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How to Get a Job With a Criminal Record

Whether you've just been released from a lengthy incarceration or you had a minor scrape with the law when you were a kid, a criminal record can be an added source of anxiety in an already stressful job search. Depending on the severity of your offense, your criminal record may not affect your employment prospects at all, or it may make finding a job nearly impossible. Still, you have reason to be hopeful. While you may face some hurdles, you will eventually be able to find employment, regardless of your record.


  1. Prepare while you are in prison. While serving time take advantage of opportunities to get your G.E.D., start or complete your college education, or get vocational training. Good preparation is especially important if you have been away from the outside world for an extended time, if you have limited job skills and experience, or if you will not be able to return to your previous area of employment (for example, if you were a bank teller and were convicted of theft, you probably will no longer be able to work in banking).

  2. Take advantage of education or job training programs that may be available to you. Government agencies and non-profit organizations provide a host of opportunities for all job seekers to get more training or education. The experience and skills you develop in these programs can make a big difference in the success of your job search. There are also such programs targeted specifically to people who have recently been released from prison. These programs usually also help you find a job during the program and after completion.

  3. Eliminate jobs for which your record will automatically disqualify you. Your record may automatically disqualify you for some positions, especially government jobs requiring security clearances, military jobs, positions with fiduciary responsibility (i.e. insurance or banking), and jobs working with children. If you avoid wasting time on jobs you cannot possibly get, you'll be able to focus on real opportunities, and you'll be less likely to get discouraged. Most importantly, though, do your research. Don't just assume that your record will disqualify you from a certain job. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  4. Be realistic. Honestly evaluating your qualifications is important for all job seekers. You need to find something that fits you and your skill level, and if you consistently apply for jobs for which you don't have the right skills, you'll quickly become discouraged. If you have a criminal record, you'll need to consider how that affects your opportunities, too.

  5. Start small and work your way up. Understand that when a person sees your record, he or she may be reluctant to hire you for a position with a lot of responsibility. That same person, however, may be more than willing to give you a chance in another (usually lower-paid) position. In addition, it's important to understand that the biggest obstacle may be the gap in your employment history, not simply your conviction. If you want to return to your previous career, it's likely that business processes and tools may have changed substantially since you left your last position, so you'll probably need to take a step down to gain more training. Get your foot in the door, especially with a company or in a field that can lead to better opportunities in the future.

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