The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing & Able program is making a difference

One of the most difficult things about leaving prison is getting back on your feet and not ending up back in prison.  It is estimated that two-thirds of people released from prison in the U.S. are rearrested within three years.  After serving time, people are routinely discriminated against when trying to find housing or jobs.  They are denied fundamental rights and dignity.  In many states, after serving time for felonies, people are never again even allowed to vote or serve on juries.  The result is a devastating cycle of incarceration, homelessness, poverty, and recidivism.


The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing & Able program is making a difference.  The motivating belief is that paid work and personal responsibility can turn lives around.   To enter the program, applicants must pledge to abstain from using drugs and alcohol, and forego entitlements (with the exception of Medicaid).  Once accepted, they move into a dormitory-style residences, receive a month of counseling, and then are put to full-time work starting at $7.40 an hour, which gets raised to $8.15 after six months.  First assignments are to cleaning crews working city streets (over 150 street miles in New York City and Philadelphia!).  All participants take classes in life and computer skills, job preparation, and financial management.  After three months, they move from cleaning streets to occupational training in fields that include culinary arts, green building maintenance, and pest control.


The Doe Fund is a ground-breaking transitional work program and one of the nation’s first large-scale social undertakings.  It was founded in 1985 in memory of a homeless woman known only as “Mama” Doe.  Stressing the importance of community service and supporting those who are less fortunate, this program has made a huge difference in the lives of its participants.  Over 22,000 people have now participated, and their rate of recidivism is far below that of the general population of those released from prison.  A wonderful model for solving some of our nation’s greatest challenges: poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, and recidivism!  We all need to be less frightened by people coming out of the prison system and more aware of the problems they face in trying to become contributing members of society again.



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Where to Find Great Talent

You can hire the best, even if you're on a budget. You just need to know where to look.

"To succeed, surround yourself with great talent." Sounds great.

Also sounds expensive.

Hiring the best is really hard to pull off in practice, especially if your goal is to hire Lamborghinis and all you have is a Kia budget.

So what can you do? Try taking a contrarian investment approach to hiring.

People, just like stocks, are often underappreciated and undervalued, like people who have great skills but no experience in your industry. Or people who are well educated, but their education is in the "wrong" field. Or people whose current job lacks sufficient "status."

Or people who suffer due to negative social stereotypes.

The key to finding great talent at a price you can afford is to be a hiring contrarian. Go against the grain. Go against conventional wisdom. Then you can find your next superstar while giving someone deserving a chance to show what they can really do.

Here are some examples of great talent that are often hiding in plain view:

Career switchers

Teachers are a great example. Many love to teach but grow to dislike the relatively low pay. Teachers are excellent trainers, understand how to manage different personalities, and are great at motivating, encouraging, and nurturing other people.

While you can train skills, do you have the time and resources to "train" your employees to possess qualities like those?

Where career switchers are concerned, the key is to ignore their industry and look at the qualities the person possesses: Good salespeople are self-starters. Good police officers work well under pressure. Good mechanics are excellent troubleshooters.

With a little training, outstanding people excel in almost any job.


I might be biased, but I think sports create an excellent training ground for business. A recent graduate who played a sport is self-disciplined, motivated, great at multitasking, able to overcome adversity, appreciates the value of teamwork... aren't those qualities you want your employees to have?

Every year approximately 400,000 student-athletes graduate from college and enter the job market. Snap one up.


This time I'm definitely biased. I hired hundreds of people and definitely made mistakes, but I never regretted a single ex-military hire.

Not one.

If you need a leader (and who doesn't?)  the military is probably the only organization that puts as much or more emphasis on leadership training as it does on skills training.

If you need someone to see a task through, or to be able to follow as well as lead, or to be able to make smart decisions on the fly-and stand behind those decisions, go with a veteran.

You'll be glad you did.

Not so impressive current job

You glance at a resume: The current job listed is telemarketing, or fast food, or stocking shelves. What's your first thought?

Admit it. You think, "Well, if that's all they're doing now..." It's easy to assume a person who currently has a less than wonderful job is only "worth" a job like that.

Wrong: The fast food kid probably has more customer service experience than you do, and the warehouse worker may possess the attention to detail of an accountant on performance-enhancing drugs.

Look past the job title and think about the duties and responsibilities; that's what really matters.


Of course younger workers don't have any experience. How could they?

You and I were young once too. Someone gave us a chance-and we worked hard to show that person they made the right decision. Make sure at least a small percentage of your new hires are young people just entering the workforce. Then you get energy, ideas, enthusiasm-and the chance to truly grow your own talent pool.



Haden, Jeff. "Where to Find Great Talent: 5 Contrarian Ideas" INC Magazine. 10 April 2012. Web. 

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