Can You Get an IT Job With a Felony? Overcoming Barriers

Landing the right job can be tough. Throw a felony into the mix, and it might feel like you’re attempting to scale Everest in flip-flops. You’re not alone if you’re thinking your past has handcuffed your future career in IT. This post is packed with actionable advice and encouragement that will invite you back into the job market with open arms.

This is not just another pep talk. By the end of this post, you’ll have a toolkit for transforming your job search from mission impossible to mission achievable.

Quick Takeaways: – Target tech jobs at startups and in freelance, cybersecurity, open source, and rapid growth sectors like cloud computing and data analysis where your skills may outweigh your past. – Enhance your resume with IT certifications like CompTIA and Cisco, create a robust online presence with platforms like GitHub, and leverage personal projects to showcase your skills. – Utilize resources such as reentry programs, specialized non-profits, and supportive online communities to find mentorship, network, and access opportunities tailored for individuals with a felony.

Can You Really Land an IT Job with a Felony on Your Record?

Let’s not sugarcoat it: having a felony on your record can be a hefty roadblock when pursuing career opportunities in IT. However, if you’ve got your sights set on this field, don’t throw in the towel just yet. The tech industry is evolving, and with it comes a growing recognition of the power of second chances.

In recent years, we’ve seen a paradigm shift with certain tech giants leading the charge against overbearing employment barriers. Companies like Google, Facebook, and even smaller startups are increasingly open to embracing candidates with unique pasts, including those with felony convictions. And let’s not overlook the growing number of businesses participating in initiatives like the Fair Chance Business Pledge, aimed at reducing recidivism through employment opportunities.

Sure, there are challenges. Background checks are often non-negotiable, and some companies maintain strict policies. However, the rise of remote and freelance work in IT has opened new doors. Skills and talent can overshadow a checkered past when you’re the mastermind solving a company’s urgent tech problems from your home office.

Speaking of success stories, take a look at initiatives such as The Last Mile – a program teaching coding skills to inmates allowing them to dive into tech careers upon release. The success of these individuals highlights a crucial point: with the right skills and a determined mindset, your past does not define your future in the world of IT.

What Are Employers Looking For in IT Candidates?

Dive into any IT job listing, and you’ll spot the usual suspects: proficiency in coding languages, experience with various software, and certifications galore. But let’s focus on the fulcrum of the hiring seesaw: soft skills and cultural fit. You’ve got to mesh well with the team, communicate effectively, and show a problem-solving attitude that turns hurdles into opportunities.

Having a felony might pose questions about reliability or trustworthiness in the minds of potential employers. To tip the scales in your favor, you need to sharpen those soft skills—teamwork, adaptability, resilience—and have stories ready to illustrate them.

One avenue that helps polish your resume is professional certifications. For example, CompTIA and Cisco certifications are gold stars on your application. Moreover, these endorsements often speak louder than your past because they reflect your current capability and dedication.

But here’s the thing—don’t just list your qualifications and experiences. Bring them to life. Show how you’ve positively contributed to projects or teams, perhaps in a scenario where quick thinking turned a potential IT disaster into a smooth-running system. Remember, your objective is to make your felony less of a headline and more of a footnote to a compelling career narrative.

How Should You Present Your Background in Job Applications?

Navigating the job application terrain with a felony is like a delicate dance: honesty is your best lead, but there’s no need to overshare. Your resume and cover letter should focus on your qualifications and the value you bring to the table. The fact is, your background will likely come up, so prepare to address it honestly—but don’t let it be the protagonist of your story.

Consider this strategy: if an application asks about your criminal history, be forthright, but immediately pivot. Frame your past as a chapter of growth that’s led to who you are today—a reliable, skilled professional fired up for new IT challenges.

One thing you might not know—there’s a law that could be in your corner. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires employers to get your consent before conducting a background check and to give you notice if they plan to reject you based on its findings. Use this opportunity to discuss your background in person, allowing you to put a human face on your story.

And here’s a pro tip most overlook: create a compelling online presence. A GitHub profile with active contributions, a personal website showcasing completed projects, or a portfolio on platforms like Behance or Dribbble can be your silent advocate, bolstering your professional image before you even set foot in an interview.

Above all, remember that every sentence in your application should aim to show how you’ve evolved and what you offer now—precision in problem-solving, a knack for innovation, or unwavering dedication. A criminal record is part of your story, but let’s make sure it’s not the headline. Your skills, your growth, and your future in IT rightly deserve that spotlight.

What Types of IT Jobs Might Be More Felony-Friendly?

When you’ve got a felony on your record, knowing where to look for an IT job can feel like navigating a maze with a blindfold. But don’t lose hope—there are sectors in IT that are more open to giving someone with a past conviction a chance to shine.

First, consider that smaller companies and startups often prioritize skills and enthusiasm over background checks. They’re typically more flexible and may value your overall fit with their team and your determination to move forward.

Freelancing also offers a fresh slate for many, as it’s more about what you can deliver than what you’ve done in the past. Many online platforms do not require background checks and focus on your portfolio and customer reviews.

Moreover, certain industries are known for embracing second-chance policies. For instance, tech companies focusing on cybersecurity may value your insight and experience, especially if your conviction is unrelated to theft or fraud. The reasoning is simple: who better to catch a hacker than someone who understands how to think like one?

Open source projects are another avenue where your past is less likely to hinder you. Many projects thrive on community contributions and judge you solely on the quality of your work.

Lastly, keep an eye on the rapidly evolving fields like cloud computing and data analysis. With the demand for skilled workers outpacing supply, companies may be willing to overlook a criminal record for the right expertise.

How Can You Improve Your Chances Despite Your Criminal Record?

Boosting your employability with a criminal record is all about strategy and mindset. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get proactive.

  • Up-skill and Certify: Dive into the ocean of online courses, boot camps, or traditional classes to buff up your IT prowess. Snagging certifications like CompTIA, Cisco’s CCNA, or Microsoft’s MCSA can show you mean business.

  • Network Like There’s No Tomorrow: The power of a solid recommendation can sometimes outweigh your history. Attend IT meetups, join forums, and maybe even throw together a local IT discussion group. You never know who might offer you a lifeline.

  • Seek Mentors and Advocates: Connect with professionals who see your potential over your past. They might guide you, advocate for you, or even offer you an opportunity.

  • Volunteering: Lend your skills to non-profits or small businesses who can’t afford a full IT department. This gives you a chance to shine and rack up real-world experience.

  • Join Supportive Groups: Participate in organizations designed to help people with criminal records, such as Code for America’s Networks. They provide a community and resources to reboot your career path.

And here’s something you might not find on every blog: Start your own technology-related blog or YouTube channel. Sharing your knowledge and engaging with tech enthusiasts can establish you as a knowledgeable figure in the field. Plus, it shows initiative and passion – two things employers love.

Where Can You Find Resources and Support in Your Job Hunt?

The search for the right job with a felony in your backpack may seem daunting, but there are resources out there tailor-made to help you.

  • Reentry Programs: The government has several initiatives aiming to smooth the transition into the workforce, such as the Federal Bonding Program and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which incentivizes employers to hire you.

  • Specialized Non-Profits: Groups like Defy Ventures work towards ending the cycle of incarceration by emphasizing entrepreneurship and employment.

  • Online Communities: Subreddits like r/ExCons are a treasure trove of advice, stories, and opportunities shared by those who’ve walked in similar shoes.

And here’s a golden nugget: Collaborate with local hacker spaces or tech workshops. These are places where sharing, community, and collaboration are the focus, and your background is unlikely to raise eyebrows. It’s hands-on, it’s real, and it’s a fantastic way to meet future colleagues or mentors who will judge you by your circuit boards, not by your court documents.

Remember, it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know—and who believes in you. Each step you take can lead to a door you never knew existed. Stay focused, stay dedicated, and let’s get those IT dreams back on track!

Alex_profile image

Alex is the founder of GoTechCareer, a platform dedicated to empowering job seekers with valuable insights and advice for navigating the tech industry. With years of experience transitioning between tech roles, Alex shares in-depth knowledge and personal learnings aimed at helping others secure their ideal position in the tech sector.