Job search in recovery for those with a criminal record – Twin Cities


Second Sunday Series — Editor’s Note: This is the 11th of 12 columns on job search and career building during recovery from addiction, appearing over 12 months — one each on the second Sunday of the month, from September through August. Earlier columns on this subject included an overview of the topic, strategies for restarting one’s career, tips for managing the holidays, ideas for handling difficult conversations, goal-setting for 2020, coping with low-level work, staying positive during job search, managing COVID-19 issues, creating recovery-related resumes, and using strengths from recovery in the workplace. Amy Lindgren.

Amy Lindgren

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? If you’re in recovery from an addiction, and if you’ve picked up a criminal record besides, one thing is certain — job search probably doesn’t make the top three on your answer list.

When you need to find work, it should give you courage to know this won’t be the greatest challenge you’ve faced. The question isn’t Can you, or Will you find work because, really, what choice do you have? The real question is How? How will you go about finding a job, particularly in this very challenging time?

It’s more than can be strategized in a newspaper column, but I can give you some starting points. Following are three steps to take, and seven tips to help you be more strategic while building the career plan for your new life.

Step 1 — Inform yourself. Do you know what your criminal record shows — and do you know that it’s accurate? How about fields that may be barred to you, or restrictions on the work you take? Are you aware of laws governing what employers may ask you in the employment process? The more you know, the better. You need information, not fear, governing your decisions.

Step 2 — Make a plan. Although it’s possible to tumble into a successful career or job, that becomes less likely when you have strikes against you. Add in a difficult and confusing market (thank you, coronavirus), and you’re stretching luck beyond its limits. Strive, instead, for a plan that incorporates both ideal and less-than-ideal options, so you have a fallback if needed.

Step 3 — Ask for help. Whether you need full-on direction and counseling or just a few ideas for your résumé, there’s no reason to do this alone. With someone else in the picture, you’ll be supported but you’ll also be accountable, which is always a winning combination. Starting with CareerOneStop.org (877-872-5627), a national comprehensive outreach sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, look for free programs for people in recovery, for ex-offenders, for veterans, for long-term unemployed workers, for laid-off workers, or for any other category you may fit. You’ll also find a service locator on this site for local CareerForce centers and other assistance near you.

Here are those seven tips to help you be more strategic while making your plans.

Work early and often. Gig jobs, part-time labor, telephone sales … remember that future career-path employers would rather hire an ex-con/recovering addict who’s been under-employed than one who’s been completely unemployed. It just looks better, even if the work is beneath your skill set.

Pile on the training. Even short, online courses in work-based topics (project management, supervision, bookkeeping) will add to your skills while demonstrating tenacity and determination.

Leverage training. If you are inclined towards the trades, an apprenticeship program could be the all-in-one answer to your career process. Dozens of trades offer paid work experience coupled with classroom training, leading to highly skilled career opportunities.

Volunteer. The more you give, the more you get. As a committed and reliable volunteer, you’ll build connections, references and skills while also filling your résumé with community-based experience that generates credibility with future employers.

Make a good résumé. This situation calls for more than a template. Ask for help highlighting your skills and “can do’s” while also downplaying gaps or other issues. Remember that you don’t need to disclose your recovery or criminal background in your résumé or cover letter. It’s better strategy to have that conversation in the interview.

Prepare for interviews. Enough employers conduct background checks that you should assume your criminal history will be found. Luckily, the checks don’t happen until after the interview, which means you can get ahead of the story by bringing it up yourself. Practice with a skilled partner to hone the narrative and the timing for this part of the conversation.

Lean on your network. You’ll have the chance to give back or pay it forward, but right now you need help. Swallow your pride and ask your friends directly: “Who do you know who would interview me? Hook me up and I’ll take it from there.” Expand that request to friends of friends, past colleagues, mentors, teachers, counselors and other. Networking is the key for any job seeker, but it’s especially important when you’re starting from behind in terms of an employer’s trust.



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