Who hires felons? That is a question I hear over and over in the job training and reentry programs I lead. It is a constant struggle to find out exactly who hires felons. Companies that do hire former offenders often don’t want to advertise that fact. They fear that their customers might not trust a company who hires felons as much as one that doesn’t.
Fortunately, there are companies out there who are willing to take that small risk and provide jobs for those who have a record. Unfortunately, as you likely know, these companies are not easy to find. Don’t let this discourage you! There are jobs out there and those of you who are willing to go the extra mile and find them will be rewarded.
Since hiring managers don’t often advertise that they are someone who hires felons, you need to do some research! One of the best ways to gain knowledge about who will hire former offenders and who won’t is networking. Networking is the absolute best way to find jobs and to actually get hired. Many jobs that are open to the justice-involved are filled well before they are publicly advertised. These jobs are filled through existing professional and social networks.
Who hires felons: Where to network to find jobs for felons
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of networking, check out The Guide To Finding Jobs For Ex Felons Through Networking for an in-depth look at networking for former felons. Networking should be a major part of your job hunt for anyone, felons and non-felons alike. Below is a list of 18 ideas on where to network as a felon. These are all excellent spots to find a person or company who hires felons or who would be a solid addition to your network.
The Unemployment Office
You should already be spending some time at the unemployment office searching for jobs and taking advantage of all the resources that are available. While you are there, don’t forget to leverage another fantastic resource: the other job seekers! While you are all in the market for a job, most of you will not be competing with each for the same positions — so strike up a conversation!
Other active job seekers often have a lot of valuable information on companies that are hiring. They are spending as much time as you are searching for jobs and are often more than willing to share information with you about someone they might know who hires felons. Finding a few other people who you can keep in touch with and share job leads with is extremely valuable.
Regardless of your religion, you always meet new people where you worship. A shared belief system is a very strong connection that is itself a huge network. Most religions are very forgiving of those who make mistakes and will be more open to helping you turn your life around than those who don’t share your faith or journey to redemption.
Religious groups are often already looking for ways to help the less fortunate and may be very open to helping you as well. This can be in the form of job leads or even actual employment through the organization. Be sure you don’t distract others from actual worship services, but also be sure to use more social times (like before or after a service) to make some connections and let others know you are looking to find someone who hires felons.
Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or other felon support groups are fantastic places to meet new people. These are all people who have gone through similar struggles and can easily relate to where you are at. You already have a strong connection in place and they are likely to be open to helping you out.
Everyone in a support group is dealing with a major issue in their life. You don’t want to use the group meeting time to advertise that you are looking for someone who hires felons, however. Fortunately there is typically plenty of time before the group starts and after the group lets out to socialize with the other group members.
Every justice-involved person should be spending some of their time volunteering. It is a great way to get practical experience on your resume, show that you are rehabilitated, and meet a lot of great people. There are many places to volunteer and there really is no downside to volunteering except for taking a little time.
People who volunteer are some of the best people to have in your network. They want to help others improve their lives! Not only do they want to help, they actually go one step further and do something about it. Volunteer activities are often very social and provide a lot of opportunities to get to know the other volunteers and learn about each other. Many volunteers will have connections with other organizations or know people with similar attitudes that can make them more likely to be someone who hires felons.
Some volunteer activities have restrictions for those with felony convictions, so you will want to do a little research ahead of time. Check out their website or send them an anonymous email to see if they do background checks or have restrictions.
Do you like to go on hikes? Do you have a passion for investing in stocks? With all the free time most felons have inside, you are bound to have a hobby or five. You should investigate and see if there is a local club for people interested in the same thing. Not only is this a fun activity for you, it can be a great way to meet other people with similar interests.
People with the same passions tend to feel like they have a connection to each other. Find out if there is a local group you can join and drop in on a meeting. You never know what someone who hires felons might be interested in.
While chatting someone up while they are bench pressing might not be a good idea, the gym can be a great place to meet new people. You are all there with a similar goal of maintaining a healthy body and improving yourself.
There are many opportunities to engage while stretching, resting between sets, or getting water where you can strike up a conversation. Especially after you start to see the same people regularly, you can begin to form some great relationships.
Art Events or Art Groups
The art community has a great reputation of sharing ideas, recent works, and advice. There is a huge social aspect to art that makes meeting new people and networking a piece of cake. Art can include anything from painting and sculpture to singing. Many former felons spent their free time inside working on artistic projects, so it makes sense to put those skills to work for you while networking.
Look for events or groups that focus on your chosen art and get involved. If you are good enough, you might even find someone there who hires felons to do what you do!
Barber Shop or Hairdresser
Barber shops and hair salons are typically very social places. Your barber has a lot of clients and spends extended periods of time talking to them and getting to know them. There are also usually a lot of people waiting around for their turn in the chair that get involved in the conversation. The barber and those waiting can be a great source of job leads!
Make sure you mention to them that you are looking for work and ask if they might know someone who hires felons.
Meetup.com is the world’s largest network of groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting face-to-face. More than 9,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.
Many former offenders who have been in prison for a while may not be comfortable using the internet and you need to get over that. You do need to learn how to use it if you want to be the most effective at building your network!
Meetup has 20,000,000 users and is a fantastic resource to meet new people interested in just about anything you are interested in.
Everyone should be on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 850 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe. It is also a fantastic resource for anyone looking to make new connections.
Not only are there many job listings on LinkedIn, there are also a huge number of online groups on a wide variety of topics that you can get involved with.
There are millions of online forums on the internet devoted to just about any topic you can imagine. This includes forums dedicated to finding jobs for felons, helping felons with reentry, and discussing general job search advice. There forums are a treasure trove of job hunting information, as well as information on how to be successful after you release.
Becoming a regular contributor to the forum or even a forum moderator (someone who helps keep the forum professional) is a great way to meet people online. With forums being filled with people around the world, you never know who you are talking to or if they are someone who hires felons.
Forums are also a great way to connect with other people who are justice-involved and in the same situation as you. You can share advice, learn from each other’s mistakes, and support each other through this difficult process. Since forums are online, you have the option to remain anonymous if you desire or be more public with your real identity.
Sponsored by the US Small Business Administration, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a nonprofit mentoring program that has been around since 1964. The organization consists of more than 13,000 volunteers who offer mentoring assistance.
Since its inception, nearly 10 million Americans have used SCORE’s services. There are 389 chapters throughout the US, and each chapter is comprised of accomplished and experienced entrepreneurs and business owners who are trained as business counselors and volunteer their time to mentor entrepreneurs and small-business owners who are just starting a business or wish to work on their existing business.
The first group that comes to mind when thinking of neighborhood groups is the neighborhood watch. Now, depending on your conviction, this might not be such a good idea. Those with felonies from theft, drug sales, or violent crimes will likely not receive a very warm reception from a neighborhood watch group.
A better alternative might be a productive neighborhood project, like organizing a block party, performing cleanup duties, or setting up shared child or pet care between yourself and your neighbors. The key is to be friendly and helpful.
We love our pets and love talking about them. If you have a pet, finding a local group or club devoted to that type of animal can be a great way to meet new people. A lot of pet groups, especially for dogs, involves standing around chatting with other dog owners while the animals play. This is a perfect environment for meeting new people.
Dogs are going to be the best pet for this type of networking. You are not going to find nearly as many cat or lizard groups!
Ethnic or Gender-Based Clubs
Clubs based around a common gender or ethnic heritage are excellent places to meet new people. There are many clubs and organizations across the country from the Black Business and Professional Association to the Women in Business organization. The clubs are filled with members who have a shared understanding of some of your life experience and are often very focused on helping each other succeed.
It is going to be easier to find gender-based clubs for women. There simply are many more of them out there. Keep an eye out for these clubs and give them a try!
Few things unify and segregate people more than politics. While you might not want to bring up your political affiliations in an interview, political organizations can be great places to meet like-minded people. You find a wide range of people from housewives to business owners who hire felons in political organizations. Discussing shared political views with someone is a great way to start a conversation.
Don’t worry if you are a conservative, liberal, or in-between. There are great people to meet on all sides of politics and political volunteers tend to be more giving and open to those with felonies who need a little help. There are many organizations that are working towards prison and judicial reform that can always use extra help. These groups are even more likely to be open to connecting you with people who will hire former offenders.
Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. With a membership of over 280,000, Toastmasters seek to improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 14,700 clubs in the 144 countries that make up their global network of meeting locations.
Toastmasters is full of motivated people who are interested in bettering themselves, many of whom are in leadership positions and some of whom may be those who hire felons. Facing one of humanity’s deepest fears, public speaking, with twenty or so of your supportive new friends is an excellent way to network. Everyone’s motivated, and almost everyone is probably a little scared too.
Public speaking is incredibly important when interviewing for positions and Toastmasters is a great way to learn how to do it effectively. While in prison you may not have had many opportunities to practice your public speaking or professional communication skills. You will be most successful interviewing and networking if you take the time to polish those skills early on.
Children’s sporting events, school plays, or birthday parties are chock-full of semi-bored parents who are happy to have a distracting conversation. You already have a very strong connection with these parents (your kids), and parents always have things they can talk about with each other. If your kids are in the same class or on the same team, you will likely run into these same people multiple times in a year — take advantage of this!
Fellow parents will sympathize with your struggles, especially those who are unemployed. Parents tend to favor giving jobs to other parents as a result of this shared understanding. These kind of shared connections can have a big influence on someone who hires felons.
If you are interested in learning about the hiring policies regarding the justice-involved for a large number of companies, check out our Jobs for Felons page. This is a list our team has compiled by personally contacting a large numbers of employers and finding out who hires felons.