In 2006 I received a custodial sentence for possession with intent to supply. Prison gave me lots of time to reflect on my past and consider my future and I realised that when I was eventually released, I didn’t want to carry on like before, – I wanted to change.
I had been fairly successful academically and when I was sentenced, I had been in the final year of a Computer Science degree. I went on to finish this after I was released from prison.
Once I’d graduated, I started to look for work and this is where my troubles began. As soon as I mentioned my conviction nobody was interested in taking my application any further. The only work I was successful at getting was a short term, temporary admin job which didn’t require any criminal record disclosure or check.
I tried to keep positive, telling myself that someone would eventually give me a chance and that’s exactly what happened – I got a job as an Assistant Buyer. I did this for about a year until the company went into Receivership and I was back on the jobs market again.
I managed to get another job quite quickly as a Coordinator. The job had quite a lot of financial content to it which I really enjoyed and so I started voluntarily shadowing one of the company’s finance guys to get more experience. At last I’d found something that I thought I could make a career of. I contacted the AAT for advice about routes into finance work and joining the AAT and they explained that I’d need to go through a thorough process of vetting to be allowed to join them as a Student Member. This included sending copies of police reports, a CRB application form (as it was then), job references and reports from my Probation Officer. The process took nearly 6 months for the AAT to finally decide to give me the green light. I was over the moon – I had a real chance here to build on the experiences at work and the opportunity to be a part of a recognised professional association.
I started studying through the AAT and quickly passed modules and progressed to the next level. I then started applying for dedicated finance jobs. I always disclosed my convictions in a separate private letter providing employers with the full context of where I was at the time of my offence and where I am now.
Eventually I was offered a job with a Housing Association – this was it, a foot in the door. I started seeing all sorts of opportunities opening up with salaries I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years before. I had a long conversation with the Senior HR Manager about my convictions after which I was given a contract to sign and a start date. This was a really successful time in my career during which I passed my AAT examinations and became a qualified member.
The next step academically was to become part of a Chartered accounting body – the likes of ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA etc. I had ambition, experience and with the support of my Deputy Finance Director and Line Manager I decided to pursue an application to join CIMA. I contacted their student membership department who asked me to email my application. It was a very similar process to what I’d gone through with AAT and 2 weeks after my application they accepted me, stating that I would eventually be able to join as a full member once I’d qualified. I have since progressed through CIMA now sitting the Management Level papers.
I spent 2 years at the Housing Association before earning a promotion. I’ve been doing this new job for just over a year and then a couple of weeks ago, I was offered a move to another Housing Association as a Project Accountant. I made my criminal record declaration in the usual way but for the very first time ever, wasn’t asked anything else about it.
I feel like I’m well on the way to becoming a fully qualified Chartered Management Accountant, with good job prospects. This time next year I won’t have any legal requirement to declare my convictions for roles covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. I’m already doing better than many of my counterparts who don’t carry the baggage I do and I think I can really make the grade if I continue to work hard. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but seriously if I can do it – anyone can. You really need that drive, commitment and optimism to keep pushing yourself. If you’re honest with yourself, I think someone out there will give you a chance.