Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Self-Directed Approach


My family member wants to find a job without professional services. What is my role?

Consumers benefit from the expertise their families bring to the process, their commitment to their welfare, and the personal family networks that lead to job opportunities.
– 26th Institute on Rehabilitation Issues

When someone chooses to direct their own vocational direction, this is a “Self-Directed” vocational approach. The reason for this may be to avoid disclosure and to use available tools and resources to “find their own way”.

The Self-Directed approach does not mean that the individual is rejecting all information or advice from others. They might ask for help with decision making and a job search. This does mean that they are doing a self-assessment and forming a plan for achieving employment.

Below are some tools for individuals using the “Self-Directed” approach. They provide some structure to the job seeker that will help them to organize their thoughts. It will also allow family members to work side by side with the job seeker as they lay a foundation for action.

Even if your family member is not using the “Self-Directed” method, you can use any of these tools to help them pursue their chosen goal.

We have a family business, but my family member doesn’t want to work there. What should I do?

If you have a family business the question to ask first is whether there is a real role for your family member in the business. If the option is meaningful, then you should mention it to your family member.

If there is some interest, have further discussions. Be sure your family member visits and understands the nature of the business. If there is no interest, you should continue to support your family member in their pursuit of other employment opportunities.

Lack of interest in the family business should not be interpreted as “rejection” of family, but may simply be lack of a good match. The individual’s choice and the individual’s definition of meaningful work is of the utmost importance. Robinson suggests there are three factors that make work meaningful:

  1. Autonomy: Being in control of our own choices
  2. Complexity: Being able to master new skills and improve
  3. Direct connection between effort and reward: Seeing the payoff—whether financial, spiritual, or other—of your work

Will my family member’s criminal record keep them from getting a job?

The first step in determining the impact of one’s criminal record on employment is to get an official record from your state with the exact description of the offense/s, dates and other information regarding the criminal record. Sometimes an individual will anticipate that something “damaging” is in their record, when in fact, it is not. Each person must know how their offenses are classified e.g. misdemeanor, felony etc.and which offenses show up in their records as an adult. Every state has a unit of government such as criminal justice information service that processes requests for information, helps to make corrections to the record and investigates improper access to those records. To see an example of this, check out Massachusetts’s CORI page.

Once your family member has a copy of the criminal record, the next thing is to see if any of the record can be expunged or “closed”. At least 13 states have laws which allow for low level offenses to be expunged after a specific period of time. Each state has its own rules about expunging records and the factors that come into play include:

  • If there was an actual conviction
  • If the crime was not severe
  • Length of time since arrest or conviction
  • Whether terms of the sentence, probation or diversion were completed
  • Whether there were other convictions in the past.

Serious crimes are not likely to be expunged.

With written documentation of their actual record, your family member can proceed to examine what the impact on employment might be. Most states do allow employers to use criminal records when making hiring decisions – but not usually across the board. In other words, there must be evidence showing that the employer’s policy is reasonably related to the job requirements. For example, if the criminal offenses were related to violent or aggressive behavior, jobs in the human services may be disallowed. Increasingly, employers are conducting criminal background checks when hiring job applicants, which can make it much more difficult for those with criminal records to achieve jobs. Most states allow employers to refuse to hire people with criminal records, not just those convicted but even sometimes those who were arrested but never convicted.

Many employers are bound by certain hiring laws. An example is the Fair Credit Reporting Act which is a federal law that requires employers to provide notice when getting a candidate’s credit report or criminal record. The employer must ensure the report is used for a legally correct manner. The employer must have authorization to use the report and must give the job candidate a copy of the report and a summary of their rights. Employers may conduct background checks prior to hiring someone to prevent lawsuits on potential harm. In most states, arrest history without conviction cannot be used to automatically exclude a candidate. Arrest records can only be used if it was recent, the candidate is likely to be guilty and there is a connection between the job and the reason for arrest (e.g.person was arrested for shoplifting and is applying for retail store position). There are laws that prevent individuals with certain criminal offense histories from jobs in a particular. The job seeker is wise to seek advice from professionals before embarking on job hunting alone. (Rosen)

Increasingly, employers are conducting criminal background checks when hiring job applicants, which can make it much more difficult for those with criminal records to achieve jobs. Most states allow employers to refuse to hire people with criminal records, not just those convicted but even sometimes those who were arrested but never convicted. Sometimes a vocational rehabilitation program that is working with your family member has employer relationships that can open doors or help broker solutions such as waivers. Some individuals who can access the resources to get started, turn to self employment in order to avoid the screening out problems in regular employment.

Your Rights – Criminal Records

This webpage features common questions and definitions related to employment with a criminal record.

What if my family member doesn’t know where to look for jobs?

If your family member works with an Employment Specialist, that person can help give them direction on how and where to do a job search. Regardless, they can utilize America’s Job Center’s resources to consult the internet websites on employment in their area. There are also other national job search websites, such as Indeed or Monster. Your family member can look online and talk to associates about possible Job Fairs to attend.

The federal government is dedicated to hiring people with disabilities. Consider talking to your family member about the government’s Schedule A approach to hiring persons with disabilities. They can also consult a Agency Selective Placement Program Coordinator. If your family member is interested in working for a federal contractor, the US government has created contractor initiatives to bring more people with disabilities into the workforce. For example, the new Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires a 7% minimum of persons with disabilities in the contractor workforce.

There are also other federal resources for jobs such as the President’s Special Employment Initiative for Veterans which is focused on hiring veterans into civilian federal employment. In the year 2014, the percentage of veterans hired into civilian employment rose to over 33.2%.

Return to the main page on helping your family member Achieve Employment Goals.

What am I looking to help my family member do?

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