Congratulations — you’ve completed your addiction treatment program. The process wasn’t easy, but the recovery you’ve reached was well worth the effort. In order to maintain your sobriety, though, you’ll need to create structure and stability in your life. For most people, that means finding a job, or, if you already have one, continuing to strengthen and expand your career opportunities.
Conducting a job search after leaving a drug rehab program can be daunting, especially if you haven’t been on the job market for a while. Luckily, there are resources available to you to help, starting with your treatment program and peer support groups. Combine those with a bevy of in-person and online networking and educational programs and you’ll be able to find momentum soon.
To help, we’ve put together 5 key tips for finding employment after you complete your rehab program.
#1. Before leaving treatment, talk with your case manager
Many people enter addiction treatment with lives that have become completely absorbed by addiction. Their schedules, decisions, and lifestyles revolve around addictive behaviors, including finding, buying, consuming, their substances of choice. This means that, for many clients, holding down a job or growing a career has not been a priority for months or even years. That’s why many treatment programs include a job placement component, helping clients regain their economic footing as they complete treatment.
At BlueCrest Recovery, we employ a full-time case manager who is focused on assisting our clients with critical activities like finding employment, going back to school, dealing with legal issues, and creating an aftercare plan. Make sure your treatment program also provides case management services that cover these very important areas.
Prior to completing your treatment program, ensure that you have an aftercare plan that feels achievable for you. Your case manager should understand your goals, your needs, and your addiction history when working together with you on a strategy. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a career to help others manage their addiction, you will need to understand the relevant certifications needed in your state, as well as the education you need to achieve to qualify. At the same time, if you want to continue to attend outpatient or aftercare treatment programs, you’ll need to find programs that fit your new work or school schedule.
#2. Network among your peers
One of the most effective ways to find a job is to grow and maintain your professional network. Luckily, if you’ve attended an addiction treatment program, you have a built-in place to start. Don’t be afraid to talk about your professional goals and dreams with your peers, as well as the clinical staff at your treatment program. Connections often arise in unexpected places—you never know who might have a contact in your chosen industry!
If you’re not sure about where to go next professionally, your peers can help. If you attend a 12-step group through your treatment program or an organization like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, ask others what they do for a living. Ask them why they enjoy their work, what skills and qualifications they needed to get started, and the types of projects they work on. Remember that not every career path is the right fit, but some will naturally fit your temperament and abilities. For example, customer service roles may be a perfect match for an extrovert problem-solver, while legal or accounting-related jobs might be a better fit for an analytical introvert.
Don’t neglect online opportunities, either. LinkedIn, Twitter, Glassdoor, and other social media sites geared towards professionals are excellent resources to start making connections with others. These are also valuable places to sharpen your skills and learn something new in your chosen field. LinkedIn, for example, offers a dedicated Learning section of the site filled with online courses and resources.
#3. Talk to your sponsor
If you’re regularly attending a 12-step program, you may have been matched with a sponsor, someone who has been sober for a long period of time and acts as a mentor and guardian for people who are new to recovery. While your sponsor is there for you to help you stay sober and maintain your recovery, they are also a good resource to help you grow professionally.
For example, your sponsor may work in an industry that interests you or may be a member of the local Chamber of Commerce or business association. Perhaps they can introduce you to colleagues or help connect you with a local business owner. Even if they don’t work in your chosen field, your sponsor can act as a valuable sounding board as you consider your next steps. Among the questions, you can ask yourself (and discuss with your sponsor) as you consider your next career move include:
- What am I passionate about?
- Who do I want to help?
- Where do my skills and interests connect?
- What qualifications do I need to find the type of job I want?
- What is holding me back from professional success right now?
Spending time being introspective about yourself and your professional interests isn’t time wasted. You’ve done the hard work of beginning your recovery, now you can embark on the next phase of your journey with a smart strategy in mind.
#4. Don’t be afraid to go back to school
We often hear stories about 80- and 90-year-olds who attended college finished up their degree, or received their high school diploma. While heartwarming, these stories also remind us that it is truly never too late to prioritize your education. If you’re recovering from addiction, now is the perfect time to further your learning, too.
Luckily, there are hundreds of different resources available to you. In New Jersey alone, there are more than 40 universities and 60 different community colleges and two-year schools, all with different degree programs, areas of focus, and campus locations. And the state of New Jersey publishes a comprehensive guide to financial aid and scholarship opportunities, so financial concerns won’t derail your plans for professional growth.
If classroom learning isn’t a good fit for you, there are a variety of other options. For hands-on learning, consider vocational or technical schools, where you can learn skills in the health care, automotive, and home construction fields. If you’re more comfortable behind a keyboard, consider online degree programs from sites like Udemy and Udacity, which offers “nanodegree” programs in a variety of different technical skills.
#5. Help others before helping yourself
Addiction can make us do many things we later regret, from engaging in risky behaviors to using abusive language. But many of us most regret the times that our addiction made us self-centered and focused only on our needs. Recovery is an opportunity to make amends for this self-involved behavior. When you’re searching for a new career path, consider how you can help others first before helping yourself.
While many people in recovery choose to give back by working professionally in the addiction treatment industry, there are many ways you can help others while doing well. Fields including health care, hospitality, education, and social work all present opportunities for you to help others and grow professionally. No matter the field you choose, cultivating a mindset that puts others’ well-being first will pay dividends as you continue your recovery.
We know that finding a job can be intimidating, especially if you’re out of practice. But using the strategies and resources above can help. Remember that you’ve already come so far, including addressing your addiction and reaching recovery. Finding a job or growing your career is just the next step in your journey towards a fulfilling, stable, and rewarding life.