Daniel Bramlett knew it was time for a change. 

At 41, you tend to start thinking about a different kind of life – one with a more professional career that can support a family and provide a pension. But getting there sometimes requires that you explain where you’ve been.

Today’s Daniel Bramlett is not the same person who left the Army 20 years ago. The jail time (tied to 10 court cases involving an assortment of drugs and associated criminal behavior) is long in the past – buried beneath some introspection, a few concentrated treatment programs, and a lot of focused self-improvement. But does obtaining four college degrees over the last eight years really make up for a work history that’s filled with some pretty abnormal gaps? How exactly does someone explain that to a potential employer? 

Simple: With help.

“IowaWORKS helped me get the confidence to go in there and really sell myself,” said Bramlett. “With the rehabilitation that I had gone through, with my education, I achieved a lot of acceptance and took responsibility for my actions over the years… I’m not really seeking validation from people on my rehabilitation and how I’ve changed my life. It’s just that I need to know how to explain that to people so they understand that I’m not that person anymore.”

IowaWORKS career planners Jennifer Kreimer and Angie Hill first helped Bramlett craft a solid resume and an additional letter of explanation that walked through his history over the past years. Then they taught him how to tailor a new version of that resume for each of the state and federal jobs Bramlet was interested in, and they worked with other IowaWORKS counselors in Ottumwa to put Bramlett through round after round of practice interviews.

“I really needed help,” Bramlett said, the IowaWORKS team for their moral support. “I knew that I needed to get polished up. I knew that I needed to do as much as I could so that when it came time, I could go in with confidence and make that first impression really count.”

He ended up with multiple job interviews and multiple job offers. In February, he started a new position as a peer support specialist with the U.S. Veterans Health Administration.

Mike Cockrum, operations manager at the IowaWORKS center in Ottumwa, said Bramlett is proof that many employers are willing to overlook black marks on a resume if there’s evidence that a job candidate is qualified and more reliable than their history might indicate.

“The key part is to be open about it and explain the situation up front,” Cockrum said. “Employers need people. If you show them that you’re a good person who has made a mistake and learned from it, many of them are willing to give you a chance.”

For more information about resumes and explaining work history, visit www.IowaWORKS.gov or go to www.workforce.iowa.gov/jobs/iowaworks to find your local IowaWORKS center.

If you’re an employer and looking for new ways to expand your pool of potential employees, visit our Federal Bonding web page to learn more about a free program covering workers with a justice system-involved past .