Career Breakout: Employment after Arrest

The issue of career placement for those with barriers is not going to go away. Consider that these past four decades have created an American working age population that includes up to 14 million people with felony records—about one in every fifteen between the age of 18 and 64.

Not too long ago I attended a “Showcase for Ex-Felons” in St. Petersburg. During the day’s event, I had the opportunity to discuss and coach quite of few capable professionals who happen to have made a mistake and are paying for that mistake eternally. After five hours of face-to-face, a common theme threaded each candidate:

“No one is willing  to give me a chance. What can I do?

Much like in all elements in life, gaining employment comes down to risk versus benefit.

For an individual with a career barrier, finding, securing, and retaining employment could mean the difference between recidivism and freedom. Fair or not, understanding and taking a proactive approach means recognizing many companies discriminate against those who have made mistakes. An obvious example can be found on most job applications in the form of the “check the box if you have been arrested.”

In today’s tight employment market, employers often refuse second looks once the “box” has been checked. Though “ban the box” campaigns are pushing forward, only a few states (not Florida) have adopted the policy. If you are asked to complete an application with this question, honesty is always the best policy… being dishonest on a job application is cause for immediate termination. Though a catch 22 exists, the path taken should be the honest one.

Career tip #1: Overcoming a barrier can be a true test of your career skills, but success can be found if the tools of the trade are not compromised.

Much like all job seekers, conducting extensive company research, preparing to respond to the most difficult interview questions (oftentimes revolving around your arrest), and building the most effective skills-based resume and cover letter available. And yes, there are tools and methods used which will highlight your strengths. For instance, prior to launching your career search, create a well-written letter of explanation… details and samples are provided in our Overcoming Career Barriers: Mission Possible” guidebook highlighted shortly.

Without knowing your specific background and your situation, general rules of engagement should be followed:

The first step is to reboot your perception as other’s see you. As a company owner, I know there are benefits of hiring an individual with a humbling experience; enhanced appreciation for the opportunity as well as a more dedicated, loyal, and productive attitude over those without a blemished background—relaying these elements to a potential employer quickly lessens risk.

Career tip #2: If you offer limited experience and education, the task is not going to be easy; resolve will be found by tapping into the many transferrable skills you have gained over the years.

Second step guiding success: There is no time to become discouraged though closed door after closed door can be difficult to face daily.

There are many steps in the process and we will touch upon each as time allows. For now, let’s work on developing a letter of explanation and rebooting other’s perception and that begins by dressing and behaving professionally… anything less is not acceptable.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, incarcerating its residents at a rate 4 to 7 times higher than other industrialized nations… we could go on and on but talk means nothing without action.

Education Career Services, pens and publishes career development textbooks and single target booklets. Our “Overcoming Career Barriers: Mission Possible” single topic guidebook offers 80 pages of hard hitting truths, activities, samples, and proven strategies to improve your career station. If interested in this or any career collateral, go to our products page on our website (, or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS).

If you would like additional information or assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

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