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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: 1tothechin on October 30, 2015, 12:13:45 AM

Title: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: 1tothechin on October 30, 2015, 12:13:45 AM
I have lurked on these forums for a few years and have really enjoyed all the smart and inspiring post. I admire that so many forum members have in my opinion a fairy tale life that they have worked hard for. I have made a lot of poor choices in my life, but could really use some advice from someone smarter than me.

I was arrested for three counts of Armed Robbery when I was 16 and was sentenced as an adult to eight years in prison. I was able to be released after 4 years and have kept my nose clean ever since. As you can imagine it has been a real challenge to find a good paying job, but I have managed to make it work for the last seventeen years. I currently work in retail and make about 46k a year, but I am miserable. I have a interest in science and history, but never went to college. I have always been afraid to rack up all that debt and still not be employable. So many careers require a clean background and I will never have one. There is a reason so many ex convicts only have blue collar jobs. My question for the forums is: Would it make financial sense to enroll in college with my background? Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated, thank you.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Imonaboat on October 30, 2015, 12:56:34 AM
In my opinion an investment in yourself is always a good thing as long as it is done responsibly. I would obviously suggest against quitting your job, but you could get a local degree fairly cheap (or free in some cases) by continuing to work and buying used books etc. College is often extremely expensive, but it does not have to be. Find a nearby public community college and look at the programs available. One benefit of college is that it adapts you to think differently, it teaches you to learn.

As far as having a felony, it seems like you are blaming a failure that hasn't happened yet on something that happened 17 years ago. Attitude is everything anywhere you go, if you feel like you are being held back, it will hold you back. It's time to drop those chains. I Have worked with and for people with felonies and I'm not even sure they can be used or seen for hiring purposes after a certain number of years.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: MarciaB on October 30, 2015, 01:22:18 AM
+1 on the community college idea - start there! Costs are super manageable.

Then start thinking about starting your own business as another alternative. This could be a full-time gig, or a side-gig to a paying job. No one can fire you when you're the boss. And customers don't care where you've been, they care about getting good value for their money. Low/no cost assistance with thinking through this is available here: Look for either/or the SCORE chapter near you or your local SBDC.

Also - good for you for staying on the straight and narrow. Welcome to the forums and keep us posted!
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp on October 30, 2015, 05:42:29 AM
Have you looked into getting it expunged?

I think some community college classes to determine your aptitude are in order. I would expect that given how long ago it was, more people would be willing to hire you than you might think. Probably no banks, though.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on October 30, 2015, 05:53:15 AM
Dunno how things work in the US; in the UK there are companies that have policies on proactively giving interviews to people who have criminal records but have stayed out of trouble for a period of time. I volunteered teaching maths and job hunting skills to people on probation, and have seen how tough it can be to find work, so I feel for your position. Some companies will specifically list their criteria for people with records, so you can target the right places.   Is there any limit on how long your offence stays on a searchable record?

I'd agree with some evening/online free or cheap courses to see how your study skills are and how interesting you find it before diving in or committing to a long programme.

Starting your own business can help significantly avoid other people's prejudices. Do you have any interest in working for yourself, doing something practical (plumbing, carpentry, electrical etc), relocating?
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: 12thManRI on October 30, 2015, 06:18:34 AM
If you are in the US, look into the American Opportunity tax credit. The government will reimburse you for $2,500/year in tuition for your first four years as long as you are enrolled more than half time. A portion of the credit is refundable, meaning they will send you money even if you have no tax liability. Also consider taking advantage of CLEP exams to test out of courses.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Gray Matter on October 30, 2015, 07:09:52 AM
The hard part about being judged is that real bias does part of the job of keeping you down, and then fear of being judged does the rest.  It's unfortunate, though understandable. 

While there are some jobs for which they can't/won't hire a felon, that's not true of many professional jobs.  And from my perspective (and I've hired a fair number of people), someone who committed crimes at age 16, did their time, and kept their nose clean for 20 years...that would actually count for, not against, that person.  Not the crime itself, but overcoming hardship, pulling oneself up out of difficult circumstances--that shows a strength of character that someone with an easy life hasn't had the chance to demonstrate.  It's admirable.

How you talk about it would matter to me a great deal, though.  I'd want to hear you take responsibility for your actions, talk about having repaid your debt to society, talk about what you learned, talk about having built a better life for yourself and wanting to build an even better one and with some passion and conviction.

I do some volunteer work with a local organization that helps chronically under-employed people (usually men, usually from a long-line of chronically underemployed men, often with criminal records, drug convictions, etc.) find work that will support them and their families.  They go through training, and sometimes the most important part of the training is getting them to believe they deserve better and that others think they do, too.  I do mock interviews, and sometimes they walk in with such an air of defeat, it's palpable, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  And sometimes they walk in full of bravado and excuses about why none of it was their fault, and I don't want to hire those people either.  But when they come in with the right blend of humility and commitment to a better life for themselves, I want to do anything I can to give them an opportunity to succeed.

I say go for it, just be smart about it and take on as little debt as you can.  Ask for as much advice as you can from people who have the kinds of jobs you want, and actually listen to them.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: pbkmaine on October 30, 2015, 07:29:41 AM
What kinds of things do you like to do? If you were already FIRE, how would you spend your time? Thinking about that might give you a clue as to career direction. I also want to second what Gray Matter said. You need to turn your experiences into a compelling story. People love to hear stories of surviving adversity and you have certainly done that. Something along the lines of: "At age 16 I was lost and stupid and committed armed robbery. I spent 4 years in xyz prison and it scared me straight. I have been clean and sober, law-abiding and hardworking for the past 17 years."
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: matchewed on October 30, 2015, 07:55:33 AM
It probably would make financial sense. Will it be tougher for you than a person who does not have that criminal background to find a job? Probably. But that doesn't mean you can't improve your life nonetheless. Regardless of your particular circumstances, having an education and developing skills will improve your odds of finding a job which pays better and gives you more satisfaction.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: hoodedfalcon on October 30, 2015, 08:08:13 AM
You may want to check to see if there are any licenses for which you would be ineligible because of your prior record. I have seen a number of people attend college/trade school only to find out they are ineligible for the license. So, just perform a bit of due diligence re: licensing if that is a factor.

I think someone mentioned expungement. Very few states have expungement that would extend to armed robbery, but since you were young when you were convicted you may be eligible. Receiving a pardon may also be an option. Here is a state by state list of the pardon process for various US jurisdictions, as well as any other forms of relief that might be available.

I know people who served time in federal prison who have gone on to become practicing licensed attorneys. It happens, but you need to make sure you have a good idea of where you want to go and how you will get there before spending the time and money on school.

Just my two cents!
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Matumba on October 30, 2015, 08:12:55 AM
Teach English abroad.  Choose a country where they don't check criminal record.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp on October 30, 2015, 08:14:08 AM
You may want to check to see if there are any licenses for which you would be ineligible because of your prior record.

This is a HUGE, hidden way the government screws over the poor. Making everything require a license, then making it so you can't get one if you went to jail (which makes you poor).

OP, I would find something more positive to think of yourself as than a "rehabilitated malefactor". You're a contributing member of society now. You're a productive citizen.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Noodle on October 30, 2015, 08:18:19 AM
I say go for it! Just be sensible.

Community college is a great idea, both because it's a cheap way to try out the idea, and because college learning is a skill in itself. If you went to prison at 16, I'm assuming you got your diploma there, or a GED later, so it's been awhile since you've polished up your classroom skills. You are also a person who especially needs mentors and a network, and community college is a great place to kick ass and stand out to the professors who will write recommendations etc. There are a lot of people there who are trying to check off prerequisites, or to placate their parents, or to get by with the minimum because they're also working a couple jobs and raising kids, so the profs will notice someone who really loves the material and puts in extra effort.

Then in terms of careers and majors, try to think about small to mid-size employers and fields that aren't going to care much about a conviction (probably not criminal justice or elementary education, for instance). You want the kind of place where the manager does his or her own hiring, not where HR is screening hundreds of resumes. The best situation would be a job where you apply with a resume and cover letter, so there's no form to fill out with the standard screening questions that might flag you; second best would be where you can add some kind of note like "teenage offense--clean record since." You need to get your foot in the door so you can tell your own story at the interview. Most jobs I have hired for or been hired for do the background check AFTER the interview, because they cost money. If you've already explained, as other posters have discussed, how you have overcome your past, and the manager isn't being surprised, it won't be as big a deal.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Valetta on October 30, 2015, 08:41:59 AM
It doesn't necessarily pay well but you could consider being a counselor of some kind.

I work at a nonprofit organization that works with ex-offenders. I personally know a great Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) that spent a lot more time in prison than you for armed bank robbery. He's in his 60s and served about 40 years in prison if you add up his multiple convictions and sentences. He went back to school to get the degree after a year of working with a nonprofit. There are lots of other people like him that I've met, he is just an example. At a lot of organizations specifically look for people that have been through the same experiences to work with those in re-entry.

I'm not sure if you live in a state that has enacted Ban the Box. You'll have a lot easier time getting a job in a Ban the Box state than in one without it.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: tipster350 on October 30, 2015, 08:44:08 AM
As a hiring manager, the fact that you have done well and stayed on the right side of the law for 20 years would be a positive, not a negative. It shows a lot of determination and character.

Where you will have problems is in the companies that have tight HR controls over the application process. You may get ruled out at the door, especially when the application process is electronic. But I don't think that can or will stop you from getting a job in your new chosen field - but it will add a challenge. The goal will be to get to hiring managers separate from any HR gate keeping. It is possible through networking etc.

I like the idea of starting at a community college for your degree.

Best of luck. You can do this.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Jacana on October 30, 2015, 09:35:13 AM
Can't comment on the questions about your criminal background affecting employment. But about the rest of it: it sounds like your plan is pretty vague. You mention racking up debt, an interest in science and history, and then ask about potential return of investment by getting some unknown degree. Thatís a hard question to answer. Do you intend to quit your job, enroll in an expensive 4 year college with an undeclared major, rack up 80,000+ in debt, and pursue an entirely new career field when you graduate? Or are you feeling stuck and bored and looking to explore other options and paths in your life?

If it is the first scenario, no I donít think it is a good idea. Many college students graduate with difficulty finding jobs and with starting salaries around what you are already making. And an interest in a subject is not the same as a viable career choice if you are concerned about the financial impacts. This opinion has nothing to do with your background either, this would be a risky path to follow regardless.

If it is the second scenario, I think it is a fantastic idea to explore, even if only for your own personal fulfillment. Do you have an idea of what career would make you happier? Was there a job in the past that you enjoyed more than retail? Would working up to management positions in retail be better? I think working toward an associate degree that would play off some of your work experience would be a good place to start thinking.
But first, why not start out by going to the nearest community college website and looking at their schedule of classes for spring 2016? Intro to biology? Physics 101? World history? Music of the Renaissance? Whatever, find one that really fascinates you and works with your work schedule, and sign up! Then, if you continue taking courses, start to really focus on those with a practical application to your degree and future goals in or out of the workplace as you get the hang of them. You will hate some of these classes. There will be hard classes. This is normal.  You can do it!

As for going in debt, try to avoid all student loans. Ask your manager/boss if they will work with your schedule so you can take one class a semester while working full time. Ask your current employer if they offer tuition assistance. Find out the limitations of their program (ie do you need a specific grade for reimbursement? Does the coursework need to be related to your current position? Are you required to complete a degree? Do you have to remain employed with them for x months after?) and see if it is something you can do.

If not, ask the community college if they offer special tuition rates for auditing or continuing ed (these credits do not apply toward a degree but are very cheap) for your first 'personal interest' class so you can try it out and see if college really is for you. Then if you want to continue, see if they have programs to assist you like grants, scholarships, or tuition discounts. Then talk to the community college academic advisors about different degree programs and what careers they lead to, and also see if they have a career counselor to talk about your specific concerns and goals of future employment before deciding on your degree. Be smart about it and it won't be a burden, it'll be an asset.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: cloudsail on October 30, 2015, 11:37:12 AM
I don't have advice better than what people have already said, but just wanted to give some kudos for how you've turned your life around, and to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

I'll say that in my experience, at least in the software industry, small companies don't do background checks. Only the big companies with formalized HR systems do. Also, I'm hiring right now, and if a good candidate, believing that we did background checks, volunteered this kind of information about his past, I would have nothing but respect for him, and I suspect most of my co-workers would feel the same way.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: mozar on October 30, 2015, 04:52:44 PM
Just stay away from online degrees (University of Phoenix etc).
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: pbkmaine on October 30, 2015, 05:33:45 PM
Second the idea of community college and experimenting with a few courses. Absolutely the best bang for the buck.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Imonaboat on October 30, 2015, 05:46:05 PM
You don't even need to have it expunged, only sealed. If it is sealed then the record will no longer be publically available. The police would be able to see it, but not your employer. It depends a lot on state laws, but sealing should be significantly easier than expunging it completely.

Or, as others have stated, use it to your benefit to shown that you have overcome adversity and hardship when approaching smaller companies, and try to seal it for larger companies.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Gizsuat2 on October 30, 2015, 05:47:21 PM
If your conviction is 17+ years old, as I read it, I suspect that most employers would be indifferent about the conviction soooo many years later, especially if you owned it up front (i.e., a cover letter saying, you will find this on my criminal history, the charge is X years old, I haven't received a speeding ticket since, etc.).

In the alternative, you know who REALLY wouldn't care?  Lawyers.  Especially criminal lawyers, who would probably see you as an asset: You know about the system, but you haven't been IN the system for many years.  What about becoming a legal assistant or paralegal?
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: Radagast on October 30, 2015, 07:18:28 PM
For sure hit up a public community college.  My wife is in one now and 30 credits per year costs only $5,000, for the same physics, biology, and calculus classes as the $100,000 per year schools teach. I have no idea why so many Americans get educations in expensive places (apparently they are not as smart as their colleges make them seem). Also my dad taught in one, and he was quite explicit that people like you are almost always in the top 10% of students. Kids straight out of high school usually don't give a rats ass. Finally, when I was getting my engineering degree a 30-something guy transferred in from a CC and fit right in, he graduated the same as the rest of us and got a job easily. He was useful to have around sometimes, because he knew 15 years more stuff than the rest of us.
Title: Re: Career options for a rehabilitated malefactor
Post by: SwordGuy on October 30, 2015, 08:12:21 PM
My son spent 8 years in state prison for hurting someone as a young adult.   

He got out and went to a community college for 2 years.  He did so well (he really worked hard at it!) that he got a full scholarship to a local private college for the rest of his degree.

While in college he got an internship to a local paper via one of his classes.  He did so well at it they hired him full time.  He never actually filled out an employment application so the topic of his background never came up.  I found it ironic that he got assigned to the crime beat (by happenstance) and that he developed a really good relationship with the cops, district attorneys and judges in his area.   They appreciated that he was fair, honest and knowledgeable in his news coverage.

He is now their web editor.

He's also turned into the best son any father could hope for.

I wanted to share that with you because it can all really work out better than you could ever hope.

You've gotten some good advice.  Best of luck in your endeavors, you deserve it.