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

Keep Track of Your Jobs

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). This leads me directly to my second biggest tip:

Maintain Good Relationships with Management

Be sure to take note of every single one of your supervisor’s and your manager’s names – and try to leave a good impression with them – even if the job ends on less than kind terms (two weeks notice preferably and no revenge pranks – getting blacklisted will not reflect well after your next interview). With a bad background already in tow, you need to focus on making great impressions with every interaction you have. Especially with the people in higher positions (in work or life in general) – they can be great keys to improved networking and better opportunities. Managers and small business owners are often incredibly connected to the local business scene – so when you prove yourself as a serious asset they will be far more likely to recommend you in the future.

Doubly important, be honest with the management and the human resources department. There are tax incentive programs available for many companies that hire felons, and the federal bonding program is an excellent point to bring up as well. In addition, you’ll be proving the misconceptions wrong and strengthening a positive perspective for all felons that are striving to find their path.

Customize Your Resume (It’s Worth the Effort)

For one, most of our applications aren’t even seen by a human eye at first. We’re now being evaluated by computer programs. It’s the digital age and when it comes to getting a decent and reliable income we have to adapt and overcome.

Look up each job you apply for on a great, free site called O*Net and discover the skills that they have listed for that type of work (ex: waiter/waitress, sales agent, etc). Then take those skills and put them on the resume you’re sending in for that job type – so long as you have them or the ability to learn them quickly and effectively that is. You have to be ready to prove you have those skills after all, and that can be a big order if you take it too far.

Along with that, you can edit down your resume to the jobs that are directly associated with the position you’re applying for – unless directed specifically otherwise. Also, when you aren’t working, find something helpful to do in your community or find a free educational course online to take to help pad the gaps in your resume. It shows dedication to improvement and helps you network at the same time!

When you do get lucky enough to get to a real human resources person in the hiring chain, you want to keep your resume short and to the point. That desk guy is about blind with reading resumes/comparing skills/getting his shortlist and you need to keep his attention by saving him time and leaving a strong positive impression.

Amplify Your Accomplishments

Also, focus on your actual experiences and accomplishments. Describe any sort of improvement you made while using your skills and share the basic details of those experiences.

For instance, when I improved sales at the local oil change shop and wanted to find a better paying job thanks to the experiences I had – I made a bullet point under that job that said:  “Improved sales for my store by 10% in the first three months of work.” It’s all about telling your future employer exactly what you can do for them.

Positive Networking Works Wonders!

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 serious it’s ridiculous (I kind of hate networking honestly – I’m working on it).

Seriously though. Network, network, network. Make sure you’re leaving good impressions with people. Be the change you want to see in your life – it’s the only way to create those positive pathways we all want to see in our lives. Even if you have to fake it a bit until you make it.

Keep up the great work guys! Great things are waiting for us to find them!

Oh, don’t forget to like and share to let me know you dig what I’m doing here. Thank you in advance!

Peace and love
-Aza

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Learning to Change Gears

Hello, Readers!

Today, I want to talk about how we will often have to change gears in our life, or make adaptations as we go. It can be a total pain in the arse, but it is worth having the capability to do so, as it can make life quite a bit more workable.

I’ve been talking to my current payroll bosses a lot about resumes, as we’ve been looking for additional staff. They commented on the expansive experience that I showcased in my resume – not that it was necessary for the job I applied for – and added how impressed they were by my adaptability and willingness to learn.

Just to showcase the variety, here’s a taste: Automotive Damage Estimator, Food Packaging Plant worker, Customer Service Rep (Sales Phone line), Sales Agent for Cutlery, Waitress, Volunteer Advocate in a Shelter, Fishing Hook Production Line, Fluid and Filter Maintenance Technician, and more…

And those are just a sample of payroll incomes, let alone the self-employment avenues that I’ve ventured down as well.

Back to my point though, while my original intentions for my life were completely different than what I found myself having to ‘make do’ with, I found that allowing myself to pursue additional paths of interest was something that opened whole new realms of possibility for my life.

Rather than sit there, frustrated at the world for not accepting that I had learned a lesson and beating my fists against a metaphorical brick wall built by that background – I decided to walk in a different direction. Eventually, with practice, I learned to run with that approach in such a way that I could research and be prepared for certain obstacles, to the point where those walls looked more like speed bumps in my perspective.

Not all of them have worked out either, which makes the ability to keep changing gears a very important one.  Also, because it can suck when things haven’t worked out, I always try to make sure I appreciate having the new background knowledge of some aspect of life I hadn’t known before. For instance, after working at an oil change/general maintenance shop – I can now maintain my own vehicle for far longer; simply because I learned so much from taking on that experience.

So, if you’re in that frustrated stage, where your life seems like it’s hit a brick wall, take an inventory of your interests, find a few you think are most applicable to your skills or capability, and get ready to change your gear. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride, but as always – it’s worth it.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to check out The Friendly Felon on Facebook! Get motivation and inspiration on your feed daily!

Love and Peace – Aza

Introspecting the Post Conviction Mentality

It’s important to remember that a conviction is something that happens to you, and that it doesn’t define you.
It’s also important to remember that one of the worst things about trying to change your life is how frustrating the whole process can be, but good things do NOT come easy – not for the majority of us anyway.
I went for years thinking that my record made me worthless in the eyes of society before realizing that I really did still have something to contribute that would be helpful and meaningful somehow.
The social perception that I wasn’t worthy of a job depressed and infuriated me in the early years during probation and even after a successful completion of my sentence, things didn’t seem to begin to turn up. Every failed interview and every let down in housing options made me feel stupid and insignificant in the eyes of society, and why should I try to cater to that – they hate me right? (sound familiar at all?)

But I know now that I am more than my past, and I know from interacting with a huge group of fellow felons online in a variety of platforms that many other felons out there are more than their past too.

Really letting that sink in can be hard, both for the felon and for the never convicted.

And it’s honestly understandable. A fellow felon just mentioned to me last week that there are many out there who are still actively being shitty (for lack of a more eloquent description), and yes, there is always that danger, but I assure you that there are many more of us that simply want to live our lives in some semblance of a secure manner.

One of the leading things I’ve found in my own research and work with this stuff, is that when we’re denied our basic rights on the outside, we find them met on the inside.

And that sucks. It makes people want to go back, simply because it meets those basic needs. However, what those sorts are forgetting, is that there are more than basic needs in life. We have needs for positive social interaction with other people that want us to grow and learn. We have desires for lovers and families (in some cases). We have a wish to do something that leaves a mark on the world. But, somehow, we get caught up on those basic needs, simply because we hear no too often, lose that job, are denied that apartment, or lose that sense of security in life. All because we made one (or more) mistakes, and even though we tried to do better, the more we had to hustle in the wrong way just to get by.

I can only say that through sheer bull headedness that I’ve managed to scrape by and fight my way to what I want in life. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of going the extra mile. If you’re in the same boat, I want you to know you’re not alone, you’re worth more than your past, and you can do whatever you really put your mind to. Hustle for the good side of things, even harder than anything you might have done in the past for that other side. Something I found that is posted on The Friendly Felon Facebook Page, is Chris Pratt’s quote, involving this sentence-

“IT will break before YOU do…”

That’s powerful right there. Meditate on that bit there, and see where you can take life.

Love and Peace

Aza

 

The Importance of Research

Welcome Readers!
Our topic today is the importance of research and continuing personal curiosity and learning. Now, I know I’ve touched on this before, and I thought it might be helpful to share some more of the personal experiences that have came up for me over the last decade to help cement the idea of how productive it really can be.

The first time I realized that my curiosity about my situation could be actually helpful to building a life back up was when I stumbled upon a list of updated laws for my state, sometime around 2014. Mostly, it was a lot of stuff that was irrelevant to the lifestyle I lived, but it included a note about an updated law directed toward the sealing of records and their various requirements. Now, when I talk about requirements for these things, I mean things like length of time since conviction and release of sentence, type of arrest/charge/conviction, and having various forms of supporting evidence of character change – these are the most common characteristics that you’ll see on these updates in my experience.

This one mentioned expanding to various types of theft, and it immediately caught my interest. I went through the process over that spring at tax time just to take a shot at it – not even believing I’d really get anywhere – I was just desperate at a shot toward something positive. I finally reached the day where I took my place in front of the judge and plead my case to get a chance at life again. He took a moment to peek at the petition in front of him in that pale, stark folder…flipped through his handy-dandy lawbook… and looked quite puzzled for a moment… before he finally explained his total befuddlement to me.
The judge hadn’t even been updated on the new law yet!

While I didn’t end up fully qualifying for the sealing procedure that day (thank you journalists who use the thesaurus without a second thought – we still cool tho – I understand the struggle), the judge was impressed by the gumption that I had shown in trying to do something about my life, and he took the time to express exactly that.

It was a really surreal moment. I hadn’t loved the idea of facing the court system again, especially because they had left such a huge and negative impression on my life. I had been terrified and pretty nauseous the entire time I had to be back in the court house at all. But that small moment, those three seconds where my work was positively acknowledged by a person from that system…. WOW.

It sparked my first interest in really digging into the resources available at our fingertips and seeing what I could do with it.

The next experience that really cemented the importance of research to improving life overall, was when I found out about the Certificate of Good Conduct in my state, found the requirement list and discovered that I was REALLY qualified for it. It would have impacts on both my housing and employment prospects, and do you want to know the best part?

Again, no one had any idea that this was a thing that was available for felons in my state!

They heard me out with a new interest sparkling in their eyes as I quoted the statute, the requirements, and how I had fulfilled them, and they promptly sent the assistant to do some additional research in their on-site law books while my case was pushed to the end of the court session so they could give this their full attention.

When my name was called again, the judge was amazed and extremely pleased by my ability to find the certificate, ensure the requirements were met and steel myself again for the petition to the court. (And I did it for free, because I had a low-income, I also qualified for waived court costs)

The most recent experience is detailed in my Raging Against the Ticket series, from April of 2017. Check it out for more details, as it’s a pretty long story with a gleeful ending!

Thank you so much for stopping by again, and don’t forget to amp up your research skills. You never know when they might save you.

Peace and love
Aza

Who Likes Reading? (raises hand)

Hey Readers! Back again today with a short list of inspiring reads I’ve found on Smashwords while doing a bit of research.

I’ve bookmarked them for myself too, for that rainy day that I have off every now and then. Hopefully, I’ll snag enough time to finish these before the end of the year, so I can use them as stepping stones for my goals next year!

Check them out below:

1. Smashword Reading List Book 1
I’m hoping to get into the interviewer mindset from this, to help build a workshop for local ex-offenders who need interview training.

2.  Smashword Reading List Book 2
Who doesn’t love getting pumped up with inspirational quotes? These are fuel for me, and also give additional perspective on the various situations we can encounter.

3. Smashword Reading List Book 3
This one, well, it seems a lot more blunt from the title, and yes.. you’ll have to click to find out what it is. I have a feeling that I’m going to love it, the reviews are wicked, and I can’t resist that darkly honest and slightly edgy writing style and perspective.

Thanks for stopping by again! Love and Peace
Aza

Angry at the System?

Hey Readers! Today, I want to talk about one of those things that can seem to never go away after your conviction.

And for once, it’s not just the conviction itself.

It’s the anger.

I know that I recall being very angry throughout the charge and holding process, through all the court dates, and even after finishing my sentence.

Today, I’m not so angry. The only reason I’m not as angry anymore?

Well, for one, I took accountability for my actions in the charged crime. I figured out that, yes, I had indeed screwed up royally and that I did need to make changes in my mindset and my lifestyle to avoid making such a mistake again.

Secondly, I realized that the issues I was facing in employment and housing weren’t necessarily total barriers, they were simply obstacles that I had to overcome on my own merit. Each time I heard a ‘NO’ from an interviewing employer or the local housing authority/landlord, I used to think it was impossible to overcome.

But it is.

I’ve rented a couple different properties, and even owned my own property for a time. I’ve also held a range of jobs, from waitressing to advocate work, and from changing oil to filling vending machines. And everything in between as well as on the side.

Instead of viewing the issues you face as irreversible roadblocks, view them as road bumps, or re-directions toward what you’re truly meant for.

As an example, I will share one of my experiences, from just a few years ago.

I was 23 (five years into the conviction [two years after finishing my sentence]) and between homes, yet again. I had managed to finagle a room from a friend for a temporary place to crash with my boy, who was only three at the time. The whole single mom thing going on, you know. Between shifts at work and making sure my sitter was at the ready in case of a sudden change of plans, I found time to get applications for rental properties in.

The place I had in mind needed to be under $500 a month, ideally around $300, but I did have room in my budget to adjust (namely quitting smoking – again, and not doing the whole fast food thing anymore – no matter how easy it was to walk across the street from my job for my lunch break).

So, the first few places I tried for were in the local trailer parks. I figured they would be easier on the background check, as well as the monthly rental check.

I also threw in a couple house rental applications in, just for good measure and to expand the list of ‘possibles’. I didn’t think any of them would stick, but I wanted to take a chance, just in case.

I got a call from one of the trailer parks soon after, went to the interview and had a wonderful time meeting the landlord and looking at the trailers he had available. One of them was perfect, and I was amped about the chance to have it as my own. But, in the days following, when they would normally be getting back in touch and arranging your move-in day, I never got a call.

Well, …. at least not a call from the trailer park.

I got one of the houses that I applied for within a week of applying for it!

It was just under the upper limit of my budget, but WOW, it was such a great little house and on such a huge property! My son was so much happier with finally having a real yard to play in, and I was happy about having neighbors that were more than ten feet away from me.

So, while I didn’t get what I wanted, I found what I needed at that time.  It might not have been permanent, but permanence isn’t a part of my life. And from what I hear out of my limited interaction – it’s probably not a part of your life either.

I know you might be in a rough place right now, but trust in yourself and your ability to find what you need. There will be a lot of ‘NO’s’ to deal with, but trust in the re-direction that it provides (well, actually, it sort of forces you to take a new path) and that you will find that ‘YES’ you’re wanting.

Keep going, stay strong, and above all ~ RISE ABOVE~

Love and Peace,

Aza

Easy Employment Certifications

Hey Readers! Thank you for stopping by again! As always, I have a lot in store for you!

I have a really neat interview with Lisa Forbes coming up, where she will talk about the factors that played into her conviction, and how she has turned her life around, and how she defines her success as a reformed recruiter.  I am quite excited to hear her story and learn from her experiences, how about you?

Now, while we wait for the interview, I wanted to let you guys know that there are affordable certifications that will help you improve your employability (apparently I’ve made a new word – according to Google spellcheck anyway) after a conviction.

I am all too familiar with the fact that life gets turned upside down now and again (sometimes it feels like it’s upside down every day… I get that too), and having these little additions to rely on can mean keeping your rental versus ending up homeless (or homeless again – goodness knows I’ve been there myself).

These little employment certificates are the Basset license (basically a responsible bartender) and the Food Handler license.

I completed the Basset training in about 4 hours just yesterday evening by watching video after video on the certification website, answering the practice questions, and then completing the final exam. I paid around 14 bucks for it, and now I can be hired at any bar in my state. Of course, not all states have a full requirement of a licensed server, but even if they don’t require it, it may be a good idea to invest in it, because it will show that you will go above and beyond the basic expectations and that you’ll be a responsible seller. The tips are pretty awesome too, especially on busy nights.

The Food Handler license will help you gain cooking and waitressing jobs too, and I’ll be taking this course soon as well – I’ll make an update when I have more information on the cost and the type of course that is offered online. (Update: I paid only $7 for mine, it’s the lowest level one – it’s all I needed as I was serving and not helping cook – although food manager’s licenses seem to run up to $500 around here – if you’re looking to get into cooking be prepared for an investment)

Neither course has mentioned performing any sort of background check, and I haven’t found a bar yet that runs a check for hiring purposes (maybe my area is a bit BFE though – let me know if your locale is different), so if you’re a people person and know how to defuse the situations that can come up in a bar, you might consider becoming a bartender.

The cash tips are often pretty decent – especially if you’re lucky and get the ever coveted weekend evening hours, and that’s money you can typically take home each night on top of the weekly paycheck for your hours. Tip based jobs are sort of awesome in that way, even if they are ‘lower income’.

That’s all, for now, guys, come back soon and find some inspiration in Lisa’s interview, and keep rising above!

Aza

 

P.S. – If you’re looking for a certificate to help you overcome your background – you can find it in my books! I did a ton of research on every state and put it all together in a nifty little manual for you! Print version HERE, and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords – see the sidebar for links. Thank you so much!

Why I work Part time

Hey Reader! I’m back again.

Recently, my employer asked me why I’ve stayed with the job I have, even after graduating college.

I pondered this a bit, and my response was based on this: Flexibility.

While the income is pretty good, it doesn’t really quite cut it for my lifestyle, and I’m always asking for more hours as long as he needs the work done. However, I value the flexibility to work on my own projects and spend time with my family more than I value the extra income I could be making if I moved to a full time position with another company.

I’ve had a lot of full time jobs over the years, but I hated that I was always exhausted and grumpy from being at work literally all day. Typically with people that hated their jobs too, and reinforced how crappy our days were every single day. (It doesn’t help you to like your job when your co-workers hate theirs even more than you) I found that I needed to change jobs more often, simply to keep myself from slipping into that hateful mindset of ‘this is all I have, I have to do it’. But changing jobs is more difficult for felons. I got tired of going through so many interviews just to find a new position.

Then I found my current job. It’s part time and I can change my schedule to fit my needs for the most part. There are some days that I can’t change, but it’s flexible enough to let me work around it. In any other job, I ‘d have a rigid schedule that would work me to the bone and would not allow me to do anything toward my own goals.

With the part time job I have now, (almost a year now), I have been able to write over 80 thousand words for the books that I’ve been working on. I have been able to build freelance jobs online that I’m passionate about. And I have more time with my family which lets me be a better parent instead of a tired, cranky, inattentive one that is falling asleep in her spot on the couch and too worried about some deadline that could get her fired.

That’s all for today, I hope you enjoyed it. More to come soon, as I’m still working on two books that I hope will be released by the end of the year.

If you’re a struggling felon, check out my first book: Finding Freedom here:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/735122