Unfortunately, many felons have a difficult time finding work. Their criminal record strikes them from consideration before a prospective employer even considers their qualifications. And convicted felons are ineligible for many licenses that are a required to obtain certain jobs. Some felons have luck working with a re-entry counselor, a job-placement professional who navigates the challenges for them. Whether you work with a re-entry counselor or alone, knowing what work you can take will help you find a decent job.
Felons who are otherwise qualified can usually work in construction. The federal government sometimes offers fidelity bonds to construction companies for hiring felons, so that if owners lose money because of employee misbehavior, the government helps compensate them.
If you're experienced in construction, you may not have to start at an entry level. Even you aren't experienced, construction is one industry where you can receive promotions rather quickly if they're available, despite a criminal record. Productivity and craftsmanship are recognized above and beyond your past. The work may be physically difficult or mentally tedious, but the pay is better than many other jobs, and your work is measured on its own merit.
Trade work, such as plumbing, electrical work or carpentry framing, is also a possibility. You may have to begin at an apprentice level if you don't have experience in this type of work, but, like construction, the pay is fair and advancement is possible. Some states require licenses in order to advertise your services at a certain level, even if you're only making claims to prospective employers. Check with your parole or probation officer to see what regulations your state has.
Most creative freelancers, like graphic designers, writers, and set or fashion stylists, never undergo a background check. Your industry value is based around your portfolio of work, so compiling a book or website of results with some introductory client information will matter more than if you've had legal issues. Creative freelancing is usually easiest from metropolitan areas where clients are large enough to offer reasonable budgets, but since most of this work is done off-site, you may be able to work remotely. Some people ask prospective creative hires to work for free at first. If the job is advertised as a job, this request is unethical and sometimes unlawful. Feel free to say no and report the business to your local labor department.
Felons can obtain cosmetology licenses in almost all states and work as hairdressers, nail technicians or both. Some states require that you disclose the conviction and any postjudgment issues, so be sure to learn your state's rules. Cosmetology work requires that you have a state license, but once your license is in hand, you can work on your own, at a salon or by keeping your own book and partnering with a salon.
Anyone can start her own business and be the boss. Felons may have a harder time making a new small business work, because they are dealing with other issues, like rebuilding relationships, paying off high debt or handling emotional problems. You may also find that you work best in a structured environment with a guaranteed paycheck. But you may find that the flexibility and lack of social pressure or judgment actually make life and work easier.