A Croydon man has spoken about the trials and tribulations of job hunting following his release from prison.

La’Jay Taylor now balances his job at a café with mentoring young people and going back into prisons to inspire people with his story.

But life wasn't always so good for the 26-year-old.

"When I left prison, I started doing everything I could to find a job," he said.

"I looked online, went to the job centre and to job fairs. Applications can take a long time – you often attach your CV and then also have to type all the information again into an application form.

"It’s very repetitive and you rarely hear anything back. Employers are often so focused on experience but I think that sometimes it’s beneficial to come to something afresh, with new ideas and creativity."

He felt that as an ex-offender that as soon as he ticked that box he was discounted.

"I wasn’t given a chance to show my skills or personality and you’re banned from applying to a lot of jobs," he added.

"I worked as a bus driver before going into prison but couldn’t go back into it afterwards.

“My life was a disaster at this point. I was on the verge of losing my house and I was stressed out trying to find a job. It was hard.”

But that's when La'Jay found The Prince's Trust.

He had remembered seeing posters for charity in prison and, in May 2019, he signed up for the Future Leaders programme which focuses on personal development, finding confidence and essential employability skills.

"I didn’t know what to expect, I just wanted to do something constructive, but I found the programme very motivating and uplifting," he said.

"It made me see that even though I’d been to prison, I still had something to offer. They reminded me of my self-worth and gave me back my self-confidence.”

La’Jay then went Get Hired, also run by The Prince’s Trust, which brings together employers and young people, without the need for a CV.

“I kept going to Get Hired events until I found a job," he continued.

"The events were useful because employers could get a feel of potential employees’ personality before giving them the job and could see whether they would fit into their team."

In November last year he got a job at a cafe in Southwark through Get Hired.

Now he spends his free time working with the Trust to go into prisons and tell his story.

"I left through one door of the prison and I’m going back through another. It’s a pretty good feeling to know I’m making a difference.”