Learn / How to Find a Job After Rehab

How to Find a Job After Rehab

Hannah Friedman
 August 8th, 2023|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

Key Points

  • When job searching after rehab, prepare to talk about your treatment history.
  • Seek support from your network, mentors, and career coaches. Some rehabs can help.
  • Prioritize self-care while job hunting to reduce stress and avoid triggers.

By the time you get out of rehab, you might be looking for a new job. Perhaps the stress of your last career made your addiction worse. Or maybe you just want a fresh start as you enter the next phase of your life. Whatever your reasons, this can be a great time to make a change.

Addiction recovery is a major life transition. Your needs, goals, and abilities may be different than they used to be. And so the process of looking for work will probably be different, too. With this guide, you can learn how to find a job after rehab. 

Preparing for the Job Search

Even before you start looking for a job after rehab, you can set yourself up for success. Take this opportunity to assess your strengths, skills, and interests. Start by privately answering a few questions:

  • What skills come naturally to you? 
  • Of those skills, which ones do you most enjoy doing?
  • Imagine you have to give a 30-minute presentation on a topic of your choice, with no preparation. What topic would you choose?
  • Is there a subject area you want to learn more about?

Thinking about these questions can help you decide what type of job to look for. And then, you’ll know what materials to gather for your search. Depending on your field, you may need some or all of the following: 

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Professional references
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Current professional license
  • Diplomas or educational certificates

Review each of these documents to confirm that they’re relevant and up to date, and be prepared to make changes. You’ll probably need to send out different versions of your resume and cover letter to every potential employer. While it can be time-consuming, that strategy lets you tailor each application to the specific job at hand.

Exploring Job Opportunities

After drug or alcohol rehab, your career goals might change. Your mental health history could be part of that. For example, jobs within certain industries have a higher risk of addiction.1 If the culture of your last job supported substance abuse, you might need to change fields. Or, you might need to work part-time while you attend outpatient treatment. The important thing is to look for a job that gives you a sense of purpose and supports your larger recovery goals. 

Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to identify specific jobs that might be a good fit. These resources can help with your search: 

  • The National H.I.R.E. Network2 helps people with criminal records find employment opportunities. H.I.R.E. stands for “Helping Individuals with arrest and conviction records Reenter through Employment.” This advocacy group has 2 primary goals. First, they work with lawmakers to affect policy change. Second, they connect job seekers with helpful local resources. 
  • CareerOneStop3 is a national resource published by the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition to job postings, their site offers educational materials for veterans, people with disabilities, people changing careers, and more. 
  • SkillSPAN4 is a network of state-level coalitions that can help you prepare to find work. These organizations offer job skills training, career guidance, higher education, and more. Different resources are available in various regions. SkillSPAN is one arm of the National Skills Coalition

Online job boards are a great place to start, but your personal network is just as important. Data shows that most job opportunities are never even posted online.5 Let your friends, family, and colleagues know you’re looking. They just might connect you with the perfect opportunity.

Crafting a Compelling Job Application

Your application materials should demonstrate that you understand the company’s needs. You can do this in several ways: 

  • Tailor your resume and cover letter to fit each new job application. Make sure you include relevant keywords and highlight the skills that make you a great candidate. 
  • Be honest without oversharing. Never lie on your resume—that information is easy to verify. It’s better to show a gap in employment than a false description of your work history. That being said, you don’t have to bring up new information that might undermine your goals. 
  • Frame your experience positively. Directly address any concerns an employer might have. For example, if you have a conviction on public record, you can use your cover letter to describe your progress since then. Explain how your past experiences have helped you grow.

Navigating the Job Interview

A job interview is your chance to make a good first impression. Up until this conversation, you’re just a name on a resume. But when you meet, they can get to know you as a whole person. It’s important to demonstrate your commitment here:

  • Dress the part. Show up in professional attire that suits the job in question. If you’re applying to work as a restaurant server, for instance, you might want to arrive in comfortable shoes instead of 4-inch high heels. 
  • Practice your responses to common interview questions.6 At the same time, consider how your experience has prepared you for this job. This is more than a chance to present yourself well. It’s also an opportunity to build confidence.
  • Decide in advance how much you want to share. There’s no one right or wrong answer here—it depends on your history and on which jobs you’re applying for. But whatever you choose, you can plan ahead to avoid being caught off guard.

If you need to talk about your history of addiction, you can discuss it positively and professionally. What did you learn from the experience, and what are you still learning? Maybe you have a stronger support system than you once did, or you know more about how the brain works. Tell the interviewer how much you’ve grown, and what your goals are for the future. You can also tell them what you’d need from a new employer. For example, if you attend A.A. meetings every Tuesday at 2 pm, you might need those afternoons off. 

Disclosing Your Rehab History

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination. In other words, you can’t be fired from a job just because you have a disability. The ADA applies to people with substance use disorders7 and mental health issues. These protections last throughout recovery, but they change in each stage of the hiring process. 

While You’re Applying

  • Your potential employer may not ask if you have a disability.
  • If you disclose that you have a disability, your potential employer may not ask about the nature of that disability. 
  • If your potential employer asks about your disability, violating the ADA, you are not required to answer. 
  • Even if you answer questions that violate the ADA, you are eligible for ADA protections.

After You Get Hired, Before Starting the Job

  • Your new employer may ask questions about your medical history, including addiction, as long as they’re relevant to the job.
  • Your new employer may ask about your current alcohol and drug use. 
  • If asked, you must answer questions about your disability. However, if they don’t ask, you’re not legally required to volunteer new information. 

After Starting the Job

  • Your employer can only ask about your condition if it’s directly relevant to your ability to do your job.
  • If you’re actively using drugs or alcohol—or engaging in another addictive behavior that impairs your ability to work—you can legally be fired.
  • If you develop an addiction to a medication you only take as prescribed, you are protected by the ADA. If you take the same medication excessively, you’ll lose that protection.

It’s important to understand these laws so you can protect yourself from illegal discrimination. However, because many jobs come through personal networks, a potential employer might already know about your treatment history. Although they can’t legally ask more detailed questions, they might mention information they already have. If that happens, you can address their concerns without revealing anything new. In these conversations, look for ways to frame your recovery as a strength. 

Building a Supportive Network

Finding employment doesn’t have to be a solo mission. Don’t be afraid to ask for help during this process. You can find support from many types of relationships: 

  • Friends
  • Family members
  • Professional mentors
  • Career coaches who specialize in post-rehab employment
  • Aftercare specialists at your rehab

Reach out to your network for advice and emotional support, and to see if they know of any job openings. You might also be eligible for professional career coaching services. If you’re part of an aftercare program, ask your care team to connect you with these resources. 

Don’t limit yourself to the people you already know. This is a great time to get out there and make new connections. You can do that by going to industry or networking events, attending conferences, and taking in-person classes on related topics.

Maintaining Self-Care During the Job Search Process

Job searches are stressful for everyone. And if you’re in recovery, stress can be triggering.

It’s important to commit to your recovery goals while you apply for jobs. Making a specific plan can help:

  • Schedule self-care. You could decide to exercise every morning or go to bed at the same time each night. There’s no need to make major changes here. What strategies do you already find helpful? Write them down, and stick to your routine while you’re trying to find a job.
  • Keep your commitments. Accountability is a big part of healing from addiction. Whatever your commitments are, it’s important to follow through. That could mean attending a weekly support group, taking daily medication, or responding to your therapist’s emails in a timely way. 
  • Stay in touch. Check in with your support network regularly throughout your job search. Your loved ones can remind you that there’s more to life than getting a job. And that perspective can make you a more appealing candidate. 

Learn more about how to get a job after rehab from the experts. Connect with specialists in an addiction treatment program today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Finding a Job After Rehab

How do I find a job after rehab?

Finding a job after rehab requires preparation and a clear plan. Start by assessing your strengths, skills, and interests. Tailor your resume and cover letter for each job application, and explore job opportunities online and through your personal network. Interviewing successfully involves demonstrating your commitment and framing your recovery positively. It’s also helpful to understand your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and disclose your rehab history appropriately.

What resources can help me find work after rehab?

CareerOneStop, a national resource by the U.S. Department of Labor, offers job postings and educational materials. SkillSPAN, part of the National Skills Coalition, provides job skills training, career guidance, and more at the state level. The National H.I.R.E. Network helps people with criminal records find employment opportunities. Online job boards and personal networks are also valuable in job searches.

How can I maintain my sobriety during the job search process?

The job search process can be stressful, especially for those in addiction recovery. To maintain a healthy balance that’s conducive to your sobriety, schedule regular self-care activities like exercise and try to maintain a consistent sleep routine. Keep your commitments to your recovery, attend support groups, and stay in touch with your support network. Remember the importance of accountability and follow through with your commitment to long-term recovery.

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