5 Simple Steps Towards A Better Employment Path
Here are some simple steps to take for ensuring a better employment experience and pathway for individuals coming out of prison that have been in the system multiple times or have just finished a long bit.
1. Take an interest profile assessment: One of the first questions I like to ask is “What do you want to do"? The answer usually is "I'll take anything." So my next question is "What is it that you would like to do that would fall into the dream job category?” The answer usually is "I don't know." Most people coming out of prison (especially high risk) do not have much work history on the outside, are unsure of the opportunities out there, lack confidence, and are convinced that the first job they get will be the only job available for them. Taking an interest profile (www.onetonline.org) assessment can be a tool to increase hope. It gives a person the sense that the proper steps are being taken towards a lasting career instead of getting stuck in a low paying dead-end job.
2. The ABC approach: A = any job, B = a better job, C = a career. This is sometimes met with skepticism because most people are not used to planning let alone planning for a few years. Again, we are in the hope business so sell this. The ANY job is just step one while we are working on step two. In step one we will work on showing up every day, developing a work ethic (if needed), get used to the routine, and learn what it means to block out all the drama and negative things that will prevent a person from showing up every day. The BETTER job is that connection in the community that will hire felons and will pay a decent wage. Emphasize the value of training that may be offered and opportunities for advancement. You want this to be a good experience for both parties so the door stays open and your client enjoys the experience of a next-level company. A CAREER is what we’re after and this may take a few years. The "B" job may turn into a career job or it might pave the way. Emphasize that this is a process and this is normal for most people.
3. Have a mentor in the community: A mentor can be that someone to talk to when things get bumpy. When I walk through the skyway here in Minneapolis I can hear hustle anyone of a dozen conversations and 90% of them will be about issues at work. Problems at work or with management seem to be the norm so having someone who’s been there to help you navigate the negativity will be helpful. There is a way things are handled in prison and there’s a way they should be handled out here – we want to be sure that skills are being developed for these times. A mentor also serves as a guide of sorts for many different "how-to" scenarios.
4. Have your paperwork ready and looking good: A resume is a must and it should be looked at by someone out there in the work environment. Often, it comes down to a caseworker or corrections staff putting it together and the results can be less than desirable. Focus on a skill-based resume instead of a chronological one. If you have vocational training or work assignment experience from prison then be sure to include details such as hours worked, materials used, projects completed, experience gained. Remember, the resume gets you the interview and the interview gets you the job. One other important note – almost everything is online these days so the person you’re assisting may need help submitting their documents. The halfway house has very limited access to computers so this may be a new experience for them.
5. Practice interviewing: Interviewing for anything is such an odd experience, it’s not normal. Things to pay attention to are language, posture, dress, and of course your answers to the typical questions. Have some questions of your own ready. Check out the company’s website so you are familiar with their mission and vision. . In Minnesota we have banned the box that asks you about felonies on the application, but they can and will ask in the interview. So in essence, it's just delayed until you get further down the road in the process. The interview is where you can shine if you have a well-prepared explanation. Be very basic about what happened and ALWAYS end on a positive. “I did 5 years on a drug charge and have used my time to invest in myself through some great Programing and vocational training. I have a lot of support in the community and am loving life.” Most applicants do not get a chance to express this so take advantage of it and lay it out there for them.