Many ex-offenders struggle when they are asked to consider their existing skills. That might be because they have an extensive criminal record, have served dozens of prison sentences and may never have held down a legitimate job. If this applies to you, fear not, because during those prison or community sentences, and even whilst engaging in criminal activity, you have put to use a number of skills and probably acquired new ones along the way.
Reflect for a while; think about all the prison and community sentences you may have served. Did you work whilst in prison? Did you take part in educational courses? Did you workout in the gym, or take any courses related to physical fitness or training? What about courses relating to your offending behaviour, you must, at some point, have taken part in those? Have you ever been a prison listener? Have you helped other prisoners with literacy issues read and write letters?
Think about all the things you may have done in the past, and then consider which skills are needed to carry out those tasks.
Working whilst in prison not only requires organisational ability, but the ability to work as part of a team. Furthermore, you will also have needed the ability to follow directions. In fact, in some prisons, work is only allocated to those who are deemed trustworthy- the trustees, they can be relied upon to complete a task effectively and with minimum supervision. A prison listener, must of course, be a good listener, and helping other prisoners with their letters requires good communication skills and patience. Take a look at all those skills..
Works well in a team.
Able to take and follow instructions carefully.
Requires minimum supervision.
Patience with others.
For ex-offenders who have previously enjoyed a career, a professional life, the transition to joblessness because of a criminal record can be devastating. Initially, some people can't see past the fact that all their training and education can no longer be utilized in the career of their choice. But the good news is, that skill set may be highly valued in a different role, a role where your criminal record is not as important as the experience you bring to the job.
Obviously, the number of professions where skills, experience and qualifications overlap are far too numerous to mention here. However, this is a really important exercise to undertake- you need to think about where your skills and education might be valuable, even if, albeit, in a completely different role.
A number crunching account with a criminal record may not be trusted with other people's money again, but they'll have more than enough experience to teach arithmetic to adults, or deliver courses about using spread sheets, or write an e-book about tax law. Did you notice that those roles involve working with adults, or making your own employment?
Although not always the case, in the UK many of the jobs that are exempt form the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (we'll come to that soon) involve working with vulnerable people and children, or belong to one of the professions. However, there are a number of roles which involve working with adults who are not considered vulnerable, and who may require knowledge and expertise which you can provide.