Employment is a necessary step toward self-sufficiency. Having a job to go to on a regular basis can help you establish a daily routine and provide some normalcy during this transitional period. Although it’s uncommon to be offered a job after your first interview, ultimately, securing a job and earning an income can be very empowering. Additionally, once you have had the opportunity to build trust with your work supervisors, they may be an excellent resource as you approach Phase Three in your housing search and apply for more permanent housing. See “Phase Three: Long Term or Permanent Housing“ for more information.
While finding a job is a great goal to have upon reentry, don’t forget about your more immediate needs, such as food, housing, or treatment. Searching for a job should be a priority, but it should not come before you have food to eat, a place to sleep, and your mental and emotional needs are met. Be aware that you may feel substantial pressure to secure employment from others, such as your supervising officer, family, or close friends. However, as you search for a job, it’s important to feel as though the other aspects of your life are stable.
Before you get started on your job search, understand that this can be a very difficult process for reentrants. This is an area in which reentrants often feel discriminated against. Stay motivated and frequently remind yourself of your goals. This can help you keep your mind on your ultimate objectives as you navigate a difficult step in your reentry.
How do I find something that I will enjoy doing?
Although it can be intimidating to narrow down what you might be interested in doing on a daily basis, focusing on your overarching goals can help to keep you grounded. Know that it’s unlikely you will find your dream job during your first search, but that should not discourage you from searching for a job that you will truly enjoy. It is important to find a job that makes you feel satisfied and allows you to grow. The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more likely you are to perform well in that job.
If you aren’t finding a job that you are interested in doing for a long period of time, think of this first job as a stepping stone towards your ultimate career goals.
Know that all jobs, even your dream job, may not feel like a dream job at all times. Be prepared for days that are more difficult than others, and moments where you may feel discouraged or unhappy with your work. Focus on the skills you’re developing in your current job and how those skills will help you along your reentry journey.
To help you find a job you will enjoy, ask yourself the following two questions:
- What qualities would I like my workplace to have?
Rather than focusing on a specific job title, think about the kind of environment you would like to work in. For example:
- I would like to work with other people
- I would prefer to work in an office
- I want to do something that helps others
- I enjoy working with my hands (building or making things)
- I enjoy talking to others
- In addition to considering the characteristics you would like your future job to have, you may also want to think about things you don’t enjoy doing. This will also help you narrow down your job search. For example, if you do not enjoy going to the same place every day, you may prefer an industry that regularly changes job sites, such as construction or landscaping. Additionally, if you don’t like working alone and thrive with human interaction, consider a job in the service industry, such as retail.
- It’s important to focus on things that you truly don’t enjoy, rather than things you find difficult. Sometimes, working on things that you find challenging can bring about the most personal growth.
What skills or qualities do I bring to the table?
Although it can be hard for many people to focus on things they can or cannot do well, it is important to identify these things to find a job that best suits you. Be creative, but try not to overthink it. Often, the best answers are the simple answers. Consider keeping a pen and paper close by, so that you can write things down as they come to mind. Perhaps you have always been good with people and enjoy interacting with others on a regular basis. Maybe you have experience landscaping, or enjoy helping others pick out furniture or clothing. Here are some additional examples of skills or qualities that may apply to you:
- Team Player
- Leadership Skills
- Speaking in Public
The questions listed above guide you through self-evaluation, meaning they ask you to look inward assess yourself and your achievements. This can be a difficult process, but if you take the time to ask yourself these hard questions, your answers will guide you as you look for jobs that fit your interests. This process of self-evaluation can also help you communicate to a prospective employer, in an interview or application, the reason why you decided to apply for that job.
The Job Search
Before you get started, it’s important to understand that American society tends to overvalue work, making it a key identifier of who we are as individuals. Often, those who are unemployed are stigmatized and feel they are treated differently from those who are employed. It is important to push past these feelings and understand that everyone goes through the process of searching for work. There is no shame in admitting you need a job. In fact, doing so shows drive and many people will respect this and may offer to help you along your way.
Once you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to see what kind of jobs are available. One way to find a job opportunity is through the people you know. Tell your family or friends that you are looking for a job. Even if they aren’t aware of an immediate opening, they may be willing to keep an ear out for job openings that would be a good fit for you.
Another way to find a job opportunity is to perform a job search on your own. Today, most initial job searches and applications are done online. As such, it will be important to have access to the internet. If you do not have online access, remember most public libraries, colleges and universities will provide access. See “Library Card” for more information on accessing a library near you. If you are applying online, you will likely need an e-mail address to communicate with potential employers. See our email section for more information. If you do not feel comfortable on the computer, ask a librarian for help!
Add the need to ensure you have any licenses necessary- i.e. barber, food handlers, etcservices offer training in using the computer.
Now list/job resources/ also discuss tactics of how to utilize online searches
Applying for a Job
Until you are contacted for an interview, your resume or application is the only thing that shows your future employer who you are. As such, it’s important to be creative when constructing your resume or filling out an application. Think of an artist, who paints an image of fruit on a table. Looking at the painting on its own, you may not notice the unique and interesting techniques the artist used to create the image. However, if the artist shows you the painting and explains the process by which they created the painting, you will be made to understand that there’s so much more to the painting than you originally assumed.
Now, place yourself in the artist’s shoes. Think of the painting as the culmination of your life experience, including both the good and the bad. Instead of explaining the techniques used to create a painting, applying for a job requires you to explain the way your life experiences have contributed to who you are. You must work like the artist and show your future employer the process by which you became the person you are today and the way your life experiences have prepared you for that job.
Remember that you are much more that your criminal record. Writing a resume or/and an application takes creativity. Think like an artist who paints fruit on a table in unique and interesting way. If we only thought about the fruit on the table we would not be impressed, but when we see artists show and explain it in an interesting way we can become intrigued and captivated. This is how employers can perceive applications/resumes. You must take yourself, who is a highly capable and interesting person and convey it in a way that peaks the employer’s interest, so they offer an interview to you and get to see the individual you truly are. Keeping in mind during the application process that all the employer sees is a piece of paper (Resume/application) will help you be motivated to try hard and be creative on your application.
What Will I Need to Complete an Application?
- Applications will ask for information on your Oregon Driver’s License or Oregon Identification card.
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- Employers will ask for you to provide at least the last four digits of your SSN. Consider only providing the last four digits of your SSN to preserve your identity until a formal job offer has been made.
- If your potential employer asks for an address, and you do not have stable housing at that time, consider providing them with an address at which you are able to accept mail or that of a family member or close friend. Often, this component of an application is a formality until you are offered a position. However, a future employer may send important information to the address stated. If you are unsure what to do, ask your potential employer what the address will be used for before completing that section of the application.
- Access to Previous Employer Information
- Most applications will have a section where you are asked to list your past, relevant jobs. Pay attention to instructions and provide as much information as you remember. When describing your previous jobs, try to highlight qualities your potential employer is seeking. It is important to be truthful when listing and describing your work history. Many applications will require that you provide contact information for previous supervisors, and your potential employer may call to verify that the information you have provided is truthful. Beyond that, you want to be sure that you are being offered a job that you are prepared for. Lying on your application by claiming you have experience doing things that you have never done before is a disservice to both you and the employer.
- Keep in mind that many experiences can qualify for this section. Just because you weren’t formally employed by a business does not mean that you didn’t learn skills that are applicable to the job you’re applying for now. If you have performed gardening tasks for a neighbor, scrapped metal, or have experience working on an automobile, do not forget to list these projects!
- Here are two examples of how you may list your work history:
- Cook, State of Oregon
- Prepared meals from scratch to serve three hundred individuals, took inventory of ingredients, oversaw line cooks and ensured meals were made on time and to specification, cleaned kitchen and prepared the location for the next meal.
- Landscaper, Joe’s Lawn Service
- Implemented landscape designs from planting to maintenance, including lawn mowing, edging, watering, weeding, and plant placement. Generally served three large yards per day. Cleaned and maintained equipment. Interacted with homeowners to ensure all maintenance and design was up to their standard.
How Do I Complete an Application Without Calling Attention to my Time in Prison?
Let’s be clear: it is unacceptable to lie on an application. However, it is okay to be creative while providing accurate information. It is to your benefit to not call focus to your conviction. For example, rather than listing the reason for leaving a job prior to your sentence as “went to prison,” consider listing “relocation” as the reason for leaving instead.
If your most recent employment took place during incarceration, consider listing the state or federal government as the employer (depending on the facility in which you were serving your sentence). For example, list “Cook, State of Oregon” or “Laundry Service, State of Oregon.”
Many businesses will require you complete a formal application, often accessible online. If you are searching for this application online, visit the business’ website and search for an “Employment” or “Careers” tab. Another option is to search the business’ name with the word “employment” in a search engine. If you are having trouble finding the application, don’t hesitate to call or email the business to ask if they have any job openings or how their application can be accessed.
Interacting with a Potential Employer
The way you present yourself to and interact with a potential employer is an important component of a successful job search. Throughout this process, your appearance is your first form of communication. Here are some tips to guide you as you pick up an application, inquire about open positions, or interview:
- Dress for a business setting
- Ensure you are well-groomed (i.e. brushed hair and teeth)
- Be aware that the interview starts the second you arrive
- Avoid wearing a lot of perfume, cologne, or other fragrance
- Avoid wearing hats, baggy pants, flashy jewelry, or sleeveless shirts
- If possible, cover any visible tattoos with a long-sleeve shirt or pants
- Try not to smoke, dip or chew gum directly before or during an interaction with a potential employer
- Smile and look people in the eye when speaking to them
- Put your phone on silent (not vibrate), and do not answer phone calls or texts when with a potential employer
- If you plan to fill out an application in person, be sure to have all of the information you need. See “What Will I Need to Complete an Application?” for more information. This shows your potential employer that you are prepared. If for any reason you are not prepared, consider completing the application at home and returning it the next day.
- Be sure to read the application instructions completely before beginning
- If a section on the application does not apply to you, write “N/A” (“Not Applicable”) rather than leaving it blank
I got an interview! How should I prepare?
Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be and the more natural your answers will sound in your actual interview.
The best way to have a successful interview is to think through how you would answer potential questions. If possible, ask someone to help you prepare by allowing them to ask you questions while you practice responding. Keep in mind that some people may feel more nervous practicing with someone they know, so this option may not be the best fit for you.
Take each practice session seriously, as though it is the real interview. Even if you decide to prepare alone, consider saying your answers out loud and from memory.
Keep in mind that, no matter how much you practice, your interviewer may still ask a question for which you don’t have an answer prepared. Try not to be alarmed! If this happens, avoid answering with “I don’t know.” Take a deep breath and give it your best shot. Even if you don’t feel like you have the perfect answer, your interviewer will appreciate your effort and ability to think on your feet.
Here is a list of practice interview questions:
- How did you hear about this position?
- Why would you like to work for X company?
- What are your strengths?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Tell me about a conflict you faced at work and how you overcame it.
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Do you have experience working as part of a team?
- Why do you think we should hire you?
With each answer, try to highlight a specific skill you have that would benefit your potential employer. For example:
- Interviewer: “Do you have experiencing working as part of a team?”
- Interviewee: “Yes, I do! In my time at X, I had the opportunity to work in a team-setting every day. Because we were all expected to work together, it was important we listen to each other. I learned to listen to both management and my fellow employees, which helped me be a better employee and allowed us to work in sync.
What Information can a Potential Employer Ask About my Record?
Oregon’s “Ban the Box” law limits the amount of information employers can legally ask about. “Ban the Box” prohibits employers from inquiring about your criminal history before they offer you a job. Once an employer has offered you a job, they can legally conduct a background check and can revoke their offer of employment due to the results of the background check.
Understanding “Temp” Agencies
A “temp,” or temporary, agency can be very helpful when you need to find a job quickly. However, before you consider applying, it is important to understand how they operate.
Temp agencies are businesses that connect employers looking to hire with individuals seeking jobs. As payment for making this connection, the temp agency offers to fill a position with a certain pay, but takes a small percentage of that pay. While some agencies will show you what percentage they require, some will not. It may seem unfair that the agency is taking a portion of your pay, but if the pay you are ultimately offered is fair and you are willing to accept that wage, it may be a good fit for you.
Be aware that some agencies will require that you sign a contract. Be sure to read this contract in its entirety before signing! Some agencies will state that you cannot look for other work or negotiate a job with people you met via the temp agency. This can be very problematic if you are trying to find long-term employment elsewhere.
Before you decide to work with a temp agency, do your research and ask questions! Consider reading online reviews, or asking family or friends if they have had any experience with the temp agency you are considering.
-Not sure about this section- CCC did not feel volunteering was a great option—-
If you feel like your resume is lacking in work experience, one way to add substance to your resume is through volunteering for a local organization! Volunteering shows that you care for your community, allows you to develop new skills and provides a way to build a network within your community! Much like a job, volunteering can also help you develop a routine upon your release.
How Do I Find a Volunteer Opportunity?
- Consider what sort of work you would like to be involved with.
- Volunteer opportunities may be found at your local food bank, a community garden, or your local church.
- Start looking!
If an organization does not come to mind, you can start by asking your parole officer, family, or close friends for suggestions. Many cities or counties also have online volunteer lists. Follow the links below to search for a volunteer opportunity near you!
What Should I Expect While Volunteering?
Volunteering environments vary. Until you are told otherwise, you should treat is as a professional environment.
Remember to be positive and helpful. You may have chosen to volunteer for an organization that has both paid employees and volunteers. Just because you aren’t being paid does not mean you should try less. Many of these organizations depend on the hard work of their volunteers. This is something you are choosing to do, and therefore you should put your best foot forward.
Will my Record Affect my Ability to Volunteer?
Be sure to check with your PO to determine what options are available for you to pursue. Also, keep in mind that some volunteer opportunities may require a background check. Volunteer opportunities that are focused on working with children or teens will likely be less accepting of your conviction. However, there options that will be able to accommodate you.
- What qualities would I like my workplace to have?