Don’t Let A Barrier Be Your Barrier

danny-0509How to market yourself when you have challenges in your work and personal history.

Tell me, is this you? Are you having a hard time finding a job because you have a criminal charge in your history? Do you find it hard to look for a job because you have three children that are not yet in school? Have you worked for a number of employers in the past couple of years and can’t seem to shake the job hopping?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may have a barrier to employment. But, let me stop you there. As the title says, do not let a barrier be your barrier! Too often, when screening a job applicant for a potential employer, I hear a long story about how the person can’t find a job and no one will give them a chance. Because my goal is to get people to work as soon as possible, I listen to their story and then tell them it is time to write it up, roll the paper into an old coke bottle, and release it to sea…well, at least mentally – we don’t want to kill the environment.

If you have a barrier in your background, the first tip I offer is to hit it straight on. Do not let it bog you down, but instead prepare the solution for yourself and the employer. Do you have a criminal charge for theft that happened 6 years ago? Then be upfront with your Workforce Solutions staff member who may be helping you as well as with employers and on their applications. Full disclosure is key to helping people match you with jobs that may offer second chances. Employers may be forgiving but many will absolutely NOT hire you if they make the job offer and then run a background check to discover that you indeed have not disclosed your charge.

How am I supposed to get my foot in the door? Step one (and tip two), try a different door. If you have a theft charge, retail and other cash-handling opportunities may have been appealing in the past but will just not fly with many employers now. You cannot skirt company policy, so don’t try to negotiate your way into a job. Instead, maybe there are other opportunities with the company that you can consider. Or, maybe there is another occupation you can try. Broaden your horizons! Step two is to do some research. Check out different occupations. Talk to the Workforce Solutions staff and ask them about companies that give second chances. Find out exactly what charges they will and will not consider. Then, jump in the deep end and apply!

Now, let’s consider other barriers. Maybe you have children and you cannot go to interviews easily because they are with you all day. This is where creativity is key. Look for positions where a phone interview is possible. While we like to apply in person first and foremost, if calling is an option, see if the employer can fax an application to you. You can send it back to them and then call to insure they’ve received it. This is also an excellent opportunity to tell them briefly about your experience and availability (sell yourself!). Or, go pick up an application in person and tell them you want to make sure you fill out a neat and complete application, and ask if you can bring it back or fax it in. All of this is done with the intent of (1) being wise about not unnecessarily having your kids wait (often bored or impatient) as you fill out an application, and (2) telling the employer that you know how to use your time and don’t want to waste theirs.

Barriers to employment can be frustrating and there is more to discuss. In a future blog I will touch on overcoming the job hopping resume along with other barriers you may have experienced. Do you have specific barriers that might need attention? Add a comment to the blog and we’ll see if we can work through some of those together!

Danny Zendejas is the Hospitality Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. He has over eight years of experience in the hospitality industry and workforce development and is a native of San Antonio, Texas.

4 Responses to “Don’t Let A Barrier Be Your Barrier”


  1. 1 danielzendejas November 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Thank you for your comment. This is not an insurmountable problem, but as you have discovered is indeed a challenge. There are two things I encourage you to consider. First, visit a Workforce Solutions office and talk to an Employment Counselor about your experience and what you would like to do similar to your previous employment. While many companies do indeed run credit checks for the type of work you are looking for, there may be companies with similar or related work that do not or are willing to disregard the bankruptcy filing. Additionally, I think it is most important, especially in the current job market, to begin to look at your transferrable skills. Specifically, you might consider positions that don’t have credit inquiries as standard expectations of the hiring process.

    I sat down with our subject matter expert on occupational transition (and my dear co-worker), Meriel Sweet, Business Consultant and we ran a labor market report on your position. Reviewing the data, there are related occupations that might be appealing and also would maximize your skill sets while adding some diversity to your resume. One of the more intriguing options is Sales for Meeting, Events, or Hotels. While many hospitality organizations look for previous industry experience, a proven sales or account management record in another industry is also appealing to employers. Hotel Sales Manager jobs are HOT right now. Go to Work in Texas and browse jobs in “hotel sales” or “event planning”. While the pay may not be commensurate with your prior salary, the experience is challenging, enjoyable, and an asset to your job portfolio.

    Another set of suggested transitional occupations led us to Market Research positions. The rationale being that market researchers are often expected to “know” the market. Experience in dealing with local, regional, or national accounts in sales would provide insight into market trends that might be valuable for this type of occupation.

    Finally, retail sales management was also suggested. While potentially different from your prior experience, retail organizations often like to promote internally. Taking the reigns of a new position closer to entry-level and proving your strengths may not be appealing to all, but in the right organization could provide a wealth of opportunity.

    I truly thank you for your response and encourage you to try new options and approaches to your job search. Think globally about what you could do rather than what you have done. Looking at other occupations and industries might just be what you need. I’ll send my good job search thoughts your way.

  2. 2 cc October 8, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Please touch on the barrier of having to file bankruptcy due to no job. Especially when your background is Management & Account Sales. All these Companies do credit checks which result in no job offer!
    Please help.

  3. 3 danielzendejas September 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Joe Ann –

    Excellent question! We are experiencing a trend of many transitional job seekers – people that are either looking for new work because of downsizing and layoffs or simply because their industry is static or shrinking and they want to explore other options. The job seeker that has been loyal to a company for many years and is part of the aging workforce is part of this group and has it’s own special challenges. However, I do not believe these challenges are completely insurmountable.

    First, I would encourage you to do some research on rebranding your skills to new employment. Many people that have been with one company for many years have let dust collect on their resume. I would first recommend making sure you have your resume content updated and saved electronically in a common format such as a .doc or Word file. Keep this handy on a flash drive (available at most electronics or department stores) and carry it with you on your job search, especially if you are at a Workforce Solutions office. I would recommend nothing larger than a 1 Gig drive if you only plan to use it store documents for your job search.

    Next, I would attend as many classes as possible on job searching in the current age. Workforce Solutions offers free classes on rebranding skills, resume creation, networking, interviewing, and other useful topics that ultimately help get you ready to enter the workforce again and be truly job ready. Rebranding your skills and being open to new and different opportunities are key. Age can be a challenge as the reality is that some employers might see you as “too experienced”, “stuck in your ways”, et cetera. However, by updating your resume and job search skill sets effectively I have seen people develop stellar self-marketing resumes, cover letters, and interview skills that help leap over that barrier.

    Thank you so much, Joe Ann for participating on our blogs!

  4. 4 Joe Ann September 11, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Please touch on the barrier of being with the same company for 30 years and being 60 years old.

    Thanks,
    Joe A nn


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