Why you might want to consider working for a small business

work for a small businessWith all the challenges facing those in reentry, it’s important to create a job search plan that is realistic, focused and tailored to the type of work you are good at. And you may want to include small businesses in the mix. Or concentrate on them exclusively.

And there’s an excellent reason for this. It’s one that might surprise you. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses provide 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all net new jobs that have been created since the 1970s.

And it’s not just the number of jobs created. The number of small business themselves have increased 49 percent since 1982. Think about these numbers for a while. And then think about the advantages small business might be able to provide.

Benefits of employment at a small business

At a small business you will:

  • Learn a lot about your job and how a business operates very quickly.
  • If you take initiative, you’ll be able to get experience in a variety of areas.
  • You will probably take on more responsibility than you would at a larger company.
  • After you’ve offered value to the employer and learned the business, it may be something you could replicate in the future and become an entrepreneur yourself.

A small business can also offer entry possibilities that big corporations might not. First of all, there may not be the dreaded “box” on the application. Depending on the size, small businesses may not have human resources departments. The owner may do the hiring.

And since the owner is also running a business, they might not have time to wade through a pile of resumes. Be proactive and pick up the phone and call them – or drop by in person. Even better, try to find someone you know who might know them. LinkedIn is good for this. Having a referral is always the best way to approach someone when looking for a job.

Since most small business owners are entrepreneurs and often have to sell themselves and their businesses, they will appreciate your initiative.

Do your homework

Before contacting a small business owner or manager, however, do your homework. Pick out a handful of companies you really want to work for. Local chambers of commerce are excellent resource for this, since most of them have online directories listing the companies of their members.

Once you’ve chosen a handful of companies, learn everything you can about them either from the company website or their Facebook page and by studying up on businesses that might be their competition.

Come up with some ideas about how you could help improve the product they create, the service they provide or the way their business operates. Then, when you meet with the owner, you can share your ideas.

And knowing a lot about the business will help you in the interview. Although human resources personnel are trained to do interviews, many small business owners are neither very good at interviewing nor enjoy doing it. Your knowledge will help them feel at ease and can ensure a steady flow of conversation.

In addition to your elevator pitch, your well thought out list of ways you can help the company and your knowledge of the business, bring along a handful of questions to ask.

Be sure to ask for the job

And at the end of the interview, don’t forget to ask for the job, if you really want it. Say something like:

“I appreciate your time and enjoyed talking to you, I think I can contribute to your company, and I’d really like to work for you.”

If you don’t happen to be hired, follow up telling them that you were disappointed you didn’t get the job but would be interested in other opportunities if any open up. Also ask them to contact you if anyone they know might be looking for someone with your skills, talent and interest.

 

All Star Labor & Staffing proves value of employment agency

agency

Ramona Mathany, founder and director of All Star Labor & Staffing

Whether they’re looking for a temporary, temp-to-perm or permanent position, those in re-entry need all the help they can get. And for many, turning to a staffing agency may be the most effective way to find employment.

Few people know this better than Ramona Mathany, founder and director of Portland, Ore., headquartered All Star Labor & Staffing.

“I did prison ministry for 10 years. After about three years of watching a revolving door in the prison, I was horrified to see them coming back and the whole reason they came back was because they couldn’t find a job,” she says.

“At the same time a very good friend of ours got out of prison and couldn’t find a job. I watched firsthand what happened to her. She had a felony, but it didn’t have anything to do with the type of work she was looking for. It was so frustrating, so I decided I should start something and fix it.”

And she’s done just that through All Star Labor & Staffing. Mathany estimates that of the 4,007 people the company had out on jobs last year, about 55 percent had criminal records. Her Redding, Calif. office is in the 80 percent range, while Bend, Ore., is 30 or 40 percent. The company also has offices in Albany and Salem, Ore.

It places employees – temps, temp-to-perms and direct hires – in jobs in manufacturing, food production and construction, as well as administrative office work and such hospitality jobs as cooks, servers, baristas and bartenders.

For those in reentry, working with an employment agency may be the only option for true success.

Why use an employment agency?

“Because they actually don’t have to do the interview. The interview is very stressful for someone, especially for those with a record,” says Mathany.

“Sometimes they’re so nervous they can’t show off what they can do. We’ve already done the interview for them by getting the customer. The best workers, in a lot of cases, may not interview the best, especially if they’re nervous about their background.”

This is a very good example, in general, of why it’s so important to prepare for interviews, including roleplaying them with family and friends.

Those who are sent out on assignment by All Star can also feel confident that they have the personality and ability to do the job. The company only hires 29 percent of the people it interviews.

Whether people are selected of course depends on if they can do the job, but that’s not all that matters, according to Mathany.

“It has to do with the attitude with which they’re reentering. We don’t want anybody who’s going to stay in the criminal mindset working for us,” she says. “We want someone who is completely remorseful for what they’ve done, and who says they would never do it again. They want to change their lives.”

Advice to job seekers

Mathany says there are several things that those with a records should do:

  • Go out there and do the very best job you can, and work faster and harder than the other employees on the job.
  • Always tell the truth about your past.
  • Follow every single rule the employer tells you to follow.
  • Work circles around the other people there. It will not matter what your background is if you’re that kind of worker.

Convincing employers

Although many companies refuse to hire those in reentry, Mathany has been quite successful at convincing employers to consider this population.

She says she begins by sending employers people without backgrounds, as that opens the door. “We then ask them if they’d consider working with people from this population,” Mathany says. And often they will.

“We’re trying to change the face of employment and have people realize that this is an incredible population to work with,” she adds.

Note: For anyone outside of All Star’s operating areas of Portland, Bend, Albany, and Salem, Ore.; and Redding Calif., please see our website for a list of temp agencies in other parts of the country that we have heard good things about.

 

Don’t forget to write job interview thank you notes

thank you noteIn conducting a job search, you always need to keep in mind ways to set yourself apart from other applicants. And one of those ways is to write a thank you note.

Be sure to do this after every job interview, but also after after an informational interview or job shadowing experience. If you’re proactive, as we recommend, and drop by restaurants, retail shops or businesses unannounced to talk to the hiring manager about potential job opportunities, be sure to follow up by sending a thank you note to that person as well.

While many people don’t bother to send these notes, it’s very important to do so.

In a survey of 2,878 hiring managers conducted in 2011 by Harris International for CareerBuilder, more than one in five (22%) said they are less likely to hire a candidate who doesn’t send a thank you note after the interview. The reasons stated: It shows a lack of follow through and sends a message that the candidate is not really serious about the opportunity.

Although the survey was conducted nearly five years ago, it still rings true. Hiring managers like to be thanked.

While it used to be said that hand-written notes were the preferred method to thank people, these days email thank you notes are also appropriate. Some people send an email note within 24 hours of the interview and follow up with a hand-written note that emphasizes other details.

Either way, the medium may not be as important as the message.

What to include in a thank you note

Be sure to keep the thank you note to a few paragraphs, and use it strategically to:

  • Bring up a point or two that you didn’t remember to mention in the interview.
  • Briefly elaborate on a question the interviewer asked but you feel you didn’t answer well.
  • Clarify anything that you think might have been misunderstood.
  • Show that you are really interested in the position (or the field, if it’s an informational interview).

If you’re not sure how to write one, there are plenty of examples of interview thank you notes online. Just search using the term “interview thank you notes,” and they will come up. Read a few examples and write an original note of your own.

Creating a habit of writing follow-up thank you notes will be just one more way to help ensure your job search is successful.

 

Use job shadowing technique to explore opportunities firsthand

job shadowingJob shadowing goes a step beyond informational interviewing and can give you even better insight into a particular field or job. It is also a bit trickier to set up, however, and is not for everyone.

To job shadow means that you spend several hours, a day or even longer, “shadowing” a particular employee as they do their work. This technique can be particularly good if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, because it gives you a chance to explore various jobs and how they’re carried out on a day-to-day basis.

Job shadowing also can be beneficial for those who have a pretty good idea of what type of work they would enjoy, based on their knowledge and skills. For example, you know a lot about hand tools and are thinking about becoming a carpenter’s assistant. Find a carpenter, and ask if you could “shadow” them for a day. You would go to their job site and watch what they do, maybe help out a bit in the process.

How to create a job shadowing opportunity

In order to job shadow you need the cooperation of the person you want to shadow, plus sometimes the permission of the company where that person works. Although this tactic takes time and effort to set up, it will provide a firsthand experience of what a certain type of job entails. And it will give you a new contact or two of people who are working in a field you might like to pursue.

To get the most out of the experience, treat it similarly to an informational interview. Make a list of questions to ask, and as you follow the person through the day observe exactly what they do, what type of tools and equipment they use, and how they interact with co-workers and clients (if they have them).

Also try to talk to the person’s coworkers, who may be doing slightly different jobs and can give you even further insight into the field.

If you can afford it, offer to take the person you are shadowing out to lunch. It’s a small price to pay for the time and attention they are giving you.

When you’re actually applying for work at a later date, you could come back to them to see if they have any jobs and mention some of the things you observed during your job shadowing experience. You may also see something you could improve in their operations, a problem that could be solved or a need that you might be able to fulfill.

Don’t forget a thank you note

After the experience is over, don’t forget to send a thank you note. Although an email note is OK, a hand written card will make a better impression.

While job shadowing may offer an unparalleled opportunity to gain inside knowledge and information about a particular career and/or company, perhaps the best thing it can do is increase your network of contacts and offer one more person who hopefully will be happy to help you on your pathway to employment.

And while you’re busy setting up job shadowing opportunities, you might want to use some of your free time to take a look at the jobshadow.com website, which includes interviews with everyone from a fast food restaurant manager and roofer to a firefighter and fly fishing guide.

 

Richard Bolles outlines What Color is Your Parachute’s key principles

Richard BollesOn his website Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, with 10 million copies sold, said that some career counselors who say they’re teaching the principles of his book are not.

In order to clarify those principles, Bolles lists the 25 key ideas of his book. And it’s worth repeating them, so that readers will have a better idea of how an effective job search can be done. Here they are in a nutshell:

  1. Sending out resumes is not the best way to find a job. In fact he says that only 1 out of 270 resumes actually results in a job.
  1. Google is the new resume. It is, because most employers use applicants’ names to search the web to see what they can discover about them. And that information may be very different than what people include in their resumes.
  1. The job-hunting system is broken. In fact there is no real job-hunting system, so many job openings are not filled effectively.
  1. There are more job vacancies than people think there are. Forget the federal government’s monthly unemployment report, says Bolles. That doesn’t tell the real story. Instead pay attention to the government’s Job Opportunities and Labor Turnover (JOLT) Monthly Report, which details the unfilled job vacancy numbers at the end of the previous month.
  1. Job hunters and employers search for each other in opposite ways.
  1. Best and worst ways to search for a job:
  • Best ways: Conducting a self inventory, joining a job club, searching for companies to target in the Yellow Pages (or whitepages.com), visiting potential employers (especially companies with 50 employees or fewer) and asking for job leads from all of your contacts.
  • Worst ways: Searching internet job postings, sending out resumes and going to government employment agencies.
  1. Conducting a self-inventory, in which you really discover what type of work you are suitable for and learn more about yourself, is more effective than researching the job-market.
  1. Tests like the Myers-Briggs are not an effective way to discover the job that might be right for you.
  1. It is not just skills that matter but the skills that you love to use the most. These show your passion.
  1. Rather than trying to shape yourself to “fit” a certain job, you should look for a job that will “fit” you.
  1. Look at a job hunt as a career change. Try breaking down past jobs into building blocks and rearranging them to create a similar job or an entirely new one.
  1. Answer what? where? and how? What are the skills you like to use, where would you like to use them and how do you discover the titles of jobs that use these skills. You must also determine the type of places that offer these jobs and the name of the hiring managers in those places.
  1. Using Bolles’ prioritizing grid offers job seekers a chance to prioritize such assets as skills, experience and knowledge.
  1. Avoid the human resources department if at all possible. Its work is to eliminate applicants. Contact the manager in the department you’re interested in working in instead.
  1. Make a list of the negative working conditions you’ve experienced in the past and pair them with their opposites. Rank these to find the type of conditions that will provide a suitable workplace.
  1. Conduct your own:
  • Interviews with people who share common interests with you to practice interviewing.
  • Informational interviewing to learn more about the type of work you might be interested in.
  • Interviewing for hire – the real deal in which you’re interviewing  employers to see if there might be a match between you and them.
  1. Contact any employer that interests you, even if they may not have any job openings.
  1. Small companies – those with less than 100 employees – are the best to approach.
  1. The best alternative to a resume is to get in touch with an employer directly – through a mutual contact if possible.
  1. There are only five things hiring managers are really concerned about when they interview you:
  • Why are you here?
  • What can you do for us?
  • What kind of person are you?
  • What distinguishes you from other applicants?
  • Can we afford to hire you?
  1. In an interview for hire, pay attention to the time and don’t talk more than half the time. Also limit answers to questions to no more than two minutes.
  1. If at the conclusion of the interview you decide that you’d like to work there, ask for the job.
  1. Always send a thank-you note to everyone you talked to during the interview.
  1. It’s all about the numbers. Every “no” you hear brings you closer to the eventual “yes.”
  1. Always have alternatives in terms of places to target and techniques to use.

 

Ten Reasons why you should search for a job in December

Job Hunt jpg Cover for Blog (2)While it may seem counter-intuitive, looking for a job during the holidays is actually a great idea. Employers don’t stop hiring during December. In fact, statistics show that it is a time that many hiring managers spend searching for staff in order to be ready for the New Year. And many job seekers take a break during the final weeks of the year, so there may be less competition.

So polish up your resume, upgrade your list of companies to contact, and pick up the phone. As we recommend on our website and in our book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed, calling hiring managers and talking to them either by phone or in person, is the best way to find a job. You can also take advantage of all the parties you attend to network and collect contacts that might be able to help you in your efforts.

But back to December. We’re not the only ones who think that this is one of the best months to search for a job. Check out an excellent ebook, “New-Year-New-Job,” edited by Susan P. Joyce, president of NETability, Inc., and Meg Guiseppi, CEO of Executive Resume Writer.

It includes 101+ tips to help you conduct a productive end-of-year job search from the likes of Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute, and 26 other job search experts.

Here are what we consider their top 10 tips, which have been rewritten, condensed and consolidated, with a few of our own ideas thrown in as well.

Top 10 holiday job search tips

  1. Keep in mind that many hiring managers are scrambling to fill positions by the end of the year, so they don’t lose the budget they have for those jobs.
  2. Also be aware that people tend to be more relaxed during December and may be more available and receptive to phone calls.
  3. Attend as many holiday parties as possible, whether they are professional affairs, or put on by the local chamber of commerce or a friend or relative. You never know who might show up at one of these events, so talk to as many people as possible, letting them know what type of position you are looking for and even some of the companies you are interested in possibly working for.
  4. Develop what one expert calls a “magic week” strategy, meaning the week between Christmas and New Years, when many executive assistants and other gatekeepers take vacation, and middle managers are often in charge. Take advantage of this situation by calling those people in the companies you are interested in.
  5. Let people who you exchange gifts with know that you would like something to help you in your job search, whether a particular book or two, a shirt or tie to wear to interviews, or even help with creating your resume or JIST card.
  6. Send holiday greeting cards to hiring managers you have interviewed with, contacts you’ve made through networking and just about everyone who has helped you in your job search. You may want to send New Year’s cards that will arrive after the holiday rush and receive more attention.
  7. Consider a holiday season temp job. Many employers, especially those in retail and shipping, hire extra employees during the holiday season. You can earn a bit of money and test out new opportunities.
  8. Encourage and assist other people who are also on the path to employment. It will not only help them but make you feel better as well.
  9. Volunteer during the holiday season, whether it’s serving meals at a homeless shelter, helping with a fundraising event or delivering presents to families in need. You will meet wonderful people, have new experiences, get out of the house and make a difference in the lives of others. Keep in mind that no matter how little you have, there are others who have less.
  10. Practice gratitude. Think of all the things you are grateful for, all the people who helped you on your job search this year and the progress you’ve made so far. It will boost your spirits and help you appreciate the holiday season even more.

Please contact us if you’ve tried any of these tips. We’d love to hear which ones worked for you.

We wish all of our readers a happy holiday season and success in their job search.

 

Job search tactics: Getting to the hiring manager

business-170645_640In these days when job boards and company websites can suck resumes into a black hole never to be seen again, it’s often only those eager to try different tactics who will find success.

But it’s not easy. And it takes a lot of work. You have to be proactive, not passive. The ultimate goal is to approach the person who has the power to give you what you want – a job.

Forget the human resources departments. They’re just there to weed applicants out. Your goal is to get to the manager of the department in which you are interested in working.That person is usually also the hiring manger. In most cases in smaller companies – maybe those with 20 employees or less – the owner would be the hiring manager.

In order to get to the hiring manager, you must learn to think like a detective and gather clues to discover who in a certain company might be able to hire you. Taking some or all of the following steps can help get you on your way.

Make a list

The first thing to do is make a list of companies that have the type of work you’d like to do. Start with maybe 25 or so and expand from there. If you are familiar with Excel, create a spreadsheet or use any method you feel comfortable with – even pencil and paper will do. Include the company name, address, website URL and the main phone number. Leave space to fill in the name of the hiring manager of the department you would like to work in, as well as their direct phone number and email address.

Search the Internet

Do a search using the names of each company and the title of the hiring manager, for example XYZ Corp. + warehouse manager. This may bring up articles in which those people were mentioned or a list of company managers or executives. It could also lead you to the LinkedIn profile of the very person who has that position. Sometimes a search won’t reveal anything, so don’t be disappointed. This is just one of many tactics that you can use.

Check out company websites

It’s important to learn as much as possible about the companies you’d like to work for, and one of the best ways to do this is by exploring their websites. Many companies have newsrooms and media centers, which are actually designed to help journalists but can also be a wealth of information for anyone who’s savvy enough to check them out. You may find a list of company managers, or press releases that often quote various managers on topics that may be newsworthy or of interest to the general public.

Call and ask

Call the company’s main phone number and ask for the name of the manager of the department that you are interested in. Tell the receptionist that you want to contact that person and make sure you ask the proper spelling of their name and what their official title is.

Once you know that person’s name, you can search for them online and check out their LinkedIn profile, which can be a wealth of information about the manager’s career experience and even personal interests.

Mine social media for info

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, open one right away and create a profile. Then invite as many people as you can to be in your network. LinkedIn is an invaluable treasure trove of information about people and the companies they work for.

In order to use LinkedIn to see if you have a connection to someone who might be employed at a company you’re interested in, go to LinkedIn.com and search for the name of the company. Click on that company, and the names of the people in your network who are working there will pop up. Contact those people, no matter what department they’re in, and ask them for information on what it’s like to be employed there and to introduce you to people in departments you might be interested in.

Besides LinkedIn, you may want to also check out Google+ and Twitter, which are also very good sources of information about what’s going on at companies and serve as additional ways to contact hiring managers who might be active on those platforms.

Trying some or all of these tactics will get you closer to the hiring managers who have the power to employ you. And if they don’t happen to have any openings, they may know friends or colleagues who do.

In a job search, as in many areas of life, it’s who you know – as well as what you know – that counts.

 

Clean Slate reveals secrets of how ex-felons can find jobs

clean-slate-206x300In his book “Clean Slate: 9 Secrets to Getting a Job, Even With a Felony,” Michael Lewiston, a convicted felon who served time in prison, gives some excellent advice in an easy-to-follow format that can be read and digested in an afternoon.

His “secrets” or tips include:

  • Decide what you really want to do. Become a specialist in something and look for businesses that “don’t quite fit the mold” – he uses repossession companies as an example – or that tend to be more supportive of ex-offenders.
  • It’s not really about you. It’s about them. Concentrate on what you can do to help the employer.
  • Use LinkedIn and Facebook as tools to help you in your job search.
  • Reach out to friends and family to ask for help, and ask them to forward your resume or JIST card to their contacts. Those contacts might send it to their contacts – and soon lots of people will have your resume.
  • Create a well thought out story – what we at Jails to Jobs call a turnaround talk – to explain your situation, but save it until you’re convinced they like you and may want to hire you.
  • Always remember that you are not your past.

Additional insight from author Michael Lewiston

Impressed with what he had to say, we interviewed the author of this book and received more useful tips and advice that we wanted to be sure to share:

What is your background, and why did you decide to write Clean Slate?

When I was looking for work and my record was holding me back from gaining employment, I realized that most people don’t understand what it really means to be a felon. My crime was financial, non-violent, non-drug related, and yet I was lumped in with people’s worst, TV-fueled imaginations of what a felon could be.

Because of that I was repeatedly told that it was too risky to hire me. Other people thought of themselves as good compared to felons or anyone who spent time in prison. They didn’t want to hear about rehabilitation or second chances because that would change the story they were telling themselves. They wanted retribution instead – they wanted vengeance.

Getting someone who wants vengeance to hire you is no small task. My first job getting out I worked with a man who understood the situation and had a different mindset. But if I wanted to get better employment, I would have to fight this public need for retribution in addition to looking better than the other applicants. I learned some useful secrets along the way and wanted to get that information out there where others can use it to better their lives.

Which of the nine secrets you mention in the book do you think are the most important?

The very first secret is not really a secret but it’s the most important. Decide what you want! If you don’t know where you are going, or are willing to settle for anything (which is necessary sometimes I understand), you aren’t going to get where you need to be. More focus and drive will lead to more success. Also, No. 7, “Do Something With Your Time,” humanizes someone with a record and helps make them more likable.

Have you come up with any more secrets since you wrote this book?

The best way to get ahead more quickly is to learn new skills, and there has never a better time to do that in the history of the world than right now. I would recommend learning how to code – for free I might add – online with websites like codecademy.com. The Internet is the future, and code runs the Internet. Learn a skill that will be valuable for years to come, and your employment will be easier to come by.

What do you think is the main obstacle (besides their record) that ex-offenders face when looking for a job?

Besides the spirit of retribution as opposed to a spirit of rehabilitation that many employers feel, I think a huge obstacle is an ex-offender’s attitude toward work and how people SHOULD treat them. An attitude of failure will make any job search grind to a halt. Also, not taking extra care of our appearance is a huge setback. People judge a book by its cover, and if you don’t look like what the employer thinks a felon looks like, then that’s just one less obstacle for you to overcome.

 

Job club can help put those in reentry on path to employment

iStock_000023019685_SmallA job club is an excellent way to help those coming out of prison or jail as they embark on a path to employment. These clubs meet regularly, offering members a chance to discuss the challenges they face in their job search and hold each other accountable.

Job clubs can be particularly beneficial for those in reentry. Few may know this better than Sue Eastman, who developed a job club for that population for SE Works, a Portland, Ore., nonprofit that deals with workforce development. As Portland’s only workforce center serving those in reentry, the organization gets a lot of foot traffic, including people from a local halfway house.

Eastman’s organization’s job club meets four times per week, and members must come to at least two of the meetings. Between 10 and 30 people show up at each one, which lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Employers also come to the meetings on occasion to talk about job searching and do mock interviews. Such nearby businesses as a new store may also come to hire employees.

What makes it different

Eastman started the job club two years ago and says, “It’s not that different from other job clubs, except for  learning to deal with “the box.” (the box on application forms asking if the applicant has ever been convicted). But actually it is different in many ways.

Those who have been locked up for long periods may not be proficient with such technology as computers and cell phones that is essential for many jobs, for example.

Eastman had inherited a curriculum, but it was old and referred to people as ex-felons. “I try to get people to not look backward but to look forward,” she says. “You can’t call them ex-felons. Call them job seekers.”

Although she has moved to a new position, Eastman still sometimes leads SE Works’ job club. At the beginning of each meeting she asks them what they need from her that day and let’s them make the decision about what to discuss.

The most difficult thing they need to learn is not how to fill out the forms or even talk about their backgrounds but how to talk the language of the employer. If you can’t talk the language of the employer, the employer can’t relate to you, she says.

Ten tips for a better job club experience

Easton offers 10 tips for job club members and their professional instructor leaders:

  1. Ask them to do a Google search on themselves, then post some really nice pictures of themselves on Flikr. That way when someone tags them those really nice photos will appear on the first page and the mug shot will come out on the second page.
  2. Have an instructor who is knowledgeable enough to drop what they intended to do and do something else. Also the instructor shouldn’t throw too much at the job club members. They have so much going on in their lives.
  3. Do “a week in the life of” and let them sit down and figure out what else they have to do that week and where the job search fits in. It you tell them it takes 40 hours a week they’re going to lose it.
  4. Once they get a survival or transition job, don’t push them to go to the next step too quickly. They often fear that if they have to move on they won’t make it. Life is like Simon Says. Take two giant steps forward, three baby steps backward, and they will eventually get to the other side.
  5. Make collages. Many of them are visual people. Tell them now that they have a job and their first paycheck to cut out pictures of what happens when they have that job. They can open a bank account, maybe buy a car, get some medical taken care of.
  6. Play games like Job Search Jeopardy with fake money. Say “I’ll take resumes for 200.” They have a great time, learn something and get little prizes.
  7. Make sure to put their past where it belongs. If someone was convicted 20 years ago, they’re not the same person they were. Don’t let their past define them. They’re not a bank robber today.
  8. Use the rearview mirror and the front windshield of a car exercise. Tell them to write everything about who they are on that rear view mirror. Put it away because they’re not going to look at the past anymore. They never have a chance to make a new beginning, but they can make a new end.
  9. Then give them a windshield and tell them to write down everything they see ahead. That’s their new beginning. You’re in a wretched car and it needs new tires. Then we get the bumper on. You drive down a road and it’s a dead end and you have to turn around and come back. Everybody has that ability to move forward, but you have to learn how to do it.
  10. Play red flag. Write all barriers to employment except criminal background on the red flags. Then post these on a board and figure out what you can do to overcome them.

It’s all about learning to be a job seeker.

Check with your local American Job Center to see if they have a job club for those in reentry or know of one in the area where you live.

 

As a job seeker with a criminal record, you are not alone

iStock_000002144669_SmallThe high rate of incarceration among American men may give some degree of consolation to ex-offender job seekers. In fact, you can use this fact to reassure potential employers that your situation is not really all that unusual.

According to a study by criminal justice and criminology professors from four universities published this month in the journal Crime & Delinquency, by age 18, about 26 percent of Hispanic males, 30 percent of black males and 22 percent of white males have been arrested for something other than a minor traffic violation. By age 23, the figure rises to 44 percent of Hispanic males, 49 percent of black males and 38 percent of white males.

Females have a much lower arrest rate. By age 18, 12 percent of Hispanic, black and white females have been arrested at least once. By age 23, the statistics increase to 16 percent for Hispanic females, 18 percent for black females and 20 percent for white females.

The study did not rely on arrest records. Rather it used self-reported arrest history data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The project began to interview a representative sample of 9,000 youth in 1997 on a variety of subjects that included education, employment, relationships and lifestyle issues and followed the group with annual interviews through 2008.

Well, some of you might ask, “How can I use this information, since I was first arrested when I was older than 23?” Many people are surprised to learn that one in four adult Americans – about 65 million people – has an arrest or conviction that will show up in a routine criminal background check. That translates to a tremendous number of potential job seekers and employees.

The arrest records of those in the survey and the percentage of the population as a whole with a criminal record prove that indeed, you are not alone. And you can use this information to show potential employers that there are many others like you and that they should give you a chance to prove yourself at a job.

And they won’t be doing anything all that abnormal or unusual. A Harris International survey of 2,298 U.S. hiring mangers and human resource professionals conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder in 2012 found that 51 percent of those surveyed reported that their organizations have at one time hired someone with a criminal record.

The best way to bring up the subject may be during your turnaround talk, a technique created by Larry Robbin, a nationally known expert in the area of workforce development. The turnaround talk is a chance for you to tell your story to the person interviewing you and turn their attitude around to seeing you as the capable and unique person you are.

You might want to start out by saying something like, “Before we start (or before we go any further), I have something I’d like to talk to you about. I, like many other men (or women) my age, have been arrested. In fact, by the age of 23 ….. (site statistics above). Or say,You might be surprised to learn that one out of four American adults has a criminal record.”

After this introduction, continue to briefly talk about the crime you committed and what you learned from the experience and to assure them that it won’t happen again. You also will want to stress how you’ve turned your life around since you committed whatever crime you were arrested for.

Be sure to talk about any classes you took or activities you participated in while incarcerated, jobs you held either inside prison or after you were released, volunteer work you might have done and whatever 12-step programs you might have participated in if you have a substance-abuse problem. Each of these can be good indications to the hiring manager of your rehabilitation and eagerness for a fresh start.

To further press your turnaround case you should also prepare a turnaround packet.  This should include such items as certificates from training courses you completed, letters of reference, photos of volunteer activities you have participated in, hobbies you might have like gardening or car restoration, and several reference letters.

The turnaround packet, together with the turnaround talk, will go a long way to convince any potential employer that you’re serious about starting a new life and are a good candidate for whatever job you’re applying for.