Once you are released from prison or jail, you have lots of important decisions to make - from housing to employment - that may have life-altering consequences.

At times the pressure to make so many responsible decisions can be overwhelming, especially since all your basic needs were taken care of for you by others during your incarceration.

Since you may be entering unfamiliar territory with new responsibilities, you want to gather as much information as possible before making important decisions.

A simple decision, such as contacting a friend for information and advice or talking to a career counselor about job opportunities, can have important consequences if such contacts and resulting information lead to finding a job you can enjoy doing.

Since you may know little about the job market, you need to acquire information in several important employment areas. Focus your job search activities on the following:
  1. Job alternatives:
    What jobs are available and which ones interest you? What are the education and skill requirements, working conditions, and potential salary, benefits, and advancement opportunities? See Conducting Research: Job Alternatives.

  2. Employers and companies:
    Who's hiring for what types of jobs? How do you reach the people who make the hiring decisions? See Job Search Tips for Ex-Offenders: Researching Employers and Companies.

  3. Communities and neighborhoods:
    Are you looking in the right places? Will you need to move or commute to your next job? Do you have probation or parole issues that may prevent you from relocating to another community? See Job Search Tips for Ex-Offenders: Researching Communities and Neighborhoods.
Much research can be done during your pre-release. You can visit your prison library for resources, talk to correctional staff members, and write letters to family members, friends, and potential employers.

Once you are released, your research options will increase dramatically. Now you can work with your parole or probation officer, who may have a list of local employers who regularly hire ex-offenders, and visit your local public library and support groups that assist ex-offenders in transition.

You should use the Internet in your research, also; computers are available at public libraries if you don't have a computer.

SOURCE: The original article was adapted from Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.Ds, The Ex-Offender's Job Hunting Guide (Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications). Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. This version has been updated to reflect conditions in 2011.