Do not let having a criminal record stop you from looking for work in New Zealand. No one is perfect. In fact, as humans, we’re all fundamentally flawed. We all make mistakes. If you’re reading this it’s likely you made a mistake that resulted in a criminal record. If you find yourself in this position, you might be concerned about how this may affect your future employment. While there are some jobs you may be precluded from working in, there are more than enough options open to allow you to have a fulfilling career. It’s definitely not all doom and gloom – and there’s plenty of opportunity – so there’s no need to stress.
Whatever you did was in the past, and now it’s time to look forward to your future. You have the right and the chance to work and experience success in your chosen career field. So, whether it was a minor driving offense, or something more serious, if you’re at the point of looking for a job then you’ve probably taken responsibility and made amends for whatever it is that you did. Now it’s time to focus on what’s ahead of you, and how you can find a job that you’re going to love and that will give you the lifestyle you want.
So here they are – our best tips for finding a job with a criminal record.
- Know your rights
You don’t always have to tell potential employers about your criminal history in New Zealand. A few examples of that include:
- If you are not asked about your criminal record.
- If you were convicted as a juvenile and are now an adult.
- If your arrest doesn’t result in a conviction or in going to jail in New Zealand.
- If a certain number of years have passed since your conviction.
Your best bet is definitely to be honest, but listen to and read questions carefully. You only need to disclose convictions that they specifically ask about.
- You may be eligible for a Clean Slate
While you do not have to tell a prospective employer about criminal convictions if not specifically asked, you do not want to hide anything that may influence a potential employer’s decision to hire you. Things like dishonesty and violence am employer someone needs to know. Being honest about these things shows you are willing to take responsibility for past mistakes.
You may be eligible to wipe the slate clean in New Zealand. You may qualify under the Clean Slate rules if you have:
- not had a conviction in the past 7 years
- not been imprisoned
- have no sexual offence convictions
- paid all outstanding court-ordered costs
- not been indefinitely disqualified from driving
- not been hospitalised instead of going to prison because of your mental state.
Not everyone will judge you based on your past. In fact, a lot of employers understand past mistakes and can give you a chance when you are open and honest with them right from the start.
- Know which offences are on your record
Based on the above information, you now know that the nature of your conviction matters. Certain types of convictions may disqualify you from working in certain industries. For example, if you were convicted for an offence related to finances, it’s unlikely you will find a job in banking or insurance. The fields that are hardest to get into if you have a related conviction are jobs working with children, jobs with financial responsibility or government related jobs requiring security clearances. Your best bet is to consider the relationship between your offence and the job, and focus on industries not related to your conviction. If you are unlikely to be considered for jobs requiring social interaction or handling money, think about “behind the scenes” type roles in maintenance, upkeep, restocking shelves etc.
Before you start looking for a job, you can check your criminal record with the New Zealand Government’s Department of Justice.
- Use personal connections
Ask your friends and family if they know of anyone who might be hiring. If so, ask if they would be willing to put in a good word for you and advocate on your behalf. An employer is more likely to hire you if they hear good things about you from someone they know and trust. Your friend or family member could write a letter, or call their contact. They could cover points like how long they have known you, what type of person they know you to be, or how you’ve learnt your lesson and changed since your conviction.
It’s also worth building up a social media profile that reflects you in a positive light. In many cases, having personal connections online can land you a job. Build a professional profile on LinkedIn and make sure any other social media accounts reflect the same professional personal brand. Join associations affiliated with the industry you are interested in. They may hold meetings where you can get to know people in the field.
- Start small and work your way up
Employers might be reluctant to give you a lot of responsibility at first. However, that same person may be willing to give you a chance in a lower-paid position, or even as a volunteer. You can use these chances to demonstrate that you are a trustworthy and reliable worker. You might be overqualified for the job, but it can give you time to build up your resume and make up for any potential gaps in your work experience if you were incarcerated. It will also give you the chance to make a good impression on your superiors, who may be willing to vouch for your character when you apply for future positions.
- Employ yourself
Do you have any marketable skills or abilities? If so you might be able to create your own opportunities. What are you good at? Do you have maintenance or gardening skills? People are more likely to hire trade-based contractors based on the quality of their work, not their past. Why not become a skilled labourer? Or join a trade and become an electrician or plumber.
Some professions will require you to attain a professional licence, and this process may require you to disclose your criminal record; however, a conviction alone is usually not enough to stop you from getting a licence, especially if your conviction was a long time ago.
As a self-employed contractor in New Zealand, you will be responsible for meeting your own tax obligations. You can control how, when and who you work for, and are solely responsible for getting the work done. There may be a capital outlay when you start if you have to buy the equipment you need for the job. Also, remember, you will be responsible for your own ongoing training. This can be a great solution, but you may need to work another job while you are getting your business off the ground.