Eric Mayo Jobs for Felons: Real Stories of Ex-offenders and Felons looking for Jobs ~ Jobs for Felons: How felons can get jobs Jobs for Felons: Real Stories of Ex-offenders and Felons looking for Jobs | Jobs for Felons: How felons can get jobs
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Jobs for Felons: Real Stories of Ex-offenders and Felons looking for Jobs

Jobs for Felons: Real Stories of Ex-offenders and Felons looking for Jobs


How Can a Felon go From Prison to a Job?

Jobs for Felons: Real Stories of Ex-offenders and Felons looking for JobsEvery year, hundreds of thousands of people are released from prison. Without stable employment, many will return. This is the story of Leon, a 22 year old felon who has just been released from prison and needs to find a job. He needed a plan. I helped him get started. The rest was up to him.

Leon is a Felon who Needed a Job

As many of my readers know that I have been helping ex-offenders and felons to get jobs for many years. I used to teach a class at the local community college that focused on helping unemployed and under-employed people to improve their job searching skills along with other to tools that would help them get hired and maintain jobs. I did this in a classroom setting for over ten years with a high level of success. Because of my work, I became recognized in my community as one person who could help practically anyone get a job.

My work has changed. I no longer teach classes at the college. My work has expanded and I now travel the country giving seminars and presentations. A product of my work in this area is my book "From Jail to a Job." Even though I don't teach classes in the community any more, I still get calls from individuals who want to help a family member who has in need of the type of help I provide. I day I got a call from an elderly lady who had been referred to me from one of my former students. Her son Leon was to be paroled in a few weeks and her hopes for him was to get a job and make a successful transition from the penal system to the real world. She knew if he didn't find a job soon after being released, he might fall back into some old habits that would lead him right back to prison. Leon never had a job, and like a lot of other people who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, sold drugs as a way to make money. He would be staying with her, so the sooner he got on his feet the better. I asked grandma to have Leon call me as soon as he got home so we could come up with a plan.

One morning several weeks later, I got a call from Leon and agreed to meet him at his grandmother's house the next day. He was about 5' 11' 180lbs. He had a nice smile, a goatee and cornrows. We got to know each other he told me he heard good things about me and that I could get him a job. I quickly corrected him, "I can't get you a job. I can show you some things but you have to put the work in." Oh it's like that? he answered. "Just like that" was my response. "Now are you in or out?" maybe because grandma was there, I don't know, but he smiled and said "In."

Our first plan of action was to go down to the state employment office. There he could meet with a career counselor that would help with services the state provided. He was able to get with a resume and got a chance to sign up for access to the Dept. of Labor computer list of jobs. Once that was done, he could access the list from a home computer.

Then we looked at his total package. It was my professional opinion that he needed a change of look. I'm not saying that he looked like a thug, but his appearance had thuggish overtones. I suggested that he get rid of the cornrows and the beard. He balked a little at that. Actually he balked a lot at that. I explained to him that he would be judged from about 40 feet away when he approached people. His present appearance may cause him to be judged as potential trouble rather than a potential employee. I asked him did he have at least a shirt, slacks, tie and shoes. Unfortunately he did not. As for footwear he only had a pair of sneakers and a pair of boots. Since Leon was a personal project of mine, I was willing to spend a few dollars to get him on track. Not a lot of money. I wasn't adopting him. He needed a professional haircut and shave. I drove him over to the local beauty school where he could get a student to cut his hair for just a tip and I would gladly pay a tip of $5.00. At least from the neck up, he looked great. Now for the clothes. As with many ex-offenders and felons looking for jobs, Leon did not have clothing that would create a professional impression. Our next stop was the Salvation Army Thrift Store.

This place almost made Leon turn back. "Used clothes, Mr. Mayo?" "Not used son, gently worn at great prices" was my answer. "You can look great for a little money." It was Wednesday which meant clothing was 50% off. To make a long story short, we walked out with two pair of designer slacks, one black, one blue (machine washable of course,) one blue, one white dress shirt and two designer ties for $17.50. He only needed a pair of shoes. I called around to my friends and came up with size 9 black loafers that were perfect. We went back to grandmas and she agreed to wash and iron our newly found treasures. The only thing left was to teach Leon how to tie a tie. I meet too many young people that can roll a joint, but cannot tie a tie. Makes me shake my head. It took a while, but Leon finally got the tack of tying a tie. A nicely knotted tie on a freshly pressed shirt, sharply creased dress slacks and polished shoes leave a powerful impression. From his head to his feet, Leon looked great. Who would even think he was fresh out of prison? The last thing we did that day was to brush on his interviewing skills. He picked up things pretty quickly for someone who had never had a real job.

It had been a long day, so we planned for me to pick Leon up the following day for the next stage of the plan. I picked him up and off we went to our local Labor Ready office. For those who are unfamiliar, Labor Ready is a nation-wide company that provides temporary labor to a variety of industries. The great thing about Labor Ready is they pay for a day's work at the end of the day, which allows Leon to earn some money while waiting to hear from the places he will apply to. He could do day labor part of the week and use the other part to search for a job. The manager helped Leon with the preliminary paperwork and explained to him that on the days he wanted to work, he had to be there early because assignment are given on a first come, first served basis. On to the next step. Labor Ready was just one temp agency. I had taken the liberty of making a list of temporary employment agencies in the area. Temporary employment is a great way for ex-offenders to get into the workforce. If they are good employees, they are often hired on as regular, full time employees. Our first priority was to visit the independent agencies. Ex-offenders and felons may have more success at smaller, privately owned companies. Smaller companies are more likely to give those with criminal records opportunities. They can hire whomever they feel will be good employees. Often larger companies have hiring guidelines that forbid the hiring of ex-offenders. We visited six agencies that day. Leon left his resume with them all along with a great first impression. He had picked up some skills from working at various jobs while in prison. He was friendly and outgoing. It was just a matter of time before he got an assignment. I will keep posted on Leon's progress!

Well three weeks later, after working with Labor Ready, Leon was offered a temporary assignment at a local coffee plant. His job was to guide retail packages into a machine for shrink wrapping. He was always on time, was friendly to everyone and had a great attitude. He didn't have to go to the Labor Ready site everyday, just straight to the plant. This helped him to get into a routine. With grandma's help, he got up on time everyday to get to work. He even spent less time with his friends, which was alright with grandma because most of them didn't have jobs and were probably doing other things.

A month into the assignment, he was offered the job permanently. Working in a factory was not Leon's idea of a career and he went home smelling like coffee everyday, but there were certain advantages. He learned how machinery worked and how to maintain the one used. Even if he didn't stay there, the knowledge was priceless. After 90 days as a full-time employee, he would be eligible for medical, dental and other benefits. Even though he didn't make a lot of money, he was able to buy a few things, give grandma some money and even managed to save a few dollars. Down the line he wants to buy a car. Not a new one, but he doesn't need a new one right now.

Grandma is also proud of her grandson. She used to be embarrassed when her grandson got into trouble. She worried whenever he left the house because even though they never talked about it, she knew what he did. Now she is proud to say that her grandson is at work.

I asked Leon to tell me what the best part of having a job was. "Mr. Mayo, I get up everyday and for the most part, I know what to expect. I get out of things what I put into them. I took a while to learn some things. If I had to put it in a word, the word would be NORMAL."

I think Leon is going to be alright.

Jobs for Felons: Real Stories of Ex-offenders and Felons looking for Jobs

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