Help! I can't get a job with my criminal convictions.

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Help! I can't get a job with my criminal convictions.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I can't find a job with my recent criminal convictions and I really need help or some direction. I had a horrible year due to an ex boyfriend tormenting me, he even cracked my eye socket after our last big fight.

Well first he would show up at places to find me so I started carrying pepper spray and I ended up pepper spraying the wrong person one night. Total accident. I would never hurt anyone. I was just scared. He hurt me in a lot of ways. I was given misdemeanor simple assault.

Then I received a DUI while I was in my car in my drive way with the car off. I was just having some alone time from my family in the house. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown and got a second DUI. All this was a year ago.

Since then I went to a 30 day rehabilitation program which really brought me back to life. I was working the home health job I had before all this went down. They tried very hard to get rid of me after doing a new yearly background check and I finally just got the picture they were going to do anything to fire me so I left before that could happen. Now I cannot find a job. I am in such a bad spot.

Now I'm in the IP program as well with NCBON. I don't have any license stipulations. Nothing I can't do license wise that any other nurse can do. I'll work any job but I'm applying and interviewing and spending so much time just to eventually get shot down. I need some direction. Some guidance pleaSe. And thank you.

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Career Columnist / Author

Nurse Beth, MSN

157 Articles; 3,211 Posts

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Needs Direction,

I'm sorry you're facing employment challenges related to your criminal convictions.

You have taken the proper steps with the Intervention Program (IP) and rehab.

Many people with criminal histories have successfully turned their lives around and found meaningful employment. Mostly it takes patience and persistence.

Every rejection brings you closer to an opportunity that might be the right fit for you. Remember the persistence it took to get through nursing school? The same persistence will get you through this challenge as well.

Here are some suggestions:

Expungement or Pardons. Depending on the nature of your convictions and the laws in your area, you might be eligible for expungement (clearing your criminal record) or a pardon (forgiving your criminal offense). While you still have to disclose expunged records to the BON and government employers, you may not have to other employers.

Because the laws about expungement and disclosure are complicated, it's best to consult a local attorney with questions about your situation.

Disclosure Strategy. You are usually required to disclose your criminal convictions when applying for jobs. Develop a thoughtful strategy for addressing this on your application or during interviews. Be honest but also highlight your rehabilitation efforts, personal growth, and steps you've taken to prevent similar situations in the future.

Remember, while having a criminal record can present challenges, it doesn't define you.

Know that you are not the first job candidate with a background. HR and experienced hiring managers have seen plenty of applications like yours.

Research Employer Policies. Some companies have more inclusive hiring practices and are willing to give individuals with criminal records a chance. Target these employers.

Often dialysis employers are more inclusive employers. Staffing agencies may be able to provide short-term work. You may have better luck with non-direct patient care, such as employee health. Apply to nursing homes or even county prisons.

It is essential to minimize your employment gap by landing a nursing job, even if it's not your first choice. 

Network. Personal recommendations are even more valuable when you have a record. Reach out to friends, family, mentors, or community organizations. Let them know you are looking for a job. 

They might be able to help you find leads or vouch for your character.

Attend local professional chapter meetings as a way of networking.

Volunteer or Intern. Volunteering is another way to get a start in an organization. More important, you expand your network. Once people get to know you in person, they feel comfortable recommending you for job leads. 

Professional Development. Invest in your personal and professional growth. This could involve taking courses, earning certifications, or attending workshops to improve your skills and make yourself a more attractive candidate to potential employers.

Rehabilitation and Character References. Obtain references from professionals, mentors, or community members who can vouch for your character, rehabilitation, and commitment to making positive changes.

Be Persistent and Positive. Job searching can be challenging for anyone and be more difficult with a recent criminal record. Stay persistent, maintain a positive attitude, and don't give up. 

It will take time and effort, but you can succeed with determination and the right strategy.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

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