How 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.