Are you interested in information technology (IT) jobs, but are worried no one will hire you because of a past felony?
While it is true that well paying, white collar jobs are very hard, if not impossible to get into for a felon, things are a little different in the IT field. Because of a new initiative, called “Fair Chance Business Pledge” that was launched by the White House in April 2016, a number of very large tech companies, have pledged NOT to discriminate against applicants who have a felony.
These are the companies that are currently willing to hire people with a felony on their record:
Apple, Google, AT&T, IBM, Sony, Tesla, Xerox, Compaq Computer, Dell Corporation. Other companies on this list are Boeing, Kohl’s and United Airlines, all of which have large IT departments.
What this means in practical terms is that these companies will evaluate your application and will give you a fair shot at the job based on your qualifications, education and experience. You will not be automatically rejected because you have a felony.
So if you already have training in IT, or are planning to pursue it, you should know that you will have work opportunities available. You should also keep in mind, that IT is one of the most competitive fields to get into, so you have to have very strong skills to be selected.
Why a Felon Should Pursue a Career in IT?
Growing Job Sector: IT continues to experience more growth than other fields, which means that new jobs are constantly being created. In 2016, online job search engine, Monster, identified applications/software developers as one of the 10 fastest-growing job titles for 2016.
High Pay: IT industry is so competitive because of the high salaries it offers. Starting pay is at least $20-25/hr, and average pay is about $35-45/hr
Employers care MOST about your ability to get the job done. This means that if you work hard and have solid skills, you can be successful. You personal history will not be of primary importance to many employers.
No need for a prestigious college degree. Again because employers place the emphasis on skills and results, many are not looking for you to have a B.A. in computer science of engineering from a top university. This means you can take online courses, get an online associates or BA degree, etc. If you are willing to work hard and teach yourself, you can be as good as someone who has an expensive 4-year degree.
Felons learning to Code:
3 Tips on Passing the Interview
In addition to demonstrating that you are qualified for the job you need to be prepared and proactive about discussing your felony. Here is what you can do to create the best impression and convince the HR manager why they should hire you.
1. Be Honest. It is best to honestly state that you have a felony during the initial interview. Briefly explain what happened and make it a point to describe in detail how you have changed and become a better person after this experience. This may be the factor that determines whether or not you will be hired. The worst thing you can do is not to disclose your felony and just let the HR find out about it through the Background Check. In this case, the chances of you getting that job will be slim to none.
2. Get rid of visible tattoos. Having gang-related and anti-social tattoos is one of the top factors that prevents many felons from landing a job. Remember, the HR manager is looking to see if you have made the transition from the prison-world back to society, and visible tattoos will not work in your favor. There are numerous tattoo removal programs in different states that will help you remove your tattoos free of charge.
3. Understand the background check. Yes, there will be a background check. However, more and more IT companies are willing to consider the details of a particular case, such as: 1. how long ago was your felony. 2. what crime you committed 3. whether or not you are a repeat offender. 4. whether your crime is in any way related to the job you are applying for. Hopefully, all of these factors can play in your favor, especially if you have been very honest and forthcoming about your past.
Watch this video for more ideas:
Other Job opportunities in IT
In addition to trying to get a job with one of the big companies listed above, don’t lose sight of other viable opportunities in IT.
Small companies: there are hundreds of small to mid-size companies that either offer IT services and/or have IT departments. In particular, they are located in the Silicon Valley, and in the following tech hubs across the USA:
3. Burlington, VT
4. Austin, TX
5. Fort Collins, CO
6. Provo, UT
7. Corvallis, OR,
8. San Francisco and the Bay Area
9. Boulder, CO
10. New York
Start-ups: while a start-up may not pay as well as an established company, they may be more willing to overlook your personal history if you have the skills they are looking for. Also, people that work in start-ups are often times more approachable and understanding of different circumstances, as compared to HR Managers in larger companies, where there many rules, policies and protocols that need to be followed. Cities that have very large numbers of start-ups are San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, San Jose, Boulder, Colorado, Nashville, Tennessee
Internships: while this is not ideal, especially if you are pressed for money, starting your IT career with an internship may be a good way to get your foot in the door. This will give you something great to put on your resume and will be another reason to overlook your felony.
Consulting/Freelancing: one of the best ways to find success in IT and avoid getting turned down from jobs because of your felony is to start your own freelancing IT business. There many niches to choose from, such web development, app development, design, computer repair, database administrator, etc. All you need is your skills and one or two first satisfied clients who will serve as great references for future jobs. Successful consultants can make $120K or more.
Making Career Plans While Still in Prison
If you are still serving your sentence but are looking into career opportunities to pursue once you get out, you can start learning an IT skill, while still in prison. If you are incarcerated in California, ask about a program called Code.7370, which trains prisoners in HTML, Ruby on Rails, CSS, Python and other technologies. This program has been started by a none profit organization, called The Last Mile, which has partnered with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide prisoners IT training and skills that can help them get a job in this hot industry.
If you are not in California, you should inquire about IT training opportunities that may be available to you. If there are none, you can take online self-training Tech Job Courses on Udemy.com ($15 SALE). Many beginners course are free. These are a great way to try out programming or design, to see if this is something you like and are good at.