Like lots of people with convictions, I’ve struggled to get work. You know how it is, if the employer asks about unspent convictions you have to tell them but if they don’t ask then you can keep quiet. If like me, you’re still on Licence then your Probation Officer might tell you to disclose even when you’re not asked.
So with this in mind, I’ve ticked the ‘Yes’ box on application forms and heard nothing. If I’ve been able to send off my CV and secured an interview I’ll always disclose my conviction if I’m asked during the interview. But even when I think the interviews gone really well, I hear nothing more.
Well, I’ve got a job now and thought I’d write something about my own experiences just in case it helps someone out there with no job who is worrying about their future.
I work in the highly exciting world of produce processing – basically stacking vegetables in containers after they’ve been graded. It’s a massive step back, my pay is probably a third of what it was 4 years ago and I really hate the job. It’s tedious, mind numbing and I always go home with a back ache. Having said that, I’m grateful to be working. I’m being paid, I work with some great people (so I’ve got some sort of social contact) and it gives me a little more focus to my life.
I’ve been at the company for 5 months now and I’ve been promoted twice. The first was a very modest promotion – just a slightly higher hourly wage. However, more recently I’ve moved into a supervisory role. I’m still being paid below the living wage, but it’s really good to see that my hard work is being noticed. Like most people, I hated having to come in at the bottom, but things are what they are and I can now see more clearly a route forward (and upwards). Despite what I originally thought and felt, there really is no shame in starting again at the bottom.
So what have I learnt that I can pass on? Well I believe that ‘dumbing’ down my CV was really important. By making it simpler and not ‘bigging’ myself up employers stopped asking lots of awkward questions – you know the sort, ‘why do you want to work in a warehouse when you’ve previously held a senior management position?’. I also changed my tact in where I applied for jobs. I found that organisations who tended to employ higher levels of foreign workers were less likely to ask about cautions and convictions and usually didn’t do criminal record checks (I don’t know why).
One thing that was holding me back were the gaps in my CV. I’d previously registered a limited company – the company failed – but what it did do was provide me with a legitimate ‘filler’ for my CV with an address, name and company number that could be checked. As I was my last previous employer, it was a good way around the question of ‘may we contact your last employer’.
I’ve also had to change my mind set – I’ve realised that I have a conviction which I can do nothing about. I just have to live with it. Coming to terms with this enabled me to start searching for organisations that might be able to assist me and it was then that I came across the Unlock website. This showed me how many people have convictions, many honest, hard-working and intelligent just wanting a fair chance in life. Reading the stuff on-line has helped me so much and at last, I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
By Sam (name changed to protect identity)