I Want to Feel Normal Again, by Michael Neubig
Michael Neubig is a member of our online White Collar Support Group that meets on Zoom on Monday evenings. I read this important post on his LinkedIn page, and thought he truly captured the spirit of of our group and movement. I reached out to him and in our conversation he said that when he first attended our support group meeting, he “finally felt normal again”. I understand. Thank you Mike for your poignant words and permission to republish your piece. — Jeff
I am a part of the population of Justice Impacted White Collar individuals. For the last five years I have attempted to overcome poor decisions that broke the trust of and hurt many people close to me. These decisions led to me being fired from my own start up as CEO and an eventual felony conviction. Events like this take one to rock bottom, require self-reflection and personal change that involves a significant amount of work. The goal of personal change is not only to make recompense to those affected by our actions, but also to become a productive member of society. I desire to engage in meaningful work where I can apply positive skills and experience with what is learned from personal growth. Even if that means starting at the bottom of the organization.
Unfortunately, my experience has demonstrated employment as a White-Collar Justice Impacted individual is very difficult to achieve. I have engaged in hundreds of interviews, had offers rescinded, been fired after starting the position and experienced a lot of negative response and silence when revealing my past.
I have found my employment experience to be common for many of the others I have met who attend Jeff Grant’s White Collar Support Group on Monday evenings. Even though we are tremendously remorseful, have been punished for our actions, and have rebuilt our lives in every other way, there is virtually nowhere for us to go professionally.
I would summarize the feedback I/we receive with a general response of, “our other employees don’t trust people like you”, “you were the most deserving candidate, but not after finding this out”, “I am sure someone else will be willing to provide you a 2nd chance, but not us”. The responses are almost always followed by a canned email denial without a specific reason.
There is meaningful work occurring in the U.S. focused on 2nd chance employment. Many are start-ups engaged in connecting those with convictions to employers willing to provide 2nd chance hiring. Honest Jobs, 70 Million Jobs and more. BUT, my experience is that there is a tremendous lack of focus and resources matching the White Collar Justice Impacted to professional jobs where our background, skills and passions can be best used.
Those that committed White Collar Crimes did so for many of the identical reasons as other criminal behavior. Including childhood trauma, physical and emotional neglect/abuse, low self-esteem, high levels of shame, poor communication skills, poor decisions under pressure and more. Therefore, these individuals deserve the same assistance for 2nd chance employment.
I am writing this post in hopes that those like Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Uptrust, Nucleos, Inc, The Change Companies, Checkr, Inc., FUSE Corps who are working on reducing incarceration and furthering equality and 2nd chance hiring initiatives, can pull together and provide resources/assistance to the Justice Impacted White Collar Community. — Mike Neubig