We’re going to talk about presumptions, bias, figuring out your path when you have many interests, and how Elizabeth McCoy helps returning citizens – which is the updated term for ex-felons. She’s a counselor with a masters in forensic psychology. She works with people who’ve committed sex crimes, who’ve been addicted to drugs, and people who’ve committed other crimes. She helps them find employment and she built her business helping career seekers of all sorts learn how to put their best foot forward so they can get the opportunities they want.
To find Elizabeth go to: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabeth-mccoy/
Her website is at: https://www.employmentpreparations.com
Her facebook page is: https://bit.ly/2SynnE9
For more episodes go to: www.schoolofconnection.com
Rana Olk (Host): Hey, Elizabeth, thanks for coming today.
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): Hi, Rana, thank you so much for having me.
Rana Olk (Host): Welcome! We really appreciate it. Elizabeth, you are interested in quite a few things and do quite a few different things right now. What is it that you are most passionate about if you can say so?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): If I had to choose a passion, I don’t know that I can. I’m one of those. I’m really one of those multi-passionate professionals. And I’m really an advocate for people to explore what their passions are, and how to make those passions work for them and the rest of the world. Because when, whenever we’re utilizing our gifts, and notice that it’s portal, it doesn’t always have to be just one there’s an impact that the world receives. So you have to know how to identify your gifts and how to package them in a way that the world benefits. So with that, I’m the founder and so entrepreneur of employment preparations. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and I absolutely love being able to interact with career seekers to help them on their career journey. The employment journey–finding new careers–regardless of the stage of life, regardless of the stage of career is difficult. And people really don’t understand the art that goes into thinking, employment, preparing themselves making themselves memorable because no one remembers a boring person. So I get to jazz them up in that way. My other passion is mental health and being able to explain to people why they feel the way that they do and how to overcome that and I get to merge these two because oftentimes, mental health shows up in the workplace before shows up anywhere else. It may be that the person is declining on their job and as a mental health professional plus as someone who helps people navigate their employment journey, it just kind of weaves itself together in some situations, not in all of course, but definitely in some.
Rana Olk (Host): You are actually a counselor. Your training is in counseling, correct?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): Yes. So my bachelor’s is in criminology, a master’s in forensic psychology and I hold licenses in the state of Texas for LPC in turn which means, for Texas, we have to get 3000 hours before we’re fully licensed. I’m also an affiliate sex offender treatment provider and I’m a licensed chemical dependency counselor kind of back into that multi-passionate thing again.
Rana Olk (Host): One of the things I thought was really interesting about you and I know that there are probably some stories here that I’d like to dig into. So how do you go from being a counselor, probation officer working with sex offenders and all these people to deciding that you’re going to create this business where you are helping people find employment?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): So the employment business came after I worked for a non-profit. And the non-profit was helping returning citizens, which is the updated term for ex-offenders that a lot of people don’t use. And they’re not aware of it yet, which is interesting because this term was couple years ago, but I was helping ex-offenders are returning citizens find employment for that position, and I will stay in top employment person to be able to help them get secured positions. My clientele increased, so as I was sitting at the table, maybe three or four years after I left that job. I just kept having this, kept having God speak to my spirit snow way to jazz that I kept I kept filling it in my in my spirit in my spirit like in my belly to say you need to open this business you need to open this business. I bought it for a while because I was going into the Masters for forensic psychology program. So come around January sitting at the table getting ready for the new semester trying to get my mind right, get organized. And God said, “Just do it.” And so I did it, it was as if he was controlling my fingers to tell me like where to go and what to do because I had no idea but somehow I knew at that moment and it had to be him. So out of that implement preparations was birth and even after I open I still kind of fighting the gift of thought the opportunity I wouldn’t do what I needed to do. I wasn’t receptive to some advice and eventually got going.
Rana Olk (Host): Why is it is important?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): It is important to me because I’ve come across a lot of professionals who are, they have the experience but they’re not in the positions that actually can get them into the positions that they need to be. They’re not able to market themselves properly. And so as a career seeker, you are basically your own advocate from your resume to your LinkedIn profile to your social media. Whatever is active to you being present at the interview even after the interview. You are your advocate and many career seekers don’t know how to do that.
Rana Olk (Host): With returning citizens do you meet people who have been convicted of felonies for example, because that is something that can be asked and prevent somebody from obtaining employment right having a similar.
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): Absolutely yes. So I worked with and helped beat you know this population receive employment and rather it be a theft charge or possession of marijuana, which are misdemeanors all the way up to murder and rape. I’ve worked with the gamut on helping them secure employment. So once I got the confidence in myself, that I could help them secure employment, I knew that I could do it for anyone else. I was dragging my feet I wasn’t really you know, stepping into my gift when I originally opened employment preparations but this year I’m definitely stepping all in last year I started stepping more you know, I stepped it up but this year is just all guessing we’re just going for it because I know that I have work to do, be it helping returning citizens and ex-offenders get into employment, regardless of their background or helping recent graduates which were a given way that I just wrapped up last week giving away services to 2018 graduates or helping even seasoned professionals who are experiencing age discrimination and coaching them around these unique situations.
Rana Olk (Host): What’s interesting, I think, is you not only are helping people who have had contact with the criminal justice system, find employment, but you are also very familiar with the world that they’re coming from. And you work with people who are felons, having said that then all admit myself included we have certain stereotypes and biases or, or assumptions that we would make about people who are convicted. Having worked with these populations would have a different perspective. Would you be able to explain or tell us anything about that?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): Yes. So in dealing with anyone who’s had to contact with the criminal justice system, there’s a lot of negative biases that do not allow the general population to see these people. As people. You know, some we all make mistakes. But our mistakes don’t always end up in the criminal justice system. We’ve even broken some of the same laws that these people who went to the criminal justice system that they did to get their speeding, maybe there was a time where Life was hard and you needed to steal something from the store to feed your family, whatever the case may be. There’s a number of people who have committed the same ads but didn’t get the same punishment because they weren’t caught or they had other advantages. So in working with these populations on the mental health side, and on the employment side, you typically can find someone who truly, truly, truly is apologetic, they’re remorseful about what they did. They don’t always receive the opportunities to show how they improved. And so it becomes kind of a trust factor between society and returning citizens, especially if they have a sex offense. So as I explained to most sex offenders if they ask if they really want the real true conversation is that society views them kind of like the Santa balls in, you know, everything else we can forgive you for. But if you’ve committed a sex office that is unforgettable, and it is something that you cannot come back from. There are employers out there who will hire those who’ve been convicted of a sex offense. But again, the same holds true as with anyone else. There are always elements of change people can definitely change at any point in time that they’re that they want to that they’re ready to. The key thing is that they have to be ready. Sex offenders are actually one of the most compliant demographics, as far as returning citizens are concerned, they’re the most pleasing because they want you to see them, and this can go two ways. Let me say this because other mental health professionals may listen to this and like she’s lost her mind. But either they want you to see them in a new light because yes, they want to continue negative behaviors or they truly want to change their life. Another misconception that kind of segues into this is that all sex offenders are violent, some of them are not. And what is interesting is a 17-year-old could be convicted of a sex offense because they’re dating a 16-year-old and 17 years consider an adult and 16 years still a child and you’re not able to consent, but if they’ve been having this relationship or you know, a year prior to the now sex offender turning 17, you know, what do you do love is sometimes hard to break. I’m not making excuses, but those are just the facts of what we have. So not all sex offenders are violent, not all sought out to be manipulative to grown, to harm. There are some, you know, probably few who just had a different situation,
Rana Olk (Host): How do you make somebody who has been convicted of a felony who is returning, how do you make that look okay, to a potential employer who might say, “We don’t hire felons.”
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): When I tell them on either side because I’ve had this conversation with the groups that I facilitate, you know, as far as a sex offender as well as on the employment side is that there are only certain employees who will hire you. And so you have to figure out who are those employers. What industries can you work in? An example that I use for them is nursing. You cannot have an assault charge or a violent charge and be a nurse. So if you previously had an assault charge or violent charge, don’t go to nursing school, don’t try to make them hire you because they have restrictions on what charges they can hire. So I encourage them first to find the field they can work in, which is nothing that’s child related. Most times people will not want to hire you if they have women who will be left alone. Definitely not children. Definitely, maybe not be vulnerable. Other vulnerable populations such as our elders, you know, figure out where you can work and go from there. The next thing is part of a service that I offer through employment preparations is a call it a lifestyle script. And what we do in that session is talking about where have you been, what is where did you go and where are you going? To help them show how they’ve changed and gone through that script. They are the empowered to actually share their story and not have to feel embarrassed by where they’ve been because they went somewhere different and now they’re continuing to move forward.
Rana Olk (Host): What was it like the first time you were leading a group of sexual offenders?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): I’m always wanting to do the work that others did not want to do. And that is always the work that I went towards as far as criminal justice as far as because there was not a lot of women in criminal justice. So I thought when I chose to career when I chose to degree that led into the career. And when I was in the master’s program for forensic psychology, my intent was to be a profiler. But I had to be an FBI agent first. And I wasn’t doing that. I stopped running in the army. I’m not running again. So so that calls me out for that profession. But then I that’s how I got introduced to counseling. That’s how I got you introduced to personality disorders and sex offenders. And I was like, oh, that will never be a boring day at work if I do that. That was like, my initial interest is thinking there won’t be a boring work day every day may look the same on paper but it is completely different. Once you start having the conversations.
Rana Olk (Host): I imagined that is true. What happens when if employment preparations really take off and start taking up more and more and more of your time give up the constant?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): No. I’m too stubborn for that. I wouldn’t actually give it up. So what I anticipated that because as I said earlier, I’m an intern for the kind of general counseling, if you will license professional counseling. I’m an intern there, so I have to get 3000 hours. Well, I don’t want to be unlicensed or an intern status forever. And so what I did was I created a 30 day virtual workshop is based on Facebook right now until employment preparation takes off and I can really pay for these different systems but I created a 30 day workshop and career seekers can go through this workshop is already set up where I discuss in detail how to perform a proper job search. The next one is resume writing, how to target your resume, what to pick out of the job announcements, what to discuss how to discuss, how to write the bullet points. Going into interviewing and interviewing, I’m able to incorporate the neuroscience portion of it. Talking about body language, what body language you want to portray what body language you want to watch out for what body language can tell you about the chances that you may or may not get the position I get the goal for all that and then the script writing so this is a self-paced program that I can keep. Even with a busy counseling session that leaves implement preparations open allows me to continue to serve career seekers but still serve the mental health population on a larger platform. What I what I tell my followers on social media or more so in my group, because I know that I have their ear for sure they’re listening is that your employment journey is not only one step. You have to have all of the different parts of, for example, what I talked about with the workshop, the job search strategy, resume writing interview techniques and the scripts. You need all of this in your in your toolbox to make your employment journey as successful as possible and to make it run smoothly with only a resume. You can only get to the interview table. If you can’t make it through the interview. You don’t get the job is a difficult question comes about in the interview. For example, you have to address your criminal background, especially if you have to address being a sex offender or having a sex-related charge on your criminal history. That gets uncomfortable real quick. So even if everything else was perfect, even if everything else was excellent. You’ve probably just gotten yourself out of the job because you couldn’t articulate your points and you let your emotions take over. So the biggest mistake that careers seekers make is thinking that their employment journey is only one part, and most of them think it’s only the resume and it’s so much more than the resume.
Rana Olk (Host): It’s true. Have you ever had any challenges with respect to finding employment or feeling like you walked out of an interview and bombed it or anything like that?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): Oh, of course. So when I moved from Virginia to Houston, and I’m two months span so I quit my job in Virginia because I didn’t like being in Virginia anymore. I didn’t like my place of employment. It was stressful. I could tell in hindsight. Now that I know what emotional intelligence looks like. They didn’t have that term, then they have it now. But I can tell that the emotional intelligence in the office wasn’t where it needed to be to maintain their health of the agency. So when I was unhappy, I left. I gave myself two months and I left. I drove my Ford Fusion to Houston with all my clothes in the back. And I lived in a hotel for a month, I look for employment, didn’t have a problem securing any interviews. But I do remember one on one interview and it was boring. I fell asleep during the interview. I fell asleep. Thank God for my army ability to be able to sleep with my eyes open because I was going, I was sleeping and I was part of the interview that I don’t remember because I will sleep and I do remember asking them the dress code for the office. You know, what is it like to work here? What are the expected dress code and one of the ladies who was interviewing me she likes to it up tall and fixed herself and it’s like we’re very professional here and I knew then. That I and my red pants would not fit in that office. Just the way that I go about life. Um, I can be professional in the settings when I know you know what, this is the time. But if I have to live 8 hours a day, 9-10 hours a day where I can’t show my personality that’s problematic for me. So I tell my career seekers that’s my red pants question is, what is something that I need to have to be able to be happy at work and how do I achieve it? Can I have it here? I cannot wear my red pants at that office. That’s the deal breaker. And now I can wear a whole red suit if I like.
Rana Olk (Host): I love it. But you have referenced a couple of times, now being in the army. You’re not wearing red pants in the army. And there’s all kinds of roles and all kinds of restrictions and you’re expected to conform, did this need to be able to express yourself any which way you want or to be yourself? Did you realize that after you are in the army and if not then what were you doing in the army?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): So I would do a number of things in the army. You can wear whatever socks you want, as long as no one is doing a sock check that day. And so sometimes I may have one unauthorized just because I knew that certain clothing items made me feel better. You know, some days I wanted to feel like a girl I didn’t want to feel like, you know, a tomboy or you know, an attractive or whatever. And so I would find a way to wear girly stuff that would be out of the eyesight of whoever was looking at me, you know, you’re looking at me You think I’m a soldier who is meeting the regulations on uniform but underneath, I may have one White sock, I may have one. Tweety Bird socks, I mean, who knows. So after I got out of the out of the army because I went in the army right after high school state in five years to the day and then I got out. And as I was going about my employment journey, I started to do things that I wanted to do. So I recognized very early on that I only wanted to do things that I wanted to do. And my decision to exit the military was because I had a lot of people telling me things that I had to do that I didn’t agree with. And so now I live the life of I do what I want within reason. You know, we all have rules to follow there certain things that must be done and you can’t get out of it. But there’s also things are not required. And as far as been in the military, your superiors will make you they do a week called a military pull rank. So they’ll make you do things that you don’t want to do, including for your career. So when I left there about that, it just wouldn’t happen again.
Rana Olk (Host): What attracted the military, to begin with, right out of high school?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): I went into the military to pay for college, I was a naive 17-year-old who thought, I’m just going to go over here and do my time and not have to get deployed, not have to fire a gun, all of this silly stuff. I don’t even know where I got that logic from, because it just didn’t make logical sense. Like you don’t go into the military to just walk around the uniform all day. But that’s what my 17-year-old self thought when I signed the papers and my mom went along with it, that she was my mother and she wanted me to make sure that I was able to pay for college because she cannot pay for college for me and if the college can be free. Then why not? And so that’s how I got there was primarily so that I could pay for college. No, I did not get deployed. That was one of the major decisions that a superior was trying to make for me that I didn’t agree with. And that was that the point that I was like, you know, I really have to get out, I’m really into knowing what I want and what I don’t want. And I’m not for anyone telling you that I have to do something because they thought it was a good idea. So my superior at the time signed me up to deploy with a different unit and did not consult with me at all about if that was actually a choice that I wanted to make. Was that something that I wanted to do? He felt as though I needed to do that for my career. And I asked him Well, what career because who said I was doing this for 20 years. At that time, I hadn’t even crossed into five years. You know, it’s decisions like that, that I didn’t want anyone else to make from my life. That also bothered me out of fear. Because my job in the military was to, part of it was to send soldiers out when they got ready to deploy, put them through this, this kind of system, if you will. They have to, there’s a very structured way to get soldiers to deploy and then when they came back, a lot of them I had to process the paperwork so that they can get out of the military because they were damaged either psychologically or physically. You know, they started to have too many too many concerns, too many issues, and they were no longer fit to be in the military. So when I saw them coming back, and I saw the pain that they were in and I saw just the lack of resources that were available to them I was like, Oh yeah, I will never, I’m not going, the opportunity that presented itself for me to get out. And I got out some days I missed it, like maybe a day or two every year. But mostly I’m happy that I’ve done my term. I’m happy to have the experiences. I’m happy for what it afforded me, and if I had to do it again, I don’t know that I don’t know. Some days I say that I would have, some days I say that I wouldn’t. If I can take the knowledge that I have now and have it at 17 years old. Maybe I would have gone more than five years but what was I, 23/4 whenever it was that I got out? No, I was far more stubborn than I am now so far, far more stubborn.
Rana Olk (Host): You thought you wanted, it’s important to know what you want. So for somebody listening out there if they could take away one action item from this conversation that you and I have had, something that could apply right away. What would you recommend they could do to make sure that they’re on a path that’s going to make them happy that they’re sure about and that they know where they’re going?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): I would tell them to take a moment and do what they need to do to discover their true self, your true self is not going to lie to you, and it won’t lead you wrong. But you have to allow your true self, to tell you the truth about what it is that you want, and how you want to go about it.
Rana Olk (Host): Thank you for that. So Elizabeth, if people want to find you and get more information about either employment preparations or the other work that you do, where can they find you?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): If they want to find me for employment preparations, I’m on LinkedIn under Elizabeth McCoy, Employment Services they just type that in I’ll come up. If they want to find me on Instagram or Facebook I’m @employmentpreparations, if they want to find me about the mental health work that I do, they can find me on Facebook @willowtreeca, which is short for counseling and assessments.
Rana Olk (Host): Willowtreeca.com?
Elizabeth McCoy (Guest): Yes, dot com.
Rana Olk (Host): Perfect, Elizabeth, thank you so much for being with us here today. I really appreciate you taking the time. We all appreciate your service. There are I’m sure so many other stories that you could tell us. Unfortunately, our time is limited. But for those of you listening, I do hope you’ll check out Elizabeth, the work she’s doing is very important. Thank you very much, Elizabeth. Any comments questions are sure to reach out at Hellorana@schoolofconnection.com looking forward to hearing from you, have a great day!