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I can’t get a job because of a felony conviction

Q: I have a felony conviction for possession of marijuana—I was 18 at the time. Every time I fill out a job application, I feel as if I don’t even get an interview because I have to check the ‘yes’ box next to the question about convictions. How can I deal with this? I need to work!

A: Move to Colorado? You need to make the case for a reformed life at the same time you complete a job application. Craft a short but persuasive letter that makes the following points:

  • Your felony at the age of 18 was for marijuana possession, x number of years ago.
  • You were wrong and irresponsible and you’ve paid your debt to society.
  • You’ve neither used nor possessed marijuana or any drug since. (I’m presuming this is true.)
  • You firmly hold to an adult ethical code.

Cite the names and contact information of your three most credible references (perhaps your pastor, an attorney and a police officer) who can vouch for your character. Even better, include letters from them.

Have this letter and letters of reference nicely printed and professionally packaged, and attach to your application. And, whenever possible, try to get an interview prior to the application process, so you can make the most favorable impression. 

Regardless of the nature of the job (manual or otherwise), show up clean-cut, well-shaven and in suit and tie (my uncle once was selected out of a long line of applicants because he was the only guy wearing a suit). Look as straight as an arrow. You want to visually counter the stereotype of a pot-smoking loser to the nth degree.

If, with all this evidence, a potential employer rejects you, what the heck—he can put it in his pipe and smoke it (so to speak). Move on.

Your will to work, credible references and fervent prayer for the Holy Spirit to lead you, sooner or later, will do the trick. Most important, DON’T GIVE UP. You’re better positioned than Joseph the patriarch. He was sold as a slave to the Egyptians, but, through righteousness and God’s favor, was lifted to the highest post in a foreign land. “Gold is tested by fire and chosen men, in the furnace of humiliation.” (Sirach 2:5).