A criminal charge can cast a dark cloud over your career, but it doesn’t have to define your professional future. With the right response, you can get your charges reduced, dropped, or ruled untrue. But in order to proactively address your charge, you need a specific plan.
The Impact of Criminal Charges on Your Career
Let’s not sugarcoat this: Being charged and convicted of a crime will have an adverse impact on your career opportunities. It will present unique challenges that you must proactively deal with – otherwise, you will be hindered by them.
Here are some of the potential impacts:
- Fewer educational opportunities. Did you know that certain criminal convictions actually make you temporarily ineligible for federal student aid? Other convictions prevent you from getting state grants, subsidized student loans, or private scholarships. Not only that, but you’ll have a harder time getting a fair shake as an applicant at certain colleges and universities, as well as secondary educational programs.
- Fewer job opportunities. If you’re already employed, a criminal conviction could mean losing your job. (And even if you don’t get fired, it will probably hinder your upward mobility within the company.) If you’re not currently employed, your conviction will now appear on your background search and make it more difficult to get competitive job offers.
- Professional licensing restrictions. Certain job professionals require licenses in order to practice. If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you might not be eligible to obtain these licenses, which effectively prevents you from being active in these industries.
With all of that being said, there are certain federal protections in place to ensure convicted criminals have the ability to seek and hold employment. However, it’s still an uphill battle that you’re better off not having to traverse if you can help it.
4 Legal Steps You Can Take to Safeguard Your Career
There are certain legal steps you need to take in order to keep your career safe and avoid some of the consequences highlighted above. Here are a few:
1. Seek Out Legal Counsel
You need an attorney. But not just any attorney will do. You need one who is experienced in handling cases just like yours.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through the legal process, assess the evidence against you, and determine the best course of action. It’s unlikely that anything your case presents will be new to them. They’ll have seen it a dozen times and will know the best possible course of action.
As you look for attorneys, consider their track record, fee structure, and the trust level you feel with them. At the end of the day, you need to work with someone you’re comfortable being around.
2. Know Your Rights
Make sure you know your legal rights. This includes the charges being brought against you, the potential penalties, and the legal defense available to you. The more you understand everything that’s happening around you, the more likely it is that you’ll make smart decisions that have a positive impact on your case.
3. Protect Your Online Presence
The internet is forever. (Or, kind of.) For the sake of your future job opportunities and professional pursuits, do your best to protect your online presence. This requires you to monitor news reports, headlines, and social media posts. You might even consider hiring an online reputation management service to clean up your digital footprint and prevent your charge/conviction from following you around on the internet.
4. Address the Situation (If Needed)
Sometimes criminal cases happen quietly in the background without much fanfare or publicity. Other times, certain public figures or the local media pick up on a case and decide to make it one of their focal points. If your case ends up grabbing attention within the public eye, you’ll likely need to address the situation at some point. You and your attorney can work together to determine when the timing is right and what you’ll say.
5. Building a Support Network: Your Key to Overcoming Career Challenges
In the face of criminal charges, it’s crucial to not only focus on the legal aspects but also to build a strong support network. This network can include family, friends, professional mentors, and even support groups who understand what you’re going through. Having a robust support system provides emotional stability, practical advice, and sometimes, crucial networking opportunities that can help you navigate through this challenging period in your professional life. Engaging with people who believe in your potential and offer moral support can make a significant difference in maintaining a positive outlook, which is essential for overcoming career obstacles and finding new opportunities.
6. Educational and Skill Development: Turning Downtime into Opportunity
While dealing with criminal charges, it’s important to utilize any downtime productively by focusing on personal and professional development. This can include pursuing further education, certifications, or skill-building courses. Engaging in such activities not only enhances your resume but also shows potential employers your commitment to continuous learning and personal growth, despite challenging circumstances. Online courses, night classes, and even self-taught skills can make a significant impact. This proactive approach not only diverts your mind from the stress of legal proceedings but also equips you with new tools and qualifications that can open doors to new career opportunities or help in rebuilding your professional image.
Adding it All Up
Facing a criminal charge is one thing. Dealing with a criminal conviction on your record is another. Make sure your charge doesn’t progress to a conviction by hiring a competent attorney and proactively fighting back. However, if you are convicted, it’s not the end of the road. There are still options in your back pocket for having a successful career.
Take charge of the situation and don’t look back.