Checking the “Felon” Box Can be a Catch 22
I got a call this week from a man who was released from prison about a year ago. As a convicted felon, he was finding it really hard to get a job. When he filled out applications and checked the box about “if you’ve ever been convicted…” everything stopped.
He tried not checking the box, got an interview, felt like the job was about to be offered and then heard, “Oh, you forgot to fill in one of the parts of the application….” He told them he hadn’t forgotten to check the box but wanted an opportunity to explain the situation first. They replied, “If you’re a convicted felon, we can’t hire you.”
What can people do who have served their time, paid their debt and need to make a living like the rest of us? I had a few ideas for the caller and checked with some of my colleagues to tap their brains. If you’re a convicted felon trying to reenter the workforce, here’s some advice that might help.
Some companies advertise themselves as “felon friendly.” You can Google them and start applying there.
You can start your own business. As an entrepreneur, you may be able to avoid some of the barriers a traditional job search entails plus it could be a source of self-worth and sense of purpose.
There are some nonprofits that can help ex-offenders start their own businesses. The Prisoner Entrepreneur Program (http://www.prisonentrepreneurship.org/) has reduced recidivism of former incarcerated individuals. Rising Tide Capital in New Jersey (http://www.risingtidecapital.org/) has also been successful in this area.
There is also a law in some cities that says a person does not have to reveal if they have been to prison over the last 7 years. But check in your area because it’s a city-by-city case.
Look at the National Hire Network (www.hirenetwork.org). It has been helping individuals with criminal records reenter society through employment since 2001.
In the end, ex-offenders will have to do the same things we all do to look for jobs and that is to strategically plan a course of action and stay on it. Get their resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles ready. I believe LinkedIn even offers ex-inmate career resources.
Sue Montgomery is a Certified Professional Resume Writer & Career Coach with 20+ years of experience creating resumes, cover letters and other tools that market people for the jobs they want. Sue is founder and president of Resume Plus.