Five Things Felons Need to Know

Welcome back Reader!

Today, I’ve got a short list of five things that felons should know after their conviction.

This isn’t a hate post either, I am the Friendly Felon after all – so you’re in store for some nifty information that is really going to give you hope and help you get back on track.

That’s what I’m all about here – finding those little rays of hope for a better life and growing that into a goal you can reach. Just thought I’d mention that for the newcomers – because they might not have known what they were getting themselves into here. (Partly why Enigma is part of my chosen moniker)

Anyway, without further ado, I present my newest list:

Felons Should Know:

1. We can get the majority of our civil rights back – and some states even allow restoration of rights immediately after you finish your last day locked up or once you get released from whatever level supervision you might be on. This includes voting, earning a public office seat in a governmental body, and more. Some rights will take more time than others, and every state is different in their limits, but ultimately – the rights are available again once you’ve kept yourself out of trouble for a while. Not a bad bargain really.

2. We can gain legal certificates that help us get jobs. First, there is a federal bonding program that is available for all felons in every state across the entire nation. There are also some states that offer a ‘Certificate of Good Conduct’, or a ‘Certificate of Relief from Disability’. Both of these help with getting a job, and one can even help you get a professional license. You’ll have to earn these with a lot of research and a lot of action – but it is completely possible!

3. We can do anything we put our minds to! If you’re a felon that wants to go to college, there’s not much that can stop you. Sex convictions aside, most felons – including drug-related convictions (might have to wait for financial aid to be allowed again, but otherwise chances of acceptance aren’t terrible)- can attend college without hassle. I’ve been accepted numerous times into various colleges for interior design, art, beauty school, and psychology. I might have only stuck with one of these choices, but all of them were willing to work with me regardless of my background. The payment of the tuition is the biggest hassle here, but most convictions can apply within just a few years of completion of your sentence.

4. We need to be honest about our backgrounds with employers. When you hide it, you’re just wasting time (yours and the employers to be honest). There might be restrictions in various states as to how far back the background search can go – but in many cases, a simple background search performed online will bring up every single conviction under your name. It is a much better idea to be honest, and spend more time learning how to prove you’re a good employee to potential employers. (Character references, volunteer experiences, letters from probation, parole, etc, anything and everything that gives ‘proof’ of a good worker).

5. We are worth the effort it takes to overcome our obstacles. Just because we made a mistake doesn’t mean that our lives have to be over or that we’re doomed to a life inside an institution or on the ‘wrong side’ of the street. Of course, if you want to continue the life that brought you to this point – that’s up to you. Personally, I recommend picking the important pieces of yourself up and building a better life – it’s the most difficult thing to do – but that just means it will be that much more meaningful when you accomplish your goals.

So, that concludes my list for the day – I hope you like it and if you want more information about how to overcome your conviction related obstacles – please purchase a copy of my Guide to Life After a Felony – available in print on Microcosm and on just about every eBook retailer out there – click here for the Kindle edition.

If you want some personalized research done for your situation – I offer that on Fiverr – click on the Hire Aza link at the top of the page – I’m here for you to help you meet your goals and dreams. It’s what I do – seriously, it’s all I think about. Keep going strong everyone! Rise above!

Love and Peace,
Aza (@aza_enigma Twitter)

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A Day in My Life…

Hey Again Readers!

I’ve been thinking that it might be time to share a bit more about myself. I have a hard time with that, but I’m working on it. This post is proof, and you can’t tell me otherwise. LOL

Anyway, I thought I’d start by sharing a day in my life.

Often, I’m up between 4:15 and 6 am every day. Sleeping in has become a thing I dream about, rather than do – mostly because my son trained me well when he was an infant – but also because the local farmers wait for no one when it comes to their breakfast…
No matter what time I drag my legs over the edge of my bed, I make sure to take my Thrive capsule with a chug of water. After trudging to the bathroom, phone in hand of course, I scroll and get the daily, boring hygienic stuff out of the way.

Once cleaned up and ready for public interaction, I make my way to the kitchen. Now, instead of coffee (which literally hates my guts), I make my morning Thrive shake. I use only half the full dose for this – as it both serves my need of helping me gain weight rather than lose it AND it saves me money (I don’t get my supplement for free yet – because I don’t like pushing products – even when they work for me).

Once I mix the half cup of ‘awesome’ powder into my cup of milk, I sit down at my desk and check over all of my projects. These projects range from the events at my work that I manage, my freelance sites (Fiverr and People Per Hour), my publishing sites (Smashwords, Amazon, and Microcosm), social media (Friendly Felon Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Reddit), and check on my marketing ideas for that week. If I’m feeling really froggy, I might do a post on here, or even add to one of the books in progress.

I spend between 15 minutes to 2 hours on this ‘first things first’ process. I call it ‘first things first’ because these things are dedicated to the work I really care about. I don’t mind my current payroll job, but it isn’t my true passion. I also have the most energy and focus in the morning (most of the time anyway) and I like to take advantage of that early burst of ‘Get It’ energy.

Then, depending on the day, I’m either off to work, or off to finish some sort errand for the house. Currently, I tend bar, serve food, and manage the front of house staff and assist with rental event details in a local bar and grill. It’s not a bad fit for me really, as bartenders often act as amatuer psychologists – my bachelor’s degree actually comes in handy for some of my regulars and has opened some wonderful interactions with customers. This helps both of us, as they find helpful advice and new information, and I’m reaching out and opening up to people about my past and changing perspectives about felons in person.

After work or errands, I like to hang out with my family. We homeschool our son, often using Time4Learning during the months that I’m earning enough, or Kahn Academy for the times that it’s just out of reach. He loves both programs, especially in combination because they each offer different aspects of education. He’s only ten and he’s already learning coding and basic animation, as well as his fundamental subjects. When he’s finished for the day, sometimes we’ll play games, or just relax and watch some comic related movies. We’re big comic geeks in my house – Harley Quinn, Thor, and the Turtles are all huge hits around here.

We love to cook together, and we like experimenting with food combinations. Last Thanksgiving, we made a Cordon Blue Stuffed Turkey Breast meal, so we could combine the things that we each wanted from the meal. My son’s favorite meal to help with is fried chicken. I think it’s only because he can get really messy with it – between the eggs, milk, and seasoned dry batter  – it’s a dream come true for him.

We have a good time, and make the best of what we have.

After the work, play, and relaxation, it’s time for bed. Often, I have the most ideas for blog posts, plot points in stories, and business schemes while I’m in that nearly asleep phase. I have yet to actually get around to writing more of those down (part of why I don’t post as often as I’d really like to), even though I have pens, pencils, and paper tucked away in just about every corner of the house. I think it’s mostly because I don’t want to risk waking myself up all the way again by reaching out and actually writing them down – because I like to keep my early schedule going and I know it can be rough to lose sleep the older I get.

Well, that’s a day in my life, and I hope you enjoy the peek into my world as it is right now. Who knows what the next ‘Day in My Life’ will bring! Keep Moving Forward, you’ll find your goals!

Love and Peace – Aza

Going the Extra Mile …It’s good for felons too!

Hey Readers! Welcome to my blog and thanks for stopping by! Today, I’m talking about going the extra mile and how it can impact your chances of gaining the life you want.

If you didn’t know already, I’m a fellow felon with a Class 2 Theft, and I typically have a day job along with numerous freelance things (that I wish I could focus on, but we all have bills to pay, right?). Just over 4 months ago, I changed jobs again (my own choice for once, lol) and started working in a local restaurant that features a bar.

I made sure that the interviewing manager knew about my background from day one. The secondary owner didn’t find out until a couple months later when I began suggesting improvements and helped write a brochure for an upcoming event the bar would be a part of. After seeing my work and loving it, he asked about what I’d written before and I told him about the Guide to Life After a Felony ebook – which of course led to – What do I know about felonies?

Heh. Quite a bit actually, personal experience is sucky – but I’ve done some great things because of it. This impressed him, a lot.

His following comment was one thing that really drove home to me the fact that ‘FELON’ isn’t stamped on my forehead (after so many unsavory interactions with the public over the years, it really feels that way sometimes I think).

Anyway, after the brochure thing, I also noticed that the company didn’t have an employee handbook yet – so I made one. I detailed the expectations of the waitresses and bartenders, as well as various opening and closing procedures that needed to be followed to improve the efficiency of the business.
This caught his attention again. No one had asked me to do this, or even suggested it as a thing that we needed. I simply took an idea I had and ran with it. #ExtraMile

Fast forward another month later, and I get called into the boss’s office. I’m freaking out, I’m thinking all sorts of negative stuff, just assuming that I’m going to get fired for either taking too much initiative or for having some random customer throw a fit over my background (it’s happened before – someone I had never met hated me (and my record) and refused to offer business to that facility while I was employed).

After a short discussion about how I had taken a step too far with a bar special (I didn’t charge enough for a certain product that is classified as premium and hadn’t asked permission to run a special – it was a hit though!) [the disapproval didn’t help my initial mindset though]; the interviewing manager looked over at the co-owner, and said, “Should we tell her? Or give her another day?”

My heart dropped again, I’m thinking ‘Yup, back to Craigslist…’

The next words out of the owner’s mouth were, “We’ve noticed that you’ve put in a lot of extra work here, and I’d like to promote you. How would you feel about that?”

-Jaw drop-

“I’d love that! Thank you for appreciating everything I’ve done here. I never expected this!”

So… moral of the story is

When you do land a job (even if it isn’t your ‘goal’ job), always find a way to go the extra mile. Even if it doesn’t land you a promotion (I’ve been putting in the extra mile at every job and this is only the second job where I’ve been offered management level work) it does get you noticed. And getting noticed for good things is the best weapon against that stigma that we all experience as felons.

It won’t necessarily have an immediate effect on your life, and you probably won’t get immediate notice for going the extra mile. For instance, at another place of employment, I created new signage for us to use when advertising our services, and re-organized the inventory to make it easier to count. Nothing happened there – other than the store manager saying thanks. When I transferred into another auto shop, I re-organized the entire filing system and got the files completely up to date – once finished – I was laid off (but did have good references from them). Not exactly a great reward for going the extra mile right?

But I never let the lack of a reward stop me from putting extra work in. Heck, for me, the knowledge that I made even a small positive impact – even if just for a co-worker- is enough for me – and I don’t even have to like the business I’m at to enjoy that part. It certainly helps to like your job, it can be difficult to find motivation to do extra stuff when you dislike the place or the people, but you aren’t doing it for them really, you’re doing it for yourself and your future.

Every single positive interaction will begin to build upon the other, and will eventually pull you out of the black hole that a bad background can become for us felons. So, keep pushing forward through all the bullcrap, stay strong, and build up for your future.

We got this fellow felons, stay strong and remember, we are MORE than our past.

Love and Peace,
Aza

Pushing Boundaries and Developing Skills

Hey Readers! Hope all is well for you!

 

It’s been an interesting month for me, as there have been some suggestions in the works for offering speeches.

Now, not only am I a shy and somewhat anxious person, I’ve also been trained by society in some ways to feel that my opinions are not worthy and that I’m more likely to fail than other people. Simply because I made a mistake and earned a record – over a decade ago.

It is amazing to have that sort of suggestion thrown my way, because of those reasons. And it’s rather validating in a way, even if I still have that nagging voice in the back of my head saying…”Hahahaha – you’re gonna do WHAT? That’s hilarious!!!”.

Now, do I have any idea how to create a speech from scratch? …Not really…

Do I have any experience talking in big groups? …. (falls over laughing)

Do I have any experience with videos, editing, or uploading? …. absolutely not…

Am I gonna dig in, do some research, and create the best experience for my audience as possible?? …. We have a winner!

You know why I’m saying yes? I’m saying yes, because opportunity is knocking at my door. I’m saying yes, because I believe in every felon that wants their life to be better – deserves the right to find a path to that. I’m saying yes, because growth might be painful sometimes, but it’s one of the most beautiful things in life.

It won’t be easy, and I won’t like all of it, but I know I’ll learn some new skills, some new ideas, meet new people, and have more chances to make a positive impact on how felons are viewed in society.

You and me? We’re both worth more than we realize, and we need to remember that. Start looking for opportunities to create positive interactions, and be a part of the change, not only in yourself and your life, but the life of every other struggling felon out there.

Love and Peace,
Aza

 

Still Seeking Interviews

Hello Readers!

I had been hoping to have some interviews to share here by now, but it would seem that everyone is just as crazy busy as I am.
Rest assured, these will come in over the next month or so as everyone finds the time to share the details of their stories.

While we wait patiently, I want to share with you something that has finally come to fruition for me recently.

Now, I know that I’ve already shared my personal version of the book, ‘Finding Freedom’ on Smashwords and Amazon (although I’m getting really irked with Amazon, so the book will be pulled from their shelves soon).
What I present now, is the fully professionally edited and easier to read version of the book, (made available through Microcosm Publishing) — (drumroll please…)

The Friendly Felon’s Guide to Life After a Felony – by Aza Enigma.

Click here to see it in all of its glory (and maybe order a few, to reward this awesome publisher for making the book even better!)

Alright, with that out of the way, I want some input on what to research next. Post a comment on the topic YOU want more information about, and I’ll do my best to find answers and share them here with everyone. Isn’t it about time you found the answers you need?

Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with! See you next time!

Love and Peace,

Aza

Backgrounds and Jobs

Hey Reader! Back again are you? Awesome!

Today, we’re going to talk about the to-do’s and NOT to-do’s when it comes to your background and finding a job. I’ve been perusing groups on Facebook recently again, and there’s a lot of talk about simply hiding the background. It’s easy enough to try to ignore that little box that asks about your background, but it really isn’t the best approach. Especially if you’re still in the area that you were convicted in, it is extremely easy for an employer to get wind of your conviction after they’ve hired someone who told them they were ‘clean’.

The LAST thing you want to do is get caught up in a lie with a job. This sort of thing is recorded on your work record, along with refused/failed drug tests, and more. And once you’re on record lying about it, well no other employer is going to want to trust you because you’re still relying on bad habits.

Now, it’s not easy to talk about something we’d all rather forget about. I hate going into an interview simply because I know I have to bare my soul a bit to get anywhere and I’m not a sharing person. Especially when it comes to my mistakes – it sucks to admit I messed up enough to get a felony record, but it also means I’m owning up to those mistakes and people seem to like it.

But, I’ve come to realize that one sometimes has to take steps that are not comfortable in order to get anywhere near one’s goals. So, I march my happy butt in there, plaster a smile on my face to get those happy hormones running through my system (the fake it til you make it is a REAL thing – look it up), and I start making my best first impression.

Once I’ve made a good impression, talking about what I have made myself accomplish since my conviction, I go ahead and bring up that portion. I don’t wait for them to ask, it gives them the power and makes me feel like I’m a bug. So, instead, I bring it up, take the power for myself, and use the conviction to set off my achievements rather than allowing it to be framed in a poor light. Of course, it will help you if you have followed any recommendations by your PO to gain your GED at the least and to have pushed yourself further than that when possible. Not all of us have the same story, and you’ll have to find a way to make your past a vital part of your path to success.

Of course, there are also some options available for those that have the time and determination, to avoid the entire background question LEGALLY and safely, where there won’t be more punishment and social stigma with future employers. Some states offer pardons and sealing of records, and you’ll have a number of hoops to jump through – but if you want it badly enough, it isn’t that difficult. You can do anything you put your mind to doing, don’t be afraid to push for what you really deserve. You are worthy of a job, you are worthy of respect, and you are worthy of FREEDOM from stigma and distrust. Be the change you want to be, be honest and open, and help change society’s mind about felons. We’re just humans that made mistakes, and we can overcome all the barriers life presents us.

If you need guidance getting your life on track for becoming a better person, need help researching your state laws and options, or are in need of life coaching that is focused on overcoming felonies, please find my Fiverr here, and take advantage of the super low prices I’m offering for these services.  https://www.fiverr.com/azarathia/provide-felony-rehabilitation-support

Thanks again for stopping by, see you next post!

Peace and Love,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

Writing Your Story

Sorry for the lack of posts guys, as usual, things are crazy on the home and business fronts. I’ve been hard at work researching and writing first drafts of my other writing projects (more information on these coming soon). And while writing is on my mind, I wanted to talk about how writing your story (how you became a felon) can help you put things into perspective. The insight that you might find through the practice of writing the story of your life might help you find your path to freedom again.

Shortly after my own incarceration, I found myself writing non-stop in my diary, talking about how I had got myself into the position I was currently in, how the people I thought were friends were just dragging me into unknown depths, and how insane my experience seemed to be in general.

I started to realize that it wasn’t just my friends that had beguiled me into the situation and that I had to take control of myself for myself. I had to start being accountable for my actions and lack of actions. This realization helped guide me to where I am now. I have raised a child to double digits (the little one isn’t so little these days), I have supported my family, and I have taken control of my life and I won’t let anything stop me from being successful. Felon or not, I am going to find or forge (create forcibly, not write bad checks, just FYI) my path to freedom and acceptance in society. And I know you can do it too!

Point is, writing it out can help you get outside of your head and might take a bit of the depression off your shoulders. It helped me learn more about myself and find out what I needed to change about myself – you never know until you authentically give it a shot.

Til next time,

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

Part Two Work Flexibility

Welcome back reader, let’s dig into part two of work flexibility.

I attempt to be very upfront with companies even if they don’t run background checks. (I know I mentioned this before, but I gotta repeat it)

At every single interview, I will bring up the fact that I am a felon, what my conviction was, and what I’ve done since my conviction. Now, half the time, it bites me directly in the arse. I won’t lie about that either. A good portion of people that were ready to hire me on the spot immediately withdrew their hand or waved me off impatiently as if I had wasted their time. (No consideration of the expenses I’d made toward fuel for traveling to the interview, my own time, and the often suffocating feeling of defeat they dealt me, mind you.)

However, it’s also won over a number of hiring managers, and they’ve been willing to put their arse on the line for me. This technique, a disposition toward being open and honest, has by far given me the most job opportunities. And thanks to the steadily shifting job market, I have had repeated opportunities to test and re-test this method.

As for the jobs that I have held over the years, they include the first post-conviction mystery job (ha, thought I was going to tell didn’t you?), waitressing, bar-tending, and then an intensive dive into the automotive industry.

My most stable positions have been in the automotive industry by far, as I personally have the knack for it (all three, [yes, three] parents were aviators and both fathers were mechanics with histories of being mechanics in their heritage).

I’ve also found that call centers and transcribing jobs are generally willing to work with felons (thanks to very strict rules within the call centers for information – no phones, no papers, no writing utensils, etc ).

More recently, I just ended my two-year employment with a local blind vendor (these guys have programs in every state). It was a great job, but my car crapped out so I’m back to freelancing (see my Extra Work from Home post for more on that!)

I also highly recommend attempting to get your work history built up through temporary labor agencies when you have one available to you. They are not the greatest jobs by far, but they will provide an income, and more importantly an avenue to better jobs to come.

The more experience that you can get in any sort of employment, the more you can give to the next job that you really want. Some of the day labor places will require a very intense dedication, as some places get clogged with substance abusers who will start a line at the door at 4 am (when the door doesn’t open until 6 am, just to get the jump on the day’s list of needed workers. And even if you do get in line early, you may not be asked to take a job for over a week, and still, you’ll have to come into the agency each morning until you get to know the dispatchers behind the desk.

Other labor agencies will add you to a larger compiled list of possible employees, and once they get to a job that you might be matched with, they will call you. This is a safer investment of time, but may take much longer to find work that works with you.

That’s all I can think of, for now. But keep checking back for more!

Love and Peace,
Aza

 

Learning to be Flexible about Work

Hello, dear Readers!

I want to talk to you about being a felon and finding work. 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 the best way to keep the income coming in.

With my conviction, I was pushed to gain my GED by a given date in the probation papers, and this helped fill in the first -good- part of my resume. In some cases, your own convictions and the following supervision period (probation/parole/etc) may have included similar pushes to become an active 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. 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 (I’ll leave you guessing here) after the conviction 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. 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 cause enough to get myself fired in these early days. 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.

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 actually begin to give me time to talk to them and they tipped even more than the morning rushes 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 I managed to irritate a couple people by simply existing and having a job while having a bad record.

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 not easy to overcome, but since I have no option EXCEPT to keep moving forward, I choose to push through it every time the job search is renewed.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t win by lying to your (potential) employer. The background checks now are often not limited to a certain number of years as everything is becoming digital and can be retrieved for a low rate by nearly every company.

The most recent 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 readily available and staring me in the face in an (accusatory feeling) email. However, they have given 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 to cover their arses.

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)

 

Getting Bonded (Insured at Work)

Hey there, thanks for coming back!

We’re going to cover another topic today, one which can really help you sell yourself (in the best way possible) to the various employers that might be on the fence for hiring you thanks to that pesky background check.

While it’s tempting to cover up your background, it’s better to come out up front about it (more on this later, I promise). There’s a good reason for this:

It’s called the Federal Bonding Program, and it won’t cost you OR your employer a single cent and it lasts for six whole months.

This particular pro-tip isn’t just for felons, it can be used by those who have substance abuse issues, those who are on various forms of welfare, those with poor credit (for those pesky jobs that evaluate every aspect of your personal life), those with little to no work history and those who were discharged from the military without the honorable discharge.

The great thing about this is how easy it is to get started. You can use this link (http://bonds4jobs.com/our-services/job-seekers) to get more information about how to get started or to grab information to take with you to your next interview.

In line with this program, I’ve also heard that many factory jobs receive tax incentives for hiring felons, so if you have a healthy enough body for that kind of work, you may have much better luck finding employment through one of your local factories.

That’s all I’ve got on Federal Bonding, but it’s definitely worth more investigation if you’re having issues with getting past the interviews for work.

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter me!)