These days, it's hard for anyone to find a job, but for those who have a criminal record, it's much more difficult. Although many states, like New York, have passed laws that prevent employers from refusing to hire people just because of a past criminal charge, many employers are reluctant to hire someone who had been previously convicted of a felony.
In the past, people with a criminal history would often lie about their charges and hope the employer wouldn't find out. It's estimated that almost 75% of employers conduct background checks on prospective employees, so being dishonest isn't possible. It's estimated that 1 in 5 Americans have a criminal record, so there are many people who are struggling with this issue.
Still, it's not impossible to find work, in spite of any past charges. Of course, there are certain fields, like healthcare, education and financial services, where an prospective employee must have a clean background but there are still job opportunities available.
If you, or someone you know, is trying to find a job with a criminal record, here are some tips:
Find out what's on your record – It's interesting to note that most people who have past charges aren't exactly sure what's on their record. Instead of finding out, they adopt the “crossed fingers” approach and just hope nothing terrible shows up. This rarely works. Instead, it's a much better idea to contact the courts in the cities or counties where you have been arrested and get copies of your cases. Knowing exactly what is out there is the best first step.
Determine if your charges are misdemeanors or felonies – Some employers only ask an applicant to list any felony charges, while others ask for any charge. If you only have past misdemeanors, listing them wouldn't be required unless the employer asks specifically for any past arrests.
Find out if you can have your charges expunged – Many charges can be removed from your record. Most of the time it's required that you complete any probation and community service and that enough time has passed since the charge. To find out if your charges can be removed, contact the court and ask. Generally, there are several forms to fill out and a fee to be paid before a charge can be expunged.
Consider volunteer work in addition to part-time work – If you have recently been incarcerated, getting back into the workforce is considerably more difficult. The lack of recent work history and low probability of having personal references make it impossible to avoid discussing your charges. However, if possible, find some volunteer work that is important to you and stick with it. Even if you are able to find part-time or temporary work, continue to volunteer during your free time. Not only will this keep you busy and make you less likely to get in trouble again, it will demonstrate a reliable work history and provide you with a few references as well.
Participate in a re-entry program – Even if it's been a year or two since your charges, you still could qualify for a re-entry job program. Typically, these programs will help past offenders find housing and they work with employers who have already agreed to hire a certain number of people from the program. Although these jobs might not be ideal, they can give you an opportunity to make some money and build a solid work history.
Finding a job, even with a criminal background isn't impossible. It can be extremely discouraging, but there are still employers who are willing to take a chance on a less than perfect applicant.
Have you had trouble finding work due to a past criminal charge? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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