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Re-entering the Workforce with a Criminal Record

You’re excited to re-enter the workforce, but you’re concerned employers may look at your history and pass you over. With proper tools, information and community supports, however, you give yourself a much better chance.

Follow these 4 steps to improve your ability to find work.

Step 1. Know your career options

To begin, identify the employment and training options available to you. The following questions will get you started:

  • How will the conditions of your release affect your work search?
  • How will a criminal record check by potential employers affect their impression of you?
  • Are there skill-building programs you can take that will help you improve your employability?
  • Can you obtain a record suspension (previously called a pardon) from the Parole Board of Canada?

For help answering these questions, communicate with your case management and/or parole officer. Be sure you fulfill any conditions of your release.

To start planning your career, write down

  • your financial needs
  • your housing needs
  • your training needs
  • your supportive relationships
  • people in your network—those who can help you find work
  • your skills, interests and values
  • the kind of jobs that are right for you

You can find resources to help you with career planning in Step 3.

Step 2. Identify the job-ready resources and life skills you may need help with

Get these job-ready resources and show employers you are ready to work:

  • identification, such as a birth certificate or driver’s licence, is necessary to open a bank account. If you don’t have identification, see Service Alberta's website. You may qualify for funding to get identification.
  • work clothes and tools suitable for the job that interests you
  • transportation to and from work. Do you have a driver’s licence and a vehicle you can use? Or will you depend on a friend, a relative or public transportation?
  • adequate housing
  • a bank account where a potential employer can deposit your pay.
  • means of communication with potential employers, such as a phone or cellphone and/or access to the Internet

Now, consider the life skills an employer may expect you to demonstrate:

  • attitudes and behaviours suitable to the workplace
  • time-management skills
  • communication skills (such as literacy)
  • money-management skills (including budgeting)
  • self-esteem

Make a list of the job-ready resources and life skills you may need help with.

Step 3. Make use of community supports

Have you identified the resources and skills you need to find employment? You can then find supportive resources and organizations to help you.

If you have access to the Internet, you can register at CAREERinsite to complete online career planning exercises. Learn about different occupations that might interest you at OCCinfo. And the alis website has resources to help with career planning, education and employment.

You can visit your local Alberta Supports Centre for work search help. Find out if the centre offers free workshops. These can be on work search skills such as resumé writing or preparing for interviews. They may also offer  computers you can use in your work search. You can also call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

  • toll-free within Alberta at 1-877-644-9992

Depending upon your conditions of release, you may be eligible for income support. Check with your case management and/or parole officer.

Your local John Howard Society may offer help with some or all of the following:

  • housing
  • finding work
  • money management courses
  • adult literacy and basic education
  • accessing other community resources

Women can also contact the Elizabeth Fry Society in Edmonton or Calgary. Ask about programs to help with

  • reducing barriers to employment
  • financial literacy
  • reintegration programming
  • record suspensions
  • accessing other community resources

Step 4. Develop a strategy for finding work

Follow these suggestions to help you find work:

  • Create a resumé that showcases your skills, education/training and employment history. Consider a functional resumé to emphasize your life experience, abilities and skills. For help with your resumé, you can call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre (see Step 3).
  • Make a list of references who will speak to the positive changes you’re making in your life. You need to choose your references. Possible references include previous employers, religious leaders, elders, instructors, former teachers or probation or parole officers.
  • Decide whether to disclose your criminal record. For advice on what to consider when making this decision, see Finding Work with a Criminal Record.
  • Identify types of work that may be less stringent about hiring someone with a criminal record. For example, work that requires a background check or that has bonding requirements may be more difficult to obtain.
  • Consider alternatives to a full-time job that will help you gain experience. This includes volunteering or taking on part-time work.

You can find employment

Re-entering the workforce when you have a criminal record may not be easy. But many have done it before you, and you too can succeed. Identify the resources and skills you need to find employment. Then seek help from government and community agencies that can assist you. Assistance ranges from help with housing, education and, career planning to searching for work. The rewards of employment make it all worthwhile. You could have a better quality of life to new optimism and an improved sense of self-worth.

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