Learning to be Flexible about Work

Hello again dear Readers! I want to talk to you about being a felon and finding work. If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years of having a record tied to my name, it’s that being flexible about the kind of work I’m available for, is the best way to keep the income coming in.

With my conviction, I was pushed to gain my GED by a given date in the probation papers, and this helped fill in the first -good- part of my resume. In some cases, your own convictions may have included similar pushes to become an active member of society again, either while serving time or while getting probation or parole over with. If not, I suggest getting this generalized diploma as soon as you feel you can pass the test. There are tons of GED classes available in most areas, as well as numerous free sources online that you can use (like Kahn Academy) to get your basics in shape for the test.

After I got the GED out of the way, I marched around town (7 months pregnant at the time on top of it), and put in an application to nearly every business I happened across. Did I get any of the jobs? Absolutely not. My conviction was too recent, my name too recently brought up as dirt, and I was too far along for any employers to want to invest their money training me for a job I’d statistically either thieve from or leave from too soon. Did it stop me? Again – absolutely not.

It did take a while for me to finally find a job that would employ me, and that first job (I’ll leave you guessing here) after the conviction had actually left me with some majorly mixed emotions – even to this day- and helped push me into a state of mind where I was very uncomfortable with myself. Normally, this isn’t a great thing, but it allowed me to realize that in order to get my good (or even just neutralized) name back in the surrounding area, I’d have to find a way to do good things and prove that I wasn’t the person I had been before.

I started applying to the diners and cafes in the area, so that I could interact with people and let them get to know me as a person. Nothing like a customer service job in a small town to . My probation wasn’t quite up at the time, and the incident I had been involved in was still relatively known and discussed, so even a slight misstep was cause enough to get myself fired in these early days. The pay was low, and customers were fairly rude (to which I learned to respond with kindness), and the tips were unreliable. Once probation was up and I passed the age of 21, the option of working in bars opened up as well. This proved rather lucrative, as when the locals came and drank on my shift, they would get drunk and actually begin to give me time to talk to them and they tipped even more than the morning rushes at the diners. I even managed to make a couple friends. However, thanks to my refusal to move, there were still rumors flying about and job security was still based on how few of these rumors reached my employer’s ears.

This was still only about four years into my felon status, so things were still pretty raw when it came to jobs that actually ran background checks. Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t win by lying to your (potential) employer. The background checks now are often not limited to a certain number of years as everything is becoming digital and can be retrieved for a low rate by nearly every company. The most recent application I made for a part-time independent contract inspection agent position proved this, as I found that even after ten years and one month past my conviction date, my record was readily available and staring me in the face in an (accusatory feeling) email. However, they have given me the chance to discuss the conviction and how I’ve proven that I’m not a naughty person any longer. Not all companies will do this, and even when they do, it’s likely something required by law and they’re just covering the bases to cover their arses. So, don’t expect a company to be welcoming, we have to fight for it in the right ways, and earn respect from the working community by going above and beyond.

 

Part Two Coming Soon – On being painfully honest, and the last six years of highly varied employment that I’ve found to be willing to work with felons.

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3 thoughts on “Learning to be Flexible about Work

  1. Keep it coming. I like your writing style. It is a reflection of your overall style of thinking and acting and I applaud you. I’m a felon too, but I ruined a long and profitable career with addiction and a non-violent drug charge. I’m determined to fight my way back too! I’m equally determined to be brutally honest. Yes, I’m a felon. I also have a Masters Degree and speak three languages fluently plus I have 25+ years of computer experience. Good Luck.

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  2. Thank you! I try to be as open and honest as possible. It’s the only way to set a positive example in my opinion. I’ve had employers and friends that are shocked to learn about my history, and I love surprising them with the fact that a felon CAN be a good, hardworking, and honest person.
    I’m so proud of you for having your Master’s Degree and having that kind of experience in your background. It shows that you are very dedicated and even with a drug charge, I’m sure that you will be able to find a path around the obstacles you may be facing. If you’d like some assistance with looking for possible avenues in your state that might make it easier, I’d be happy to help.

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