don’t have to stop us from becoming better people. What’s even crazier, is that the background you have can even help you depending on the career you choose to study for.

In my case, I wanted to apply my experiences as a felon in a program that will help other felons (and non-felons too!). Because I have managed to get my life back on track (messy as it might be, its what I have and what I LOVE), I want every felon to know that it isn’t the end of their normal life to have a conviction. You can move forward and you can be successful. You just have to want it, and be willing to figure out how to get it the right way!

I have a theft record, so I had to work around what I knew I couldn’t work in. I have had to avoid corporate retail positions, because it’s often a waste of my time and printed resumes (precious, expensive printer ink and paper) often because corporate or state policy simply doesn’t allow a felon with theft to work for them (state seems to be picky about lottery too, so no gas stations either for theft records around here). So, I had to find something that I COULD work in, that I actually LIKED.

I chose psychology partly because I love the intricacy of the human mind and how our emotions drive us to behave in different situations. I also love helping people with their problems and have been the go-to for my friends – both online and in real life – for advice and guidance.

Then I realized that with my background and my new expertise in psychology and life coaching, I could actually create my own coaching career built on my experiences. Plus I get to write about stuff that matters to me – it’s seriously a dream come true.

I also realized that there isn’t anything in my area that is directed to helping felons get back on their feet (the halfway houses around here don’t offer coaching, counseling, or any other actual support other than housing), and I recognized that there is a need for more support services for struggling individuals.

All in all, I wouldn’t change a thing that I’ve been through. My felony might have made me stumble, but it can’t keep me down in the dirt. If I can pick myself up, time and time again, holding my head high and continuing to move forward in life, I know you can too.

If you need guidance finding your passion and need someone to hold you accountable (it helps to have someone rooting for you and keeping you on task, it really does),  I’d love to help you. I offer books, workbooks, and one on one digital coaching. Find the links to the books in the sidebar to the right, or scroll up to the top to find a link to the exclusive print edition from Microcosm. I even created a couple of workbooks to help walk you through the process of getting back on track and these are available on Shopify for only $3 USD each. If you need one on one help, click on Hire Aza and take a look at what I offer. There’s something for everyone who is looking for a little guidance and I’ve made it as affordable as possible – so check it out and let’s support each other!

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

 

Misinformation about Felons

I’ve been perusing some Facebook groups that are directed toward felons and how to move forward after a conviction. And while I love that, I also notice the amount of misinformation or lack of information. People are discussing creating petitions to their state when it is very possible that the state already has something in place. These programs are not easy to find, but they are one of the least utilized tools that are already there.
People also often seem to think that felons are not supposed to be friends with each other, or that felons can’t vote for the rest of their lives. This simply is not the case in many states. Once you are finished serving your supervisory sentence (probation or parole), you actually get many rights back automatically. I know for a fact that in Illinois, I was able to vote the same year I finished my ‘supervised’ term. I didn’t care to vote until recently, but I was allowed to do so if I wished that same year.

And as for being buddies with other felons, it IS  legal for you to do so. It might not be the best of ideas, especially if the felons you’re friends with are still behaving badly as you really don’t need the inspiration to join in again, but it’s not against the law to be friends. Honestly, it might only apply to people that have specific bars against contact with certain individuals in their probation/parole while they are on it. I know on my case, there was an additional condition of avoiding the individual who had been my companion in my criminal conviction, and I found later that they had a similar condition on their paperwork against me. But it only lasted until our respective sentences were finished. Well, the legal part did, I’ve avoided that particular individual like the Prince from Edgar Allan Poes “The Masque of the Red Death” simply because I don’t need the temptation to fall back in with people I KNOW don’t have the ‘let’s move on mentality’.  The mindset of who you around GREATLY influence you and your motivation. Don’t trap yourself, and be realistic about who you’re around if you really want to make a shift to a better place.

Gun rights are another big unknown for many felons, but there are many states that will allow you to gain back your right to a firearm as well. In Illinois, once you’re done with your sentence, you can apply for your FOID again, and if you are denied, you can take it to the local court to discuss with a judge why you earned/ deserve the right back. Of course, violent offenders probably won’t get this back, and until rehabilitation efforts are created and fully functional in this direction, that probably won’t change. But for the majority of other convictions, you are likely fully eligible to make the attempt to show you’ve earned this right again. Some states are a little more hardball, and others play it more loosely. You have to learn to research these things, and have the patience to read through the “legal speak”. It isn’t easy, but IT CAN lead you to what you NEED to climb that ladder!

I think that pretty much covers the biggest things that I’ve noticed with misinformation about having a felony and how it influences us. The biggest thing to remember here is to DO THE DAMN RESEARCH. Or (shameless self-advertising) you can pay me to do it for you at my Fiverr Gig here – https://www.fiverr.com/azarathia/provide-felony-rehabilitation-support.

Point is, you HAVE to be armed with KNOWLEDGE about your state and your conviction. Without this sort of arsenal, you’ll keep feeling like the dog society tends to think we are.

 That’s all for now – although I won’t be surprised if it comes up again.
Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)