How to Find a Job After Prison – Helping Ex-Offenders Move Forward


The question of how to find a job after prison is not an easy one to answer, because there is no “one-size-fits-all” advice. Laws differ from state to state, and each ex-offender’s situation is completely different from another’s. I have seen some statistics that indicate as many of 70% ex-offenders did not finish high school; yet, at the same time, I am aware of plenty of others who have been in trouble with the law who have advanced degrees. So, it is easy to see how different one situation will differ from another.

That being said, there are few challenges ex-offenders have in common as well. And, one of the biggest ones is that individuals who have been incarcerated or otherwise in trouble are often seen as too high a risk for an employer to take a chance on.

It is my sincere hope that if you have been in trouble, that you have taken advantage of any programs that might be available to you through your local employment agency, or any work readiness programs in your area. Also, if you are among the population without a high school diploma, it is going to be in your best interests to get your GED. Regardless of your previous difficulties with schooling (for example, perhaps you have a learning disability), it is going to be critical that you deal with it. And sooner rather than later.

I have had some former clients tell me that they don’t have time to get their GED, because they have to get a job.

When I have asked them about their daily schedule – from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night – and we really get into it, it almost always brings up a lot of time that they cannot account for any productive activity. For example, some of the examples that I have seen a lot is how much time some people spend:
1) in front of the television,
2) playing fantasy games of other games on computer,
3) hanging out with old friends (which, in many cases, is not in their best interests), and/or
4) hanging out with a girl-friend, boy-friend, or their kids.

I don’t really think we need to talk about where one might be able to find a little time to further one’s education. Either you WILL or you WON’T. Either you WILL find the time or you WON’T find the time. That’s really up to the individual, isn’t it?

Look, I’m not saying this to pick on anyone who has seen trouble and struggle. In my same role helping NON ex-offenders figure out their career and job situation, I say the same things when I’m told, “I don’t have the time.”

Another thing I have heard a lot – again, whether one is an ex-offender or not – is “I don’t have the money to do that…”

This one will sound harsh. Do you have “stuff” that you can sell? What about that Wii that somehow you were able to afford, or your TV? For those who have not been in trouble, I often say, “Then get a job at the local fast food restaurant and earn a couple of extra dollars.”

It’s a little more difficult to say that to an ex-offender who might have such low self-esteem that he or she has trouble even applying for a job at the local fast food restaurant to begin with. I have seen former clients feeling very dejected because they really did not have anything of value that they could sell, and that they were turned down for the first job that they applied for.

Oftentimes, these individuals have come into the office, slumped down into a chair with their arms crossed, and appearing angry with entire world.

To those of you who may see yourself in that illustration, I offer the following pointers:
If you are carrying around a chip on your shoulder about your past situation, you need to knock that chip off your shoulder. Stop looking angry at the world for your problems. It comes across in facial expressions and posture. Stay away from old friends that may have encouraged your situation in the past.

One method I highly, highly recommend for ANYONE looking to move forward and let go of past troubles is something called The Sedona Method. I have been through the program myself, and I have helped others with it as well. I have also recommended it to ex-offenders who used it with great success. Just type “Sedona Method” into your favorite search engine and you’ll find it. Or go to your local bookstore or library and ask for the book itself, which is written by Hale Dwoskin.

The process guides you through a series of steps to help you “release” the things that may have held you back from being the confident and great person that you are within.

In addition, I suggest that you look objectively at your appearance – if you need some neat “job-hunting” clothes and don’t have any money to purchase any new clothes, get yourself down to your local Salvation Army, Good Will, or any number of non-profit thrift stores. Tell them your situation, and that you need some help getting dressed for job-hunting. Many places will donate clothes – and if not, some of these places are extremely inexpensive. I love shopping at thrift stores. I’ve been able to purchase pants for as low as $ 1.00!

Don’t forget neat hair, eye contact, teeth brushing and general cleanliness (soap, water, clean clothes, deodorant – Please folks, SKIP the cologne – it does NOT mask body odor or smelly clothes). If you smoke, don’t smoke before interviews. I can always tell when clients were smoking before they saw me – half the time, it hangs on the clothing itself, especially if people smoke in their homes. It gets into everything. So, air out your job-hunting clothes, or at least keep them in a place where the cigarette smoke doesn’t coat them.

Here is some solid advice for working on getting your foot in the door:
Plan and participate in informational interview sessions with prospective employers. There is not enough room in this article to go into this topic in depth; however, in this series of articles under my author name, you can find 2 articles on this subject: “Let an Informational Interview Get Your Foot in the Door,” “Now That You’ve GOT the Informational Interview, What Next?” and

These articles, along with some other resources I’ll mention in a moment, are just as valid for you as they are for someone who has notbeen in trouble with the law.

Finally, while you are learning how to find a job after prison, while working with your local employment counselor, social worker, or spiritual advisor, be sure to think of all the wonderful things you CAN do and CAN offer an employer.

As difficult as it may be to believe, your job search is going to be about what YOU can do for your EMPLOYER. It’s about them as much as it is about you! You will show them how you can help meet their needs! Once you find out what an employer needs in an employee, you can begin working on showing him or her how you fit the bill.