Finding a Job After Addiction Treatment: What You Should Know

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Completing residential treatment means returning to the outside world, which can often be filled with challenges. One major obstacle for many is finding a new job or perhaps even a first job.  You may be returning to the work environment after an extended period. You might have decided to change your job or career path to better maintain sobriety. Whatever your situation is, a job search can be a daunting task. Knowing what to expect and how to overcome these challenges can help you feel less discouraged and be more likely to successfully take this important step in your recovery.  

Common Challenges When Job Searching After Treatment  

Looking for a job can bring about stress and anxiety. One way to limit these pressure points is to create a plan. That plan should recognize the challenges that are unique to those in recovery. Among the most common are: 

  • Accounting for gaps in your work history 
  • Networking when relationships may have been damaged 
  • Handling stress and maintaining sobriety during your job search 
  • Dealing with the stigma some have towards those with addiction  

Explaining Employment Gaps 

Putting together a resume is one of the first steps in most job searches, and one common issue for those in recovery is explaining gaps in employment. It’s extremely important that your resume be honest and your answers to questions in job interviews also be truthful. Being upfront about your treatment is always a good approach, but at the same time, you’re only obligated to share what’s relevant. For example, you can say you were “taking care of a medical issue” when asked about gaps in employment in an interview. When putting together a resume, you should consider listing the years you were employed at a particular job rather than the months. 

Networking in Recovery

Networking is considered by many to be the most effective way to find employment. But it can trigger stress for those who’ve had professional relationships damaged because of their addiction and may not feel comfortable contacting former associates.  Another source of angst is the need to find contacts in a new job field when you’re considering another career. 

A way to network you might have not considered is reaching out to those connections you made while undergoing treatment. Many treatment centers such as Mountainside have alumni programs that can be of assistance. Attend alumni events and get to know more people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow alumni and let them know what you’re searching for. You never know who may lead you to a relevant job opening at their company. Another great way to build a network is to volunteer at an organization, particularly one that’s related to your field. Volunteering is also an effective way to keep a positive outlook during your job search and an opportunity to pick up experience if you’re changing careers or looking for that first job. 

Handling Job Search Stress  

A job search can be all-consuming and when coupled with economic pressures, there is likely going to be stress. So, it’s critical to remember that your sobriety takes precedence over all other priorities during your job search. It’s important that you continue attending your addiction counseling sessions, therapy appointments, or 12-step meetings. Lean on your support group for job search advice as well as stress relief tips.   If you are not part of a support group, it’s a great time to join one either in-person or online.  For example, Mountainside offers virtual support groups that are open to everyone.  Keep doing what you’ve been doing to maintain your sobriety and understand that the successes you’ve had as part of your treatment have put you in a position to return to a work environment. That’s a milestone in your recovery. 

At the same time, it’s important to understand that your job hunt might not always go your way. Not always getting a call back is normal.  The important thing is managing your reaction to them. When disappointments or stressful situations happen, take a step back. Do something that you enjoy, or simply take a break from your search.  An easy technique like pausing to monitor your breathing can clear your mind. Try to realize that a setback doesn’t mean your job search is a failure. If you are in therapy, talk about the setback with your therapist.    

Dealing with the Stigma of Addiction 

While employers should be open-minded when making hiring decisions, there can be a stigma connected to job applicants who have addiction issues. This stigma can be particularly challenging if you have a criminal history related to addiction. Once again, honesty is critical. If asked about your addiction, be upfront about it, but don’t volunteer information that you weren’t asked about. For example, remember an arrest is not a conviction, and employers are only allowed to ask if you’ve been convicted of a crime.   

Be careful about using language that puts your addiction in a bad light. Saying you’re “a druggie” feeds into the stigma. Saying you’re “in recovery” and highlighting the steps you’ve taken in addiction treatment can ease the stigma. Try to steer the conversation back to your qualifications for the position you’re applying for and your strengths as a potential employee. If you don’t get the job, understand that rejection is part of the process and use it as a learning experience. 

Employment Resources for Job Hunters  

Understanding how to handle common problems related to job searching after your addiction treatment will strengthen your chances of landing a job. It’s also important to know that you aren’t alone. There are a number of resources you can tap into to get help with your search including some organizations tailored to help those who’ve undergone addiction treatment. Here’s a guide to some of them. 

Government Websites and Job Boards

Job boards are available on the websites of many state labor department offices. New York, for example, lists jobs in every region of the state. Connecticut also has a job board available, and its State Department of Mental Health and Addiction provides recovery-oriented employment services in many areas. The U.S. Department of Labor also has many resources for job searchers. Popular job search sites such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter help place millions of employees.  

Registering with a temporary agency is often a very good way for those in recovery to find employment.  Temp jobs can give you varied experiences if you’re unsure where to go in your career path. They’re a great way to build up your resume if you are early in your career or looking for your first job.  Temporary or part-time work can also be ideal if you are looking to leave time open in your schedule to concentrate on your recovery. Another way to grow your skills and help you find a career path is to look for an internship. This will give you real work experience in the field you’re looking to be in and can help you decide in a career in that field is right for you. 

Skills Training Programs 

One organization that’s dedicated to helping those in recovery find employment is EPRA, a non-profit organization that helps New York City residents identify and acquire the skills they need to enter the workforce. They also provide a job placement service with a particular emphasis on employee retention. The Salvation Army also has a job placement assistance program and offers skills training.  They will help job seekers with resume writing and job interview training and assist them with financial planning and finding insurance coverage.   

Job hunting can be a marathon rather than a sprint, and extreme patience is usually required. But identifying the possible difficulties related to your recovery and learning techniques to overcome those obstacles can put you in a position to succeed. The more you learn and the more practice you have, the easier the search will become.  Good luck! 

 

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