Is it Hard to Get a Job While in Addiction Recovery?

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the rise in unemployment was caused by an unprecedented loss of 22.1 million jobs. Now, more than two and a half years later people are putting their lives together and able to take a sigh of relief, mask-free (most of the time). Substance misuse also rose during the pandemic as people battled stress from isolation, the death of family members, and economic problems. Businesses are now back to actively recruiting employees. You’ve most likely seen the “We’re Hiring” signs posted or increased job ads on various websites. But what if you are in recovery from drugs or alcohol, can this affect your job prospects? Find out more about how to get your career back on track after treatment.

Rebuilding Your Career

If you were employed during active addiction and you have a long career behind you, you may be interested in returning to your previous path of employment. Depending on how much damage was done to your career prior to entering treatment, you may have some serious rebuilding to do before you are able to pick up where you left off. You can start by:

  • Reaching out to colleagues with whom you still have a strong and positive relationship for advice and referrals.
  • Attending local and national networking events, especially conferences and industry conventions.
  • Spending time on social media, especially sites like LinkedIn, and connecting with people who are working in or adjacent to your industry
  • Revamping your resume, doing volunteer work, and attaining credentials or certifications that will help you to be more employable.

Prepare For The Interview

Whether you are diving into the workforce for the first time as a sober person or trying to get back into the swing of things, the interview process can be nerve-wracking. Many people have questions about how best to handle certain interview questions, what to wear, and what employers are looking for. Though the answer will vary depending on the industry and position applied for, the individual, and the employer, here are the answers to some of the most common questions.

Should I disclose that I am in recovery?

This is by far one of the most pressing concerns for people who are applying for employment. It is important to note, employers are not allowed to ask you about your past substance abuse or to decide whether or not you get the job based solely on your addiction history. In some cases, disclosing a past struggle with addiction is imperative. In jobs where you may come into contact with or have to handle addictive substances (e.g., medications as a first responder or working in a clinic), it may be a requirement that you share your past with addiction in order to be in compliance with industry standards. In other situations, such as handling alcohol when serving customers at a bar or restaurant or where contact with substances is infrequent, it is not necessarily something that you need to “confess” at an interview unless you will require special accommodations in order to minimize your contact.

What should I talk about if they ask personal questions?

Addiction is tough, and it can take time to repair the damage done to relationships, health, and mental wellness in recovery. None of these issues is an appropriate conversation for a job interview, however. Keep it simple and light. Mention positive things that you are excited about in your personal life – if asked. For the most part, however, stay focused on the job and any skills or experience you have that pertain to your ability to be a positive addition to their team.

How Much Research Should I do?

No need to show up to an interview feeling like a deer in headlights. Get to know the company before you arrive. The Internet makes it easy to look up some of the details of the organization, find out the projects they have been involved in, read press releases, etc. If it’s a store or restaurant, head in ahead of time and take note of their services and products. If you have questions, ask. The more knowledgeable you are, the better able you will be to keep the interview headed in a positive direction.

Keeping the Job

Remember the saying, “your first job is keeping your job.” Here are some tips to stay on track:

  • Show up early.
  • Stay late.
  • Look your best.
  • Offer to help out.
  • Do tasks assigned to you to the best of your ability.
  • Be respectful to your boss, clients/customers, your coworkers, and yourself.
  • Avoid the rumor mill.
  • Follow through on your commitments.
  • Recognize your value.

Finding a good job is a key piece to solidifying your recovery, but remaining clean and sober should always be your top concern. If you find that a job is too stressful, difficult, or otherwise in conflict with your ability to avoid relapse, then give notice and begin the process of connecting with a job that is better suited to your needs. In the meantime, rather than burning bridges, use your experience in any position to build your resume and improve your skillset so you are even stronger in the next position.

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