Posted by Brian McCullough
If you have career or job search question you would like answered on this blog, click here to Ask Brian.
Reader A Bummed Out Wife asks:
My husband made a terrible mistake in his past that continues to affect him now. He pled guilty to growing marijuana with the intent to distribute it for sale. He completed his sentence (4 years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $2,500 fine).
He has two degrees, actively volunteers with a community agency, and has not gotten so much as a speeding ticket since his conviction. However no one will hire him once his background check comes back.
He has been completely honest about his mistake and has never sought to deceive any potential employer by hiding his felony record. But it is truly disappointing to go on several job interviews and interview well enough to be considered for a job offer, only to be told ‘no’ due to his criminal history.
We are at our wit’s since we grossly underestimated how negatively this would continue to affect his job options. What advice would you give besides to “try, try again”?
Brian answers after the jump.
All job searchers with complicated career histories would benefit from working with a professional resume service.
Yep. This is a big problem. And I wish I could tell you there is a quick and easy solution, but there isn’t. There’s no silver bullet. In the end, your husband, more than most job seekers, is going to have to depend on the kindness in someone’s heart.
Let me give you my various thoughts on how you should proceed and hopefully one of these ideas will lead you down the right path.
Firstly, some resume writers I know say not to put any arrests or time incarcerated on a resume. But I don’t see what the point of that is. You have to fess up to a felony conviction on a job application. That’s the law.
And if you don’t fess up… only to have it come out down the road… they have a legal right to fire you for your deception.
So, I’m all about being up front about it. I’m not saying you take out a billboard or anything… you can put a little note at the very end of the resume. And make sure to make a note that you’re open to discussing all the details.
Being forthcoming and showing an eagerness to own up to the past is the best strategy you can take in this situation. It seems that your husband is already doing this.
Ex-Felon Employment Services
The best advice I can give you is to seek out ex-felon employment services or charities. These are organizations who do exactly what we’re talking about: help ex-offenders find work. Trust me, they’re out there. In a nation with millions of citizens behind bars, you are not alone in this predicament.
There’s no big national organization or government agency. But various states and even cities and communities have just such services. I think the state of California has one, but my googling proved inconclusive. I’ve heard people work with Prisoner’s Relief Society, but they too seem to absent from the web. The National H.I.R.E Network has resources you might find useful.
Bottom line, search the yellow pages in your local community. Or call the local courts or government. Or… I don’t know if this is applicable in your case… did your husband have a parole officer? Might that officer be a resource for you?
Employers do have some incentive to hire ex-offenders, btw. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is available to employers as an incentive to hire felons, up to thousands of dollars a year. The Federal Bonding Program is another employer incentive. So… putting that out there.
Try temp agencies. I’ve always heard it’s much easier for ex-offenders to find temp work. And temp work can offer your husband a chance to prove he’s a solid worker. Temp work often can lead to a permanent job offer.
And I always speak on this blog about using personal connections and networking to find a job. In your husband’s case, this might be the best hope. Do you have any friends or family members who own businesses or who can help your husband find work? You’re looking for any situation where someone can find it in their heart to give your husband a second chance because they know and like him… or else can vouch for him personally.
What about your church? Do you belong to a church or religious community/congregation? I know this sounds like something out of Leave it to Beaver (or The Wire… I’m thinking specifically of Cutty from The Wire) but isn’t this sort of thing what churches are sort of for? This is just the sort of community work churches do. Or are supposed to do. Forgiveness and second chances and all. Try approaching your minister/priest/rabbi, what-have-you. He/she might be able to point you in the right direction or at least reach out to someone in the congregation who can help.
Finally, and this might seem flippant, but I’m being serious: what about self-employment. If you husband has the resources/skills, why not going into business for himself or starting a small business? If he’s the boss, he can’t reject himself.