Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Job Search Tips for People with a Not-so-hot Background

Last week I taught a group of more than 50 people who had been convicted of felonies at some time in their life. I was there to offer advice on resume writing and interviewing skills. The information was well-received, however, the sense of frustration – and often desperation – was palpable in the room.

I started thinking about how challenging the job search market is for people with a spotless job history, and comparing how hard it must be for those people with some sort of black mark on their record. Whether you were fired, laid off from multiple positions due to downsizing, have been out of the workforce due to raising a family, or are returning from an injury, job searching can be a very daunting process when you have roadblocks in the way.

Here are some tips to help you cope with, and overcome, these obstacles if this is something you or someone you know are facing.

  • Rely heavily on networking. People who know you and can vouch for your work ethic and personal values – as opposed to your work history on paper – will be valuable to getting your foot in the door.

  • If you have been out of work for a while, or plan to be off for a long period of time, consider volunteering. Community service will not only strengthen your resume, it will also enable you to make new contacts and potentially network your way into a company.

  • Keep in mind that you are a product that you must sell in the job search process. Present your skills in terms of how they can be of benefit to a company. Do your research and find out why a company is hiring. Use your resume, cover letter, and interview to demonstrate how you can be cost effective and achieve the results they need.

  • Be honest when you answer questions and discuss your background. However, don’t volunteer information they do not request. For example, if you are asked why you left a job, don’t tell them why you were fired. Simply state that you decided to take your career in a new direction.

  • If you did make a mistake, such as a felony conviction, admit you made a mistake and express remorse. Offer as few details as possible when discussing mistakes. Instead, focus on the positive changes you have made – and wish to make – in your life.

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