Career Resources for the Formerly Incarcerated
The Cawley Career Education Center, and Georgetown University more broadly, are committed to helping students at Georgetown find gainful and satisfying employment, and promoting the well-being of all students in our community. Our goal is to create an environment in which all students, and returning citizen students in particular, feel heard, supported, and empowered in their lifelong career development journey.
To this end, we’ve compiled resources to guide you through the career exploration process, build a plan for your job search, and consider how to tell the story of your incarceration as well as your many other identities and experiences in the application and interview process. If you have questions about any of the resources or how to access them, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
These resources are organized by the elements of our career development cycle:
The Career Development Cycle
You can start anywhere on the cycle, and you’ll keep moving through it in different ways throughout your career and life. Let’s jump in.
Introspection & Self-Exploration
It can be challenging to understand what you like and are good at, and to translate those things into career ideas and a plan for what’s next. The tools below can help you think about your story and begin to make connections to professional interests.
Let’s start with a few reflective questions:
- As I think about my next steps, what are my questions and concerns?
- What are my starting points as I think about what I’m looking for – an issue I want to address in my work, a place I’d like to live, something I know I’m pretty good at?
- What people or practices have helped me when I’ve made other big decisions?
- How has being on the inside strengthened my resilience? In what ways have I grown or developed?
Below are resources you can use to explore further.
Exploring Skills & Strengths
You can use skills and strengths assessments – and conversations with people who know you well – to build language around what skills and strengths you have. Once you are aware and able to identify your skills and strengths, you can use them to find a match for a job that uses them frequently.
CareerOneStop Skills Matcher – helps you identify your skills and what careers could be a good match
Motivated Skills Inventory – you can respond to several skills and sort by what you can and want to do.
CliftonStrengths – an assessment to help you name and use your natural strengths in a variety of settings. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Pivot Fellows will use the DiSC assessment as another way to understand how their skills can translate into the community. If you are not participating in a PJI program and would like more information about skills and personality assessments, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you choose a career that matches your interests, you’re more likely to enjoy and thrive in your job. It can be helpful to consider your interests in a variety of contexts—recreational, professional, and academic. What do you like to do for fun? What was your favorite job or volunteer activity? Any of these might be relevant when thinking about potential careers.
An interest assessment can help you identify careers that meet your interests. Interest assessments usually ask you a series of questions about what you like and don’t like to do and compare your answers with the answers of people who enjoy their jobs. See below for an assessment to try if it is difficult to name your interests.
CareerOneStop Interest Assessment – Click this link to start an assessment to explore your interests. Choose ‘Start Assessment’ and then use the check marks to note how much the statements describe you. Use the ‘Next’ button to continue to explore.
O*Net My Next Move Interest Explorer – Follow the instructions on the screen to gauge your interests. Use the ‘Next’ button to navigate through the assessment.
Values are your beliefs about what is important to you in life and work. When your values line up with how you live and work, you tend to feel more satisfied and confident. Living or working in ways that contradict your values can lead to dissatisfaction, confusion, and discouragement. Clarifying your values and understanding how they connect to various work environments can help you identify your definition of meaningful work.
CareerOneStop Work Values Matcher – The Work Values Matcher is a quick card sort exercise that asks you to rank statements to define your ideal job. Your choices indicate your top values. Click ‘Get Started’ to begin.
Good Work Values Spreadsheet – Scroll down to “Values” for instructions and how to get started.
In order to decide what industries or jobs you are interested in or curious about, you need to do a little research and learn about what is out there. Gathering information about what jobs exist is all about being well-informed so that you feel more confident in your decision making processes. Through online resources and informational conversations with others, you can gather more information about particular job paths and compare ideas you already have to really see what would be a good fit for you.
CareerOneStop Learn About Careers – CareerOneStop has a fantastic section of their website on what careers exist, certain career clusters to explore, and understanding what jobs are in demand.
LinkedIn Alumni Search – You can access thousands of Georgetown grads, including Pivot graduates, on linkedin. Click around on the filters or plug in a job title to check out experiences of others.
FirstHand – You can use this resource (formerly called Vault) to explore many different industries and career paths that exist. This site allows you to learn about the history of a job, the personality traits and skills needed to succeed, and even the average earnings. All you need to do is log in with your Georgetown netid and password to get full access.
Alternatives to Traditional Employment – You may want to explore possible career paths outside of “traditional employment” such as entrepreneurship or becoming an independent contractor.
Preparing Your Job Search Materials – Resumes & Cover Letters
Preparing a resume and cover letter for a job can be one of the most challenging parts of the job search process, particularly for justice-affected students whose experience may be related to a criminal record, who have held jobs during their time inside, or who have gaps between experiences.
The goal of the resume and cover letter is to help you tell a clear and relevant story of your experiences, professional and personal. We hope the resources below will help you to illustrate a picture of who you are and what you care about, all while applying best practices based on what employers are looking for.
Resume preparation presentation – Check out this presentation created for Pivot Fellows on how to write an effective and impactful resume.
Resume Samples – check out these annotated resume samples to get an idea of how you can formulate your bullet points and summary statement. These samples contain an example of a position held while incarcerated as well as a variety of volunteer or community-based role examples.
Skills-based Resume Template (fillable) – you can make a copy of this resume template to start building out a skills-based resume. A skills-based resume can emphasize themes that run through a variety of experiences and de-emphasize gaps in work experience.
Cover Letter Format Guide – Review this format guide to explore how to best format your cover letter and what type of information should be included in it
Cover Letter Sample – Check out this sample cover letter to explore how a completed cover letter might look and how you can format your experiences.
When writing your resume and cover letter, you can incorporate a range of experiences, both paid and unpaid, to demonstrate your professional narrative. These experiences could include volunteering, positions held while incarcerated, gig work or contract work, community organizing or engagement, advocacy, entrepreneurship, leadership roles in groups, coursework completed, or certificate programs.
Even during periods of time that you might think of as “gaps” due to incarceration or unemployment, consider where you may have developed transferable skills, completed coursework or independent learning, or held a job while incarcerated. Talk with a friend, mentor, or staff member about how to share an accurate but positive and relevant story on your documents. Take a look at the “Disclosing Your Status” resources at the bottom of this page for more information.
Networking & Making Connections
No matter who you are, or what you are interested in, networking can help you navigate career development as you explore interests or pursue specific opportunities. Whether it takes place in a formal setting like a career fair or informally while talking with a classmate, you can gain valuable insight by learning from the experiences of others.
One of the most important things about networking is that you get to define what it means and looks like to you. Our sample networking questions illustrate that you can pursue conversations with others even if you’re not sure what you want to do professionally; all you need to start are some thoughtful questions.
You can start to build your network by reflecting on who you are already connected to. The following categories can be helpful as you are thinking about this.
- Friends and family, community members, neighbors
- Faculty, staff on campus, coaches, and teachers (present and former)
- Classmates, peers, and alumni (peers may have recently navigated a decision or process you are walking through now)
- LinkedIn, Twitter, email lists, and other social media platforms
- Former co-workers and supervisors
You can build upon this list to find others who can help you. To build new connections within and beyond your Georgetown community, you can check out these resources:
Georgetown Networking Resources
Hoya Gateway – This is a database of Georgetown alumni who are willing to help with career conversations and connections. Any certificate or degree-seeking Georgetown student with a NetID can create an account.
LinkedIn Alumni Search – You can search and filter through over 130,000 Georgetown alumni to get ideas or reach out for a networking conversation.
Additional Networking Resources
CareerOnestop Networking Guide – A run-down on how to set up and conduct informational interviews, which are networking conversations to help you learn about a job or career field.
Networking questions bank – Our list of questions you might consider asking as part of a networking conversation. Find two or three questions you like to help you get started.
Applying for Jobs & Opportunities
There are many places to find great jobs and opportunities. Explore widely; don’t limit yourself to opportunities branded specifically for returning citizens. Below are a few of our favorite platforms for finding and applying for opportunities.
General job search platforms
Idealist – mission driven organizations and opportunities. You can filter by issue area – everything from environmental issues to prison reform. or what problems you feel passionately about solving.
Job search platforms related to justice-affected status
Second Chance Business Coalition – Organizations with stated openness to justice-impacted applicants
Honest Jobs and 70 Million Jobs – Platforms that connect justice-impacted folks with jobs
General Step by Step Guides to Support Employment
- Employment Information Handbook for Ex-Offenders
- Root & Rebound Roadmap to Re-entry
- Second Chance Re-entry: Resources for Career Support
- Indeed Job Search Guide for People with Convictions
Disclosing Your Status to Employers
It can be very stressful to decide when and how to share your status as a justice-impacted individual. However, it is extremely important that you are honest in your resume, and throughout your application and interview processes. Everything that makes its way onto your resume should be accurate.
Resources for disclosing your status on resumes, applications, or interviews
- Prison Fellowship Resume Guide: How to write a resume with a criminal record
- Successful Release: Writing your resume with a felony conviction
- CHRON Article: How to explain prison absence on a resume
- Presenting your Best Self in Interviews
- How to Prepare for my Employer’s Questions about my Criminal Record
Additional Support at Georgetown
The Georgetown Pivot Program is a business and entrepreneurship-oriented reentry program in partnership with the DC Department of Employment Services. If you wish to get in contact with the individuals facilitating this program, you can check out their webpage or contact them through their website.
The MORCA-Georgetown Paralegal Program is an intensive 16-week program for returning citizens. Participating Fellows earn a certificate in Paralegal Studies from Georgetown, and, after completing their training, Fellows are matched with top law firms and other employers in DC for one-year paid fellowships. For more information, visit the program’s website.
The Prison Scholars Program offers courses for people incarcerated at the DC Jail and in Maryland state prisons, ensuring that all residents at the facility have the opportunity to pursue higher education. If you wish to learn more about this program, check out the Prison and Justice Initiative website.
Georgetown undergraduates and Pivot Fellows can meet with the Cawley Career Education Center staff to discuss questions, concerns, or your personal/professional narrative. The best place to start is our drop-in appointments. Graduate students have their own career center and should reach out to the Grad Career Center for more information on appointments and resources.
We hope the information on this page has been helpful to you. Again, if you have questions about the process or how to access resources, please reach out to email@example.com.