In the last couple of years, many Americans have lost jobs because of best background checks, companies have cut costs and it is just plain harder to get a good job. Recent college graduates are accepting jobs they are overqualified for just to have a job at all, seniors are working longer and people who do have good jobs are holding on to them tightly. Where does this leave people with criminal backgrounds? Pretty much at the bottom of the list.

If you have changed your life and would like to move forward, but a criminal record is holding you back from finding a good job, then read on.

If you have a criminal background, you must tell the truth. If an application asks questions about your background, you must answer them honestly. Although, if it asks something specific such as, “have you been charged with a felony in the last 7 years”, and you haven’t, then obviously, answer no. The employer is going to most likely do a record check anyway, and in many fields, it is required. Whatever the employer sees on that record report is going to at least influence their opinion of your character, in some cases it will automatically disqualify you.

Some fields legally are not allowed to hire a person who has a felony, or has committed certain crimes. Other employers policies restrict them from hiring people with certain criminal backgrounds. But there are plenty of people out there who have criminal backgrounds who have changed their lives and have found decent jobs, even really good jobs.

Here are some ideas:

1.) Start from the bottom – Yes, everyone wants a good job, but if you are having trouble getting jobs you want, work at a less desirable, lower paying job, and excel at it. This will give you employment history, and good references. After a while, start applying for slightly better jobs, and just keep climbing the ladder until you get where you want to be.

2.) Get a skill – Learn a skilled trade or build on a skill you already have. If you can, make a portfolio of pictures of your work, and apply for a job in that field. If employers see what you can bring to the table, that may have more weight than the criminal background.

3.) Tell the truth – As I stated above, you have to tell the truth on your applications, but not elaborating may stain the employer’s image of you. Explain your record, and how you have overcome it, tell them why they should give you a chance. It is better than just letting the record speak for itself. If you are not comfortable elaborating in person, do it in a post interview thank you letter, and try to get it to them the same day.

4.) Don’t give too much information – I firmly believe that if you tell the truth and a bit of your story at an interview, the interviewer may be more likely to give you a chance. The thing is, you don’t want to give too much information. Do not tell them your life story. It needs to stay professional.

5.) Look to your community for assistance – If you are having a hard time doing it on your own, see if there are any re-entry resources in your community. Most communities have programs that help, the logic is, “If an offender can become a productive citizen, they are less likely to offend again.”

6.) Start a service business – This one may not be for everyone, but I just wanted to throw it out there. If you can not get a job with a company, you can still work for yourself! There is very little start up to start some service based businesses, such as yard care, house cleaning, etc. Use your imagination and your skills.

If you are searching and interviewing for jobs, do not get discouraged. You have to do the legwork, but your chance will come. Just don’t give up, because then it never will.

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