As an ex-offender beginning your search for a job after incarceration, you should be networking. The single most effective way of getting a job is through networking.

You may not be aware of it, but there are already a lot of people in your "network." Your network consists of family, friends, your parole or probation officer (P.O.), former supervisor, acquaintances, minister, people you do business with, and even strangers whom you meet.

These people can be of assistance in finding a job, because they may have useful information, advice, and referrals to others who know about jobs appropriate for you. You want to plug into these informal channels of job information and communications.

Most jobs are not advertised. Through networking, you tap into the hidden job market where many of the best jobs can be found. Job seekers learn about these jobs through word-of-mouth - when other people tell them about job openings.

People in your network know about available jobs, or they may know people who may know, and thus they can tell you about them. Please remember this: The more networking you do, the more likely you will find a job on the hidden job market.

However, many job seekers are reluctant to network because it involves initiating conversations and meetings with others. The two fears of embarrassment (being unemployed and an ex-offender) and rejection (thinking people may say, "No, I can't help you") work against many job seekers.

But these are false fears that seldom materialize. Instead, ex-offenders who learn to network well are surprised how supportive others are in giving them useful information, advice, and referrals. Many of these people have been in similar situations and others helped them with their job search.

Most people enjoy helping others, as long as they are not put on the spot and asked to take responsibility for your employment fate.

SOURCE: Adapted from Caryl and Ron Krannich, Ph.D.s, The Ex-Offender's Job Hunting Guide (Manassas Park: Impact Publications), pages 66-67. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.