The Mona Lisa of Your Career: How to Write a Resume for Second-Chance Hiring

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Do you need to write a resume, but you have a criminal background?

You may have heard of the famous Italian Renaissance artist, scientist, and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. Considered one of the most brilliant minds of his time, da Vinci is best known for his paintings, which include the Mona Lisa, shown above.

But did you know da Vinci also created the first résumé?

Sometime around 1481 or 1482, Leonardo was looking for a job (he may have been a genius, but he had to make a living!). He wrote a letter to a wealthy nobleman in Milan, seeking work as a military engineer. Da Vinci began the letter by explaining his goals, then went on to list his experience and qualifications.

Many historians believe this is the oldest-known example of a résumé!

(By the way, it worked – the nobleman hired da Vinci, and later commissioned him to create one of the most famous paintings of all time, The Last Supper.)

How to Write a Resume With a Criminal Background

If you’re looking for a job and you have a felony conviction or otherwise problematic past, writing a résumé can be a real challenge. You may not have any recent work history, or it might be the first time you’ve ever tried to write a résumé at all.

Don’t worry – we’re here to help! Here are three easy steps to creating your résumé.

1. Be Like Leonardo

A résumé doesn’t have to be complicated, even if you’re writing a résumé with a criminal background. Start by writing down your goals: what do you want to do? Where do you see yourself in one year, five years, and ten years? What kinds of work appeal to you? Do you like to work with your hands, or are you more focused on technology? Do you prefer an office environment, or do you like working outside?

The only limits are those you place on yourself! Don’t be afraid to ask and answer this question: If I could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Next, make a list of any jobs you’ve had, in the order you had them. There may be some big gaps, if you were unemployed for a time, or if you were incarcerated. That’s okay! It’s important to at least write down what experience you have. Write the dates if you can remember them, or just the years if you can’t.

What if you don’t have any work experience? You still have some options. If you participated in any work-release or prison industries programs while incarcerated, write those down. You shouldn’t be ashamed or try to hide it – in fact, that honesty will go a long way with most employers, and show that you’ve committed to changing yourself for the better.

Other types of experience you can list are any volunteering you’ve done, whether through a house of worship or a community organization. Even court-ordered community service work counts! If you’d like to get more volunteer experience, there are literally hundreds of organizations near you who would love to have you join them, even if only for a few weeks. Volunteering is also a great way to network and make new connections who can help you find a job!

2. Find a Template

Now it’s time to take what you’ve written down and put it in the form of a professional-looking résumé.

Rather than try to explain the finer points of doing this, we think it will be more helpful for you to use a pre-existing template. Here’s some great news: there are THOUSANDS of résumé templates online, and many of them are 100 percent FREE!

First, you’ll want to make sure you have a Google account and access to Google Docs (both are free). Sign up for a Google account here, and then launch Google Docs in any web browser. If you need help creating a Google account or using Google Docs, check with your local library or visit the Google Workspace Learning Center. If video is more up your alley, here’s a short video to help you get started.

Next, download a free résumé template. There are so many places to find these, we’ve narrowed down a list for you:

3. Review with a Mentor

Before you start sending your résumé to prospective employers, it’s a good idea to have someone else go over it with you.

A great choice for this is anyone in your life whom you consider a mentor. This could be a spiritual leader like a pastor, rabbi, or imam, for example. You can also ask a counselor you’ve worked with, or even a close friend who has a successful career in a field that interests you. 

Still having trouble finding someone to look over your résumé? We’ll again point you to a great resource: your local public library. You’ll also find free, expert help at your state labor office (the folks who issue unemployment benefits). 

Cornbread Hustle is Here to Help You

Here’s some more great news: Cornbread Hustle can help you find a background-friendly job right now, for free! You don’t need a résumé at all. We have jobs for all backgrounds, from felony convictions to people in recovery.

Start your search here and apply for a job in your area that works for you. If you can’t find a good fit, let us help – fill out a CBH Applicant form here, and one of our caring recruiters will get in touch.

We are excited to help you get back to work!