You have completed treatment, you are thriving in recovery, and you are ready to take on the world. And while returning to the “real world” can be exciting, some aspects of it can be daunting, like going back to work.
Whether you are returning to your previous job or searching for a new one, reentering the work force can pose some challenges. How you react to them can have a huge impact on your recovery, which is why it is important to prepare yourself for this important step.
Returning to Your Previous Job
Before returning to work, ask yourself – is this job going to put my recovery at risk? While receiving treatment and overcoming your addiction has changed you, it is important to realize that the outside world has not changed. If your work environment was toxic prior to you getting help, it probably still is. For example, if you worked at a bar or a restaurant where you were constantly surrounded by alcohol and your coworkers were all heavy drinkers, going back to that job is not in your best interest.
Taking a Step Back
It is important to note that the presence of drugs or alcohol aren’t the only triggers you should avoid. For example, if your previous job kept you so busy and stressed that you felt that you needed to self-medicate to keep up, then you should think about switching jobs. That is not to say that you should avoid any stressful job. After all, part of treatment is learning to manage every day stress. But jumping back into a high-stress environment can derail your progress. If you are passionate about the field you work in but know that your previous position is too overwhelming now, speak with your supervisor about working part time or perhaps taking a step back and momentarily taking on a less stressful position.
Not everyone has the flexibility to take a step back at work. In this case, you should take extra precautions to safeguard your recovery. Create a schedule and make sure that you pencil in some time to work on yourself – go to meetings, speak with your sponsor, attend therapy. It is also important that you establish a strong support group. If you feel comfortable enough, let any coworkers you deem friends know about your recovery so that they can help you stay on track at work.
If the fact that you have gone to treatment is common knowledge at your job, you will most likely face many questions from your coworkers. This can be uncomfortable, but you should remember that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t owe them any explanations and you don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to. However, sharing your story can be empowering and you never know, it might help someone else realize that they have a problem and cause them to reach out for help.
Finding a New Job
Finding a new job can be an overwhelming process, but it can also be a great opportunity for a fresh start. Whether you are currently unemployed, your present job is putting your recovery at risk, or you are simply looking for a change, it is important that you remember that your recovery is your top priority. Next time embark on a job search, keep the following tips in mind.
Elevate Your Resume
Your resume comprises the first impression you make on a potential employer, so make it count. Sometimes people tend to underestimate their skills and accomplishments. When writing your resume, think about how you would describe your best friend to a prospective employer if they were the one looking for a job. Would you say they are a good worker? Or would you say they are a goal-driven, hardworking individual with a successful track record and passion for excellence? It’s important that you sell yourself.
Think about everything you have done as part of your recovery ⎼ can any of it help you add relevant skills and experiences to your resume? Was volunteering a part of your treatment? Did you receive vocational classes? Did you learn any new skills? Include them in your resume to make it stand out from the rest.
Get Strong References
You know what they say: who you surround yourself with says a lot about you. This is especially true when it comes to job references. Be smart about who you pick to speak on your behalf. It may be tempting to put a friend or family member down as a reference as they are sure to sing you praises, but doing so could cause prospective employers to think that no one in your professional field has anything positive to say about you. It’s always best to stick with professional references ⎼ supervisors, former colleagues, or professors, all make great, trustworthy references.
Be sure to let whoever you select know that you are looking for a job and would like to put them down as references. Tell them what kind of position you are applying for and why you think you would be a great fit. This allows them to be better prepared to speak about you and your skills.
Go Outside the Box
The job market is tough. There are countless qualified applicants and not enough job openings, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Instead, think of different ways to give yourself the upper-hand.
One way to do so is by networking. Put yourself out there and let everyone know that you are looking for a new job ⎼ family, friends, neighbors, old college roommates, Facebook friends, everyone! You might be thinking, how could my neighbor who is a baker help me find a job as an accountant? Well, for all you know your neighbor’s nephew owns his own business and is looking to hire one. Truth is, you don’t know who out there could benefit from your skills so make sure that everyone is aware of them.
Going to networking events is also an easy way to get yourself out there. Sure, speaking with a bunch of strangers can seem scary but it could help you land the job of your dreams. So, grab a friend for support if need be, and go introduce yourself to everyone you see. You have nothing to lose!
Be Ready for Tough Questions
Landing an interview means you are one giant step closer to getting the job, but it also means it’s time to answer some tough questions. It is very likely that an interviewer will ask about any employment gaps in your resume so it is important that you know how you want to approach this question prior to the interview. While overcoming your addiction is something you should be very proud of, it is not something that you are obligated to share with anyone, especially someone you just met. If asked about your period of unemployment you can say that you suffered from an illness and needed time to take care of yourself. Make sure that you emphasize that you are all better and ready to get to work. This allows you the opportunity to be honest, without oversharing information. Most interviewers won’t pry any further, and if they do, respectfully say that you would rather focus on what you can bring to the job. Keep your head up high and stay focused on how you can be asset to the organization!
Pick Yourself Up and Try Again
You can have a stellar resume, impeccable references, and ace every question during the interview and still not land the job. It’s frustrating but it happens. All you can do is move on to the next. Don’t let one setback derail you from going after the job you want.