Ashleigh McCullough, senior project manager of Telecom, Inc., is not your typical hiring manager. Far from it. And too bad more people aren’t like her – willing to give ex-offenders a second chance.
Addicted to meth for five years, previously homeless and in and out of prison, she turned her life around and now helps others who have backgrounds that would make them unemployable in the minds of many. But not Ashleigh McCullough.
In fact her company is dedicated to that effort. “We’re a second-chance employer,” McCullouigh says. “No matter where you come from, there’s always someplace you can go.”
Telecom, an outsourced contact center solution provider, employs about 100 people at its facility in downtown Oakland, Calif. The company offers technical and sales support and does order taking, as well as telesales, lead generation and market research.
Five years ago, after a six-month rehab program, McCullough went to Goodwill Industries for help with her job search. The first job they sent her to was a minimum-wage level telemarketing representative at Telecom. Five years later she’s a senior project manager who overseas the outbound sales department, managing about 50 people including four other managers.
As part of her duties at a second-chance employer, McCullough attends job fairs and participants in events like the reentry expo at Santa Rita Jail.
She also works with a halfway house. “When people come out of federal or state prison, I hire them and give them an opportunity,” McCullough says. “The project manager under me who I oversee came from that halfway house.”
There’s no box to check on Telecom employment applications. The company doesn’t’ even do background checks. “There have been one or two cases over the past couple of years when I interviewed people within the prison who had some type of conviction for identity theft,” she says. “For something of that nature, I had them bonded but still would hire them.”
And what sorts of employees do those who were formerly incarcerated make? “They make great employees. I can’t say that every apple in the bunch is great,” she says “They’ve been through struggles, but they give it their all. I have people with drug histories who have been here for three years to 15 years, and they become successful. There are members of the management team who have had their struggles and they’re still here.”
McCullough offers a few tips to help those with a record present themselves better:
- Concentrate on your appearance.
- Pay attention to the way you carry yourself.
- Be reliable and dependable.
- Go out with an open mind, because there are people who will hire you and give you an opportunity to grow.
How about employers who might be considering hiring those with a record?
- Give everyone an opportunity, because everyone has something to bring to your company regardless of their background.
- Keep in mind that everybody deserves a second chance, but no one can prove themselves if they’re not given a chance to do so.
McCullough has now been on both sides and knows first hand what it means to be given a second chance and how giving someone else a that chance can benefit not only a company but society as a whole.
Her example is proof of that. In addition to her career success, she’s a grandmother now and just purchased a new car. “I’ve continued to climb,” she says. “Working at Telecom has given me a second chance at a first-class life.”
Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.