I recently had a client call to have his resume done, and in the course of our discussion, out popped a confession that he had two misdemeanors. They were five years old, but still, not good. He has faced many obstacles during the job search, even though his misdemeanors had nothing to do with a job or anything work-related.

Even if you have a conviction, or have served time, you still need money to survive. Typically, this means you need a job of some type. But, if you have tried to find a job with a conviction on your record, you will have noticed that it’s very hard to get employers to accept that you’ll be a great member of the team when you’ve broken the law. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

First, try consulting legal aid about getting your record expunged or sealed. This isn’t available for every case, but is worth looking into. Once a record is expunged, it can’t be opened again, and the matter is considered resolved.

You will need to take whatever job you can to begin rebuilding your credibility. It’s possible that you’ll have to accept employment below your previous standard of living – even working in fast food or service industries. Even small jobs like this can help lead you to bigger things later. You can see if any of your personal contacts are looking for people. Even with a record, it’s much more likely you can get a job through networking and friends than you will through replying to job ads.

There may be community programs that can assist you in finding employment. These are usually in cities and not often available in rural areas, and may have other stipulations attached to them. However, employers that agree to work with these programs won’t be “surprised” about your record. Also, these offices have a number of resources, and may be able to help you learn new skills.

Small and local companies are often better bets than huge corporations, for the simple fact that they lack the legal layers of bureaucracy that are designed to shield a company from any liability whatsoever. Another avenue for you to consider is self-employment. Skills such as construction, plumbing, or auto repair a record won’t come into play at all. If you have an entrepreneurial streak, you should consider these opportunities.

Regardless of what you do, it’s unlikely that a job is just going to fall into your lap. Don’t get discouraged, and know that there is a job out there for you somewhere. It will probably take you longer to find, but don’t harbor false hope. Rejection happens even to applicants who have sparkling records and job histories. Don’t be afraid to seek emotional support from friends or family.

Once you do land a job, be sure to prove to the employer that you are a good hire. It’ll make getting the next job easier once you have an established work history. Work the extra hours, follow the rules, and take extra responsibilities whenever you can. A conviction plus a string of short, choppy jobs is a huge red flag to potential employers, and will shoot you down from almost any job. Don’t be a problem employee, and ride it out. Most background checks only go back seven years, and then after that, you will be in the clear.

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2 Responses

12.16.11

Very good topic, Ava. I have a friend who had a felony record expunged, but she still gets nervous when applying for jobs. People who are unsure if they will be “found out” or not, can contact numerous agencies to have a background check done, just to alleviate their nerves.

Society needs to quit punishing people for minor mistakes they made earlier in life, and give them a chance to have a great career and a fulfilling life.

12.16.11

Thanks for the feeback Ken. This is a tough topic for job candidates and employers, and by getting the record expunged, hopefully the sins of the past can become a non-issue in the hiring process.

~ Ava

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