Q: I was in information technology, but I committed a really stupid tech crime that tarnished my career. I had received several years of excellent reviews and a promotion with salary increases. A new boss came on board and we did not see eye to eye, so he let me go for "having a difference in philosophy."
I was angry, so from a remote location after I left, I deleted my work files. I was caught and pleaded guilty to a felony charge. I had never done anything like that, so I sent a written apology to the company and went into counseling. I was given probation, but the felony stands on my record.
I am looking for a new job now. I have excellent communication skills and had a good work history up to that point in my career. When I interviewed, I was transparent about my situation, but most employers backed off when they heard what I had done. With the negative results of being honest, I decided to explain my record only if I was offered a job. What changed was that the companies rescinded their offers when I told them about the felony.
I am good at what I do, and I have faced and dealt with my anger that led to me being vindictive. What can I say to convince someone I would never do anything like that again?
A: Unfortunately, it's impossible to make a promise with that kind of certainty. A person can say he or she would never act on extreme anger again, but no one knows what will happen if a similar situation arises. Human behavior isn't 100 percent predictable.
Getting interviews and job offers with a felony on your record make a job search far more difficult. Many large companies have strict rules about not hiring anyone with a criminal record. The liability is too great. Of course, you are not the first to feel such anger at being let go. You were doing well in your job and seemingly the new boss ruined it for you. But as an IT professional with a criminal record, you are in a worse situation than some other types of crimes. IT professionals can be placed in charge of sensitive information. Consider the privacy breaches large companies have experienced, along with the public apologies they've had to make, and the liability they face, even with safeguards in place. It's understandable that HR departments and hiring managers would be concerned of history repeating itself.
Focus your job search on small companies that are likely to have a harder time finding IT talent due to lower salaries and smaller benefit packages. Though you may have to forgo these job features for the moment, managers at smaller firms may have more freedom in their hiring choices. This is where networking (the art and finesse of conversations to create connections) may save you.
Do not discuss your felony in your cover letter or on your resume. It is not your duty nor is it appropriate to broadcast it. Find out as much as you can about a company to write a solid cover letter. Even though some employers may not closely read these letters, it's a chance for your show your writing ability and knowledge of business etiquette.
When you interview, emphasize your experience and commitment to the company's goals. Fully answer the questions, tying in your related interests. Present a confident and relaxed self to create a connection with your interviewer. Interviews are not just about skills and where you see yourself in five or 10 years. If you are asked routine questions, think of ways to show you're a multifaceted person, as well as a professional who values his or her work accomplishments. You want to leave an interview feeling good about yourself and your ability to let the potential boss get to know you. If you receive an offer, you are halfway there. Small companies appreciate the individual. When you meet with the interviewer again, you can then explain the details surrounding your leaving your previous company.
If a hiring manager feels good about you and is willing to give you a second chance, he or she will probably want your felony conviction to be kept quiet to avoid office gossip. Empathy does exist in the workplace. You may just have to look a little harder to find it.
Email career coach [email protected] with your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.