Have you made some poor choices that have landed you behind bars? Whether it’s a few months, a couple years or a decade, use the available resources and time to your advantage and better yourself. Most prisons offer educational opportunities, including options to finish your general educational development (GED), start or finish your college education, begin vocational training or become skilled in other sought-after areas.

For example, many restaurants provide ex-cons a second chance; culinary skills or sales/business knowledge would come in handy if pursuing that industry once you’re released. The longer you’re incarcerated, the more important it becomes to continually educate and better yourself to keep up with the changes in the outside world and ensure you’re marketable to someone when you get out.

Once released, a beneficial resource to connect are local advocacy groups that help ex-offenders find and apply for jobs that don’t need perfect records. You can consult your parole officer on how to contact these groups or search for them yourself.

Government agencies or non-profits will aid job seekers by providing opportunities to get more training in their selected trade or education toward a subject of their choosing. Goodwill is one company that offers re-entry programs in many states. You can search the web to see if you’re state also provides this service. Also, the Second Chance Act, funds local groups that help ex-offenders deal with substance abuse.

Don’t stop bettering yourself once you’re free. Continue to seek out education and job training programs.