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How can I find a job after being convicted of felony theft?

Tuesday March 9, 2010
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Dear Donna,

I have been an RN since 1977. In March 2005, I was convicted of a felony that changed my life. It was for theft related to a bank error. I didn’t know the criminal system, signed away my rights and wound up being sent to prison after a judge was angry at my inability to make restitution.

I am grateful in many ways for what happened because it made me a better person. I was able to get my license reinstated and do not have any stipulations except for having to have a supervisor “in house” during my working hours. I do not have a drug or alcohol problem and never had been in trouble before. I had a good work history at the hospital where I worked before this happened, but they will not call me back.

I have to get a job and am at the end of my rope. What should I do? I was interviewed by a hospital in December for a position in the NICU and even had a peer interview, but they didn’t call me back or return my calls.


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Pam,

In this type of situation, you will need to rely more on networking than traditional job searching. Everyone deserves a second chance, but your criminal record might scare off potential employers unless they receive a personal recommendation from someone or first get to know you through other channels.

You need to make phone calls to anyone and everyone you know both in and out of healthcare, including former co-workers, supervisors and physicians. Ask for referrals, introductions and recommendations.

Read “Picking Up the Pieces of Your Career” (http://news.nurse.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2002206010310). As the article suggests, get active in professional associations, if only by attending meetings as a guest. If NICU is your preferred specialty, attend local meetings of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (www.nann.org). You also could do the same with your state chapter of the American Nurses Association.

Likewise, you should volunteer somewhere now while you continue to look for paid employment. Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door somewhere, make valuable contacts, and have recent relevant experience to put on a resume. Besides, volunteering often leads to paid employment. Consider Planned Parenthood, free clinics, blood banks, etc.

If necessary, you may want to consult a career coach – preferably a nurse career coach – to help you. Find a nurse coach by getting a referral through your state nurses association (whether or not you are a member), getting a referral from the International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org) or by doing an Internet search for “RN career coach."

When you can’t get in the front door, try the back door. With some patience, persistence, determination and a more proactive approach to job seeking, you will be able to get to where you want to be. Move forward in faith.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/asktheexperts/deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.