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Finding a Job for Some May Be Impossible
By Cliff Harrison

Jobs and the economy are the number one things on people’s minds today. We are experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We are in the worst recession since World War II. No times of economic and job loss has been greater than now—or so it seems.

As I write this unemployment in Las Vegas climbs to 13.8% just a tad bit lower than the jaw-breaking record breaker of 13.9% of only a few months earlier.

Experts claim that when you tally up all those who have given up looking for work, add those who are working part-time but really want a fulltime job, and others who are not counted because they are not signing up or receiving unemployment benefits, the rate skyrockets to a panicking, super-sized whopper of 25% or more real unemployment.

For many, finding a job is like finding a needle in a haystack, a four leaf cover, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a rabbit’s foot in the pocket, a horseshoe, a light at the end of the tunnel and a life jacket thrown out to you at sea, all at the same time.

With those stats, 25% or more of real unemployment, the only light at the other end of the tunnel appears to be a fast-moving freight train.

25% whopping unemployment in Las Vegas! Who in their right mind would want to move here? You’d be crazy! You’d be saner if you jumped into murky water infested with sharks. At least, you’d stand a better chance of survival.

That’s a quarter of all working-class, ambled bodied people? With that many out of work and the echoes from the glasshouses on shore say the economy is improving? Recovery is on the horizon?

Yeah, and they must be running out of marijuana, you know, the stuff made from the likes of cannabis seeds. Hemp. When you smoke it you start talking goofy and saying things like the economy is improving and the recession will soon behind us. You hallucinate. You have delusions. You see yourself making a million dollars an hour and you get three one hour coffee breaks for every two-hour work day. Smells like…marijuana to me! Talk stupid, stupid!

The needles in the haystack seemed to multiply and they’re hypodermic needles that have been used by hard-core drug abusers—you know Syringes of Doom.

The four-leaf clover has heads and teeth that look like piranhas—you know, armed and dangerous! The Four leaf clover kind that bite and devour—they are those things that feasts on hopes and dreams.

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow happens to be an IED—you know, an Improvised Explosive Devise. Don’t go there, don’t touch it or BOOM!

The rabbit’s foot in the pocket happens to be dripping of fresh blood, when you pick it up, and pull it out, your hands turn all red, and the horseshoe drops on your toes and breaks your bones. I already talked about the light at the end of the tunnel; someone needs to clean up all that gore that’s left on the tracks. You know the splattered remains of being wiped out on the fast track to nowhere. And, I forgot to tell you, that life jacket thrown out at sea where you’re trying to swim and stay afloat is surrounded by circling blood-thirsty sharks!

Does Glasshouse Ensign ever look overboard?

The fornicator, Nevada’s Senator John Ensign, the guy who committed adultery with another man’s wife, recently voted against extending unemployment benefits. Glasshouse Ensign might prefer people to go on welfare, since that’s the obvious next stop once unemployment benefits stop coming in. There certainly are no jobs out there, not for American’s anyway. The spoon-fed, sinning Senator has never hungered a day in his life. The son of a bitch disgraces America and I’m ashamed to have him representing me and I voted for the cowardly bastard.

In other words, for some people, it’s sometimes nearly impossible to find a job—in good times—let alone hard times.

That’s because something in their past might not be all that peachy. Their records are blemished with something that prevents the applicant from securing work during economical good times, let alone bad times.

Things like, huge gaps between employment, unexplainable gaps, being fired from previous employment, quitting too many previous jobs, confrontations with previous bosses and/or co-workers, lack of steady employment, too short of a work record, lack of higher education, lack of high school graduation or GED, hostile or bad talk about a previous employer on the application, careless application writing, and the worst culprits of all previous arrest records and worst prison time.

If someone has a shadowed past like the previous paragraph mentions, the changes of getting a job is nil. The dark cloud that hangs over their head fills with lightning bolts and thunder claps and creates a social thunderstorm that won’t go away.

Released from prison? Forget about it! Once a criminal always a criminal, most employers brand former inmates. Ex-conmen in particular, stand about as much chance as landing a job as putting a man on the moon without a spaceship, even worst odds than that. Their record as a former prisoner doing time for swindling someone is about as attractive to prospective employers as a rattlesnake in bed—especially if the employer’s human resources manager (HR), the decision-maker in the hiring process, has recently watched the blockbuster film Catch Me if You Can.

If one can’t get pass the personnel department, or HR in many cases today, one might as well hang up his fishing pole. For a former convict, his lake has dried up and any chances that he might be soon catching something—like a job—go down the drink with it.

The rare exception might be the abusive, slave-driving, illegal employer who ignores all labor laws and pays minimum wage or less and demands more than reasonable work from his employees.

But jobs like those don’t last long with most people. That is why an employer of this type has such high turnover of employees and constantly has ads in the paper for hire. He’ll hire anybody, and if they are thick skinned enough or desperate enough they’ll hold onto the job. If not, they’ll move on.

For former inmates, when they see employers, who are supposed to be respectable leaders in town, getting away with crimes of labor and murder, they often leave such employment. They paid for their crime, but this employer seems to be getting away with it, and even rewarded.

What is society thinking? Where are released prisoners supposed to go for work if nobody will hire them? How long do you imagine it will take before an ex-con returns to a life of crime if he can’t secure a job or a means to earn a living legitimately?

I’d bet real soon.

If no one is willing to help someone with a record, how can they also expect crime rates to go down? How can they expect former con men, who by the way, have paid for their crimes by serving prison terms, return to productive society?

I know, that’s somebody else’s problem, not mine! Right?

Well, unless society is willing to figure something out to address this problem, ex-cons will continue recycling through the revolving-door of prison and crime statistics are likely to unchanged—or increase.

When I was a boss, I did my own hiring and then after I hired a new employee I had the personnel department or HR process the new hiree. My approach was a more personal, traditional approach than most employers use today.

I admit, hiring and working with former inmates can sometimes be challenging at times, but my philosophy was, then and now, “I don’t care where you came from; I only care where it is that you are going.”

And I told every damn one of them that!

Often it meant no more than giving an ex-con a break, and treating them human and with respect and dignity. Providing the right atmosphere where the work environment provided the least challenges and obstacles for the former inmate.

The fewer encounters with any kind of friction or negative developments meant better success and more productivity over the long run.

Despite the few challenges or setbacks, which often resulted from personality clashes, the great reward came from seeing a former prisoner rehabilitate himself by providing him an opportunity few others would provide him, and seeing him succeed.

I’ve had men with arrest and prison records as long as your arm that I hired and gave a chance to. Men who I personally trained, and gained their respect and loyalty as well as the providing them the opportunity to advance.

At least one such man went all the way to the very top of another company in the same industry as ours, and became the equivalence of general manager.

Once, while he was antsy and desiring to go to work with a competitor, which could provide him a better future and pay than my outfit could, he told me of his ideas.

I encouraged him to wait—not to be restless or impatient.

Take your experience first; your cash will come later. I said. You need more on-the-job time. You are not ready to make such a move yet.

The phrase I’ve used most of my life, Take your experience first; your cash will come later, is from something I read years ago, and it is a slight variant of what they claim Harold Geneen is quoted as saying, “In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.”

For two more years he stayed with me and learned his trade, honing his skills in the field and becoming so knowledgeable, few could match his experience. He then moved on, with my blessing, since I always encouraged a man (or woman) who could improve himself (or herself).

He spent a couple of years at the new company. At that company, he later tied up with another good boss, someone I knew and grew up with, and climbed higher on the totem pole.

Then he moved to another state, following the above mentioned boss who took the number one position in the newest company while my hand picked and trained former criminal took the number two position.

It was only six months later (from the time of the out-of-state move), that the “good boss” lost interest in the industry and moved on to something else. That’s when I got a phone call from my former employee who had a criminal record, and I heard his voice say, “I’m in the number one position, Cliff. I now run the entire plant—I’m the plant manager.” He said, excitedly, and then he said, “You know, I want to thank you for what you did for me, and what you said years and years ago about, Take your experience first; your cash will come later. For me, it was true!”

I was so happy for him, so proud of myself that I had given him but a chance to become productive again. He went to the top. And I’m sure—he never looked back.

Not all cases are successful as this one, but without giving a man an opportunity we can not expect him to have the self-respect that it takes to pull away from a life of crime and start a new life that is moral, just and productive.

This same gentleman, years before, after he began working for me, had gotten into another scrap with the law. He faced, due to his record, another bout in prison. By this time he had been working with me long enough that I knew what kind of worker he was, and he was 100% on the job. It was off the job that he needed conditioning with. He needed guidance in his misguided life.

I penned a plea to the judge and sent it off on a company letterhead. I grew up with the judge, went to school with him, played football beside him and lived in the community as an adult running into him many times after high school. He knew my character; he knew I was a man of my words.

I had pleaded for mercy for my employee. Later, during his post-trial sentencing, I arrived in court in a three-piece suit and asked again for mercy for my employee. I told the judge I could work with him, give him an opportunity to advance rather than succumb to crime. I would all but take complete responsibility. I made a statement that his worth on the job was of great value to me. All I needed was an opportunity from the judge to prove my conviction.

I was granted that opportunity.

No one involved had greater pleasure than my employee. His being saved from a prison sentence, allowed his returned opportunity to remain productive and to advance. He was so grateful and honored for my standing behind him and taking his defense that he never got snot on his nose again. He never again let down, me, nor the community, nor the judge who gave him a break.

And you know the rest of the story.

How many men have been wasted because no one gave them a chance? And it takes more than just giving them a chance; it takes a little work, a lot of effort and enough will to make a difference.

I’ve hire men who had far too many jobs in their short work careers that they would have been rejected by most employers—they even told me so—but after I hired them, they no longer worked a few weeks or a few months and then left. They stayed with me and they advanced. They reestablished their work record, improving it.

They had, in fact, grown up, became responsible and took interest in their job as something more than just a source for a paycheck.

I’ve hired high school kids who had no previous job experience and tamed them like wild horses that became champions in their field.

And all I did was gave them a chance—and worked with them a little bit—and trained them my way. Opportunity took care of itself.

I’m appalled by the textbook methods many HR offices use to make their hiring decisions today.

Among another man’s garbage one can find a gem, but the HR bosses of today won’t even bother to look.

For many, especially those with blemished employment records, less than desirable pasts, finding employment during economical boom times is most difficult. Finding jobs now in an economy so shattered will prove challenging for even those with a squeaky clean record.

The final word is that there is no guarantee that those with squeaky-clean records will not do something undesirable once hired. On that note, it makes the playing field even, but HR managers are blind to that simple truth and spend way too much time screening and sifting nothing but pure bullshit.

If we want to improve our tomorrows, we sometimes need to revert back to using the policies we used yesterday and scrap the faulty ones we use today.

Success is measured in inches, not miles.

Now I’m going to go have that bowl of oatmeal that’s been patiently waiting for me.

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4 Comments

  1. Mr. Harrison,
    I stumbled across your blog by accident while trying to find a job for those who have undesirable pasts. I was convicted of sex abuse 3rd degree (with an ex-girlfriend) in 2000. I have been out of prison since 2005, been married and divorced though my ex is my biggest supporter and friend. I have had to reinvent myself many times in order to survive. I became a handyman and started my own business so I could make income (no HR department to go through). I have since learned dog training through someone with 45+ years of experience who didn’t care about my past. I would love to be able to get a job where the income was consistant as I struggle every month to scrape rent together. Worse than a con man is a rapist, where no one can trust for any type of job. I had a promising career as a nurse prior to my conviction, and now there is no way I can do what I know best. The unemployment rate in my area is 18% and getting worse. I thank you for your blog and wish more people had your thought process. I can guarantee you I am never getting in trouble again as I already lost 5 years of my life and no matter how hard my life has become it’s a hell of a lot better than it was in prison. Thank you again for your reasonable thinking and I wish your words would spread to more employers.
    Sincerely,
    Scott Streetman

    • Hi, Scott. It is your comment I got mixed up with Ray’s. I didn’t realize I had two comments. Gee, you posted this almost seven months ago. So, I hope I can still catch you. I hope you are doing okay now. To reiterate what I was telling Ray in the above comments it is, as you know difficult finding a job let alone a career you would love.

      You need to keep a couple of positive notes in your head at all times. There are going to be plenty of negative ones to come along and challenge them. First and foremost your boss who ever he or she is can make or break you. If you have a good understanding boss don’t ever let them down and make them regret for giving you a chance. With that said, that boss can help you rise to the top or can hold you down.

      No matter what your past is or what it contains finding the right person to accept you and give you an opportunity is the key. Our society is nits today and there isn’t anything we can do about it. You could save a dozen school kids from some kind of harm, Scott, and they’d never wash away your previous sins. So, you have to do just as you say, keep reinventing yourself until you find something that fits.

      I tell kid who work hard in burger joints to work hard and learn everything you can and work your way up and when you become boss you will know your job better than anyone and no new employee will be able to tell white lies. You will know.

      You have to make ends meet and pay your bills but I would suggest reading everything you can on budgeting. In order to have ENOUGH money you have to do one of two things or both. You have to earn MORE money or you have to spend LESS money. This applies when you are trying to save money or pay off a debt as well. Increase you income and/or reduce your expenses. A lot of people talk about it but few actually stick with a good plan.

      Shop at the 99 Cents Only Store, cut down on everything you can think of without making it too much of a burden. But of course if you are working a low wage job it is already tough and often you have no money for emergencies. But at all cost you have to avoid crime, repeating crime will only hold you back longer. Can you move into a less expensive apartment? Can you eat at soup kitchens or church feedings to save on food?

      So, Scott the tough question is what will out future be? The economy make be going for another tailspin. Try to prepare for it. I know it is tough but if you set your mind right, and reinvent you can get through it. There are programs to help ex-prisoners. I’m sorry I don’t know much about them but if you ask around maybe you can get some lead there. From what other men have told me there are programs that pay employers or pays the employees a percentage of the wage and tax advantages for employers. I don’t know how fresh you need to be out of prison, but those employers might having something you can look into.

      Stay positive no matter what. And the one thing I tell everybody your boss can make you or break you so look for that one great boss. You only need ONE great boss. The trouble is finding him or her. But once you do forget where you came from and focus only on where you are going.

      (I have to take a power nap so I’ll proof this later.)

      Good luck, Scott.

      Christian River Magazine http://www.christianriver.net/ (Once I get all my other sites shut down I’ll focus on bring a lot of self-help information to Christian River Magazine.

  2. Thanks for that Cliff, that was definitely a heart warming story. I have a burglary charge stemming from when i was 19 years old, 15 years ago, and was able to find construction work for 6 years after i was released from prison. Now with the economy, even with my experience and “lead man” status with former companies, i can’t find work. I have had two interviews in the past two weeks, beat out 5 other prospective employees and was hired. I was on top of the world (for the moment) the interviews went great and i had a new job! Not just a job but a career. They were looking for someone to lead a team. That was me. Then came the background check. My job was subsequently taken from me. I’m sure there’s plenty of stories like this, i’m not the only one. So I’m currently enrolling in college for business admin. to eventually attempt to start my own business. I was seeking your opinion on this. Should i go through the four years then try to get a loan to start a business (after i receive my degree) or will there still be too many obstacles in my way to where it will not be worth it?

  3. Hi, Ray. I’m glad you liked the story.

    First I want to apologize since I have not revisited this site since 2010 due to illness and other things. I actually came to make this site private but will most likely copy and paste the story as well as your comment in a self-host magazine I started some time ago.

    I’m not sure if the post date of your comment is correct. I’m sure it is much older than a couple of weeks, so I can’t explain that either.

    Now for your question. I’m saddened you lost your job because of a criminal background check. We could get lost in that conversation for days. It’s not right. And too many HR people are pure idiots and actually inexperienced. I think they reject employees such as yourself to make themselves look good since they have no other way to look good. My story fully explains my attitude with that kind of situation. Actually I just reread my story and don’t remember all the things I wrote and it does need some editing such as in the end I wrote:

    “The final word is that there is no guarantee that those with squeaky-clean records will not do something undesirable once hired. On that note, it makes the playing field even, but HR managers are blind to that simple truth and spend way too much time screening and sifting nothing but pure bullshit.”

    I should have wrote, “…with squeaky-clean records WILL DO SOMETHING DESIRABLE once hired.” Meaning I’ve seen lots of guys with great records go bad. The bottom line is bosses today don’t want to WORK with their people. They want to sit in their office and dictate everything.

    Now to address your question specifically. My outlook is this. Your criminal record is pretty old. But it is probably a black cloud you’ll have following you for life. Every time you go for a new career it will come back and haunt you, unfortunately. Finding a good boss is the solution to bypass that. Unfortunately again, you have to go through a HR manager. I certainly would make sure you put the incident on the application and make sure they know right up front. For them to find out in the criminal background check could be a little disadvantage to all involved. But if you tell them up front about it and the background check confirms it not all (most will) companies will deny it.

    Should you go to college? If you can’t find a decent job and you can afford college or you can get a grant to go to college now is a GREAT time to go to college since job prospects are so lousy. I’m not sure how old your comment is, but you may be half way through by now.

    Top economist say that the end of 2012 to 2013 we are going to have a worst recession than this last one. If that is true the best place to be in my opinion is back in school. Even schooling could be threatened if this think is as bad as they project. More education never hurts. I prefer to get mine at the public library though, but that’s probably not so applicable today.

    Society is nuts. There are thousands, perhaps millions of men and women just like you, or worst off than you in fitting in the job market after prison. Many of them will return to prison and a good share of them will deserve to. But still many need an opportunity to get started. But will society give them that opportunity? I doubt it. Not many employers are willing to take a chance on ex-cons. The reason is a lot of them stay bad and you are all judged the same. So this brings me to the answer.

    Assuming you complete college and gain a four year degree. I think you will have plenty of opportunities if you don’t allow negatives to beat you down. I would look at the economy when you get out. You need to wait and see what kind of environment there is. Lots of college grads right now can’t find jobs.

    Starting your own business is risky. It takes lots of money to start up a business and keep it running. Working for someone else is easier and less risky. But on the other hand if you don’t try it you won’t know if you would ever succeed. And of course, I always used to say, “You are never a failure until you stop trying to succeed.”

    I can’t really advise you, Ray, on starting a business or not. By the way, the fellow I was talking about in the story, his name was Ray, too.

    An idea I would suggest and I’m kind of against a lot of them today, but consider a nonprofit start up. Nonprofit 501(c)(3)s are not privately owned and one day you could be forced out if something went wrong but what about a company that helped ex-cons secure work? Or even a company that actually employes ex-cons? I thought about creating such a company as a spin off of the RIVER Organization I was going to start up to help the homeless and among them including the ex-cons. My sickness prevents that.

    There are lots of things you could do to be creative, be sort of like having your own company, one you can lead and manage, one your newly acquired education and previous work skills and prison experience can relate to.

    My basic problem and I think a lot of people too, with nonprofits today is the excessive salary the CEOs and top leaders make when they are charities. A nonprofit helping former prisoners make not be your cup of tea, Ray, but it certainly would be worth spending some time to think about. And, if you have positive thoughts to it, seek out a professor for some guidance and add the course you need to adapt your business administration to nonprofit management and complete them before you graduate.

    i got a little long winded on that one. I hope it helps you. I wish you the best of luck. I am going to make the other blogs in this group private and this one as well later on. But I will repost this entire post in Christian River Magazine at http://www.christianriver.net/.

    GOOD LUCK, Ray!


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