Caught a Rap

Sometimes we see job seekers with backgrounds…backgrounds of the criminal type. And these job seekers deserve jobs, too. I mean, let’s face it – as some of them have mentioned, if they don’t find work, they may be tempted to go back to “their old habits.” Frankly, I’d much rather they find a job.

So my consulting effort goes towards helping them find a job. But at times, these individuals are their own worst enemies. They speak about “catching a rap” the way others speak about “catching a cold.” They lie on an application and avoid mentioning that they caught said “rap.” Some have told me, “It’s too hard to get a job with my background. I got deferred adjudication, but they still won’t hire me.”

Can somebody point out the obvious here? Today, 72% of the employers do background checks (according to Career Builders), so withholding this information may not be the best plan for getting back to work.

Finally, there are job seekers with backgrounds who can’t describe any lessons learned during their “time off.” Sometimes referred to as a “sentence,” this free time generally provides time for reflection and development of more legal, if not altruistic, values and skills when given a second chance to contribute to society.

So a big part of the professional advice I give my backgrounded customers in a visit is to help them learn how to present themselves differently to a potential employer.

The first step of “reintegration” is to drop the “inside lingo” for a more mainstream style of speech. Something along the lines of “I was convicted of theft in 2005 and am now ready to rejoin society as a welder.” A statement that both admits to the wrongdoing and also expresses the eagerness to get to work can go a long way in convincing a recruiter that the former lifestyle is history. Using the vernacular of a hoodlum does not sound very convincing. Expressing a fervent desire to get to work in a new trade this sounds like a fresh start is just around the corner.

Admitting to one’s history is only half the effort. The other half must be expressing a remorseful heart and showing that inner growth has transpired as a result of the misdeed and rehabilitation. Just recently, I had a customer who told me how stupid she felt when she left her ID on the teller’s counter where she had cashed a bad check. Yet there was not a word of remorse in her conversation.

A major part of finding a new job has to be convincing the recruiter that one is SORRY for committing the crime – not just sorry for getting CAUGHT!

And finally, if there has been no work history lately, what has transpired? Maybe some volunteer work at a homeless shelter? Or a few hours in nursing home, reading to the sick? If interviewers believe some time is spent helping others, they are more apt to consider the person to have been truly rehabilitated.

Sharan Nunn is an employment counselor with Workforce Solutions – Pasadena. With a background as a human resources generalist, she has experience in both health care and hospitality industries, where outstanding customer service equals success. Sharan is a native of East Texas, and has called Houston home long enough to remember when the Astrodome was the new “Eighth Wonder of the World.”</em



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