Think you’ve heard it all when it comes to job search tips for previously incarcerated job seekers?
We did too, but we learned a few new things from Ken Bailor, the reentry services coordinator for Riverside County (Calif.) ReEntry Services, part of the county’s economic development agency.
During the past 11 years, he has presented job search workshops to more than 25,000 people incarcerated at four of Riverside County’s five correctional facilities.
Bailor calls his students “new beginners,” who by his definition seek to put the past – along with attitudes, actions and negative behavior that led to their incarceration – far behind them, so they can achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual success in life.
And to educate them, Bailor developed the New Beginners Job Search Handbook. It offers a step-by-step process that can lead to a new beginning in the lives of those in reentry, as well as a few unique ideas.
Along with resume writing and interview tips, the handbook offers tips on how to improve one’s attitude and approach to life, as well as ability to look for work.
He includes a chart on how to reframe what people need to say to make it positive.
- For example, instead of this:
“I just got out of jail and need a job.”
- Tell the hiring manager:
“Jail was a wake-up call for me. I learned new things about myself and my life. I completed my GED and developed new skills. I’m ready to prove that I can be a productive employee.”
Because what people say and how they say it is so important, the handbook includes a vocabulary list for successful New Beginners. It recommends using green flag words like “I can” instead of red flag words like “I can’t.” “I take action” instead of “I should.” “And” instead of “but,” etc.
Understanding the impression you might make
One section of the handbook analyzes what an employer would think about certain behavior or actions when completing a job application, creating a resume or during a job interview that will help students become more aware of how they might come across.
Putting together a personal commercial
Bailor divides jobs into four families – those concerned with ideas, things, people and data – and includes an extensive list of words defining personal assets related to those types of jobs. Using those assets and words for skills chosen from another list, job seekers can put together what he calls a personal commercial and what others might refer to as an elevator pitch.
Also included are a practice application and resume worksheet and examples of different types of resumes and cover letters, as well as advice on where to look for jobs and a job fair attendance checklist. In addition, there’s a list of interview questions, how to explain a felony conviction and information about expungement, certificates of rehabilitation and pardons.
How the handbook is used
Although the book is a self-teaching tool, Bailor and three volunteers take it into the facilities and do a basic introduction. The inmates go through all the exercises, and when they’re finished contact Bailor who asks them an interview question and administers an open-book test. A week later he returns for a closed book final and those who pass receive a certificate.
When they’re about to be released Bailor tells them, ”If you go after those jobs the same way you went after drugs, you’ll be successful. And when you get out, do three things – call your ride, talk to probation and call me.” Only about 10% of the people who leave actually call him, but for those that do he has some solid advice.
He tells his New Beginners:
- Look forward not back to the troubles you’ve had.
- Stay positive and find resources. Be proactive.
- Don’t rely on the jobs that are on the Internet. Visit employers. Tell them about yourself and drop off a resume or JIST card. If you don’t hear back from them in a week, call again. Eventually someone will hire you.
- Go out and talk to people. Some of the best jobs you’ll find out about are through people in your AA and NA meetings.
- Stay away from the old places and things, and find new beginnings.
You may view the latest edition of the New Beginners Job Search Handbook, which is included as a resource on Ken Bailor’s Jerry Jobseeker’s Resources website.