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How to Find a Job While on Probation

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Probation can make the job search difficult, both because of the restrictions imposed by probation itself and the challenges of finding a job with a criminal record. Probation is your chance to move past your criminal history, and some people on probation can even get their records expunged at the end of probation. While finding a job may be challenging, it's the first step toward getting your life on track.

Talk to Your Probation Officer

Before you begin searching for a job, talk with your probation officer to ensure you clearly understand the rules. Depending upon your probation officer, your state's rules and the crime you've committed, you might only be able to work during certain hours or in certain roles. For example, if you were convicted of a drug-related offense, you might be prohibited from coming into contact with alcohol or drugs, meaning you can't pursue a job as a bartender. Your probation officer may also offer you job leads or establish specific job search requirements, and you must meet these requirements to avoid violating your probation.

Enlist Government Assistance

Because finding a job after a criminal conviction can be challenging, several government agencies offer assistance. Your local Department of Labor may maintain lists of employers who hire people convicted of crimes, or may refer you to community agencies that can offer assistance. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a bonding program for high-risk employees. While not all job seekers are eligible, contact the Department of Labor to determine whether bonding might help you gain a job with a reluctant employer.

Tailor Your Job Search

You can save time and wasted energy by applying for jobs appropriate for your situation. If you were convicted of stealing money, for example, it's unlikely you'll be able to get a job that requires you to make cash deposits or handle other people's money. Instead, focus on jobs that won't cause your employer to wonder whether or not he can trust you, and research companies' hiring policies before you apply so that you don't waste time on a company that won't hire you.

Explain Your Circumstances

Lying to your potential employer won't help you get a job. Instead, explain that you're on probation and offer a clear and concise explanation of the circumstances. Avoid blaming others, and be sure to highlight ways in which you've changed since the conviction. If, however, your conviction has been expunged, note that you don't have to admit to a criminal conviction and one will not show on a background check.


Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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