Obtaining Employment After Rehab
This blog was originally posted on The Fix.
For many people, the road out of rehab is much more difficult than the one that led them in. There are no handbooks, guidelines or comprehensive classes that provide easy, step-by-step instructions to successfully navigate all the situations you’ll face once you’re out of rehab. After all, recovery isn’t one-size-fits-all. Relationships, living situations, marriages, divorces, children, employment—the list of potential challenges is endless. In many ways, finding a job is one of the best things you can do to chart a successful path to recovery, as it helps to put your feet on solid ground.
The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights reported that in 1980, 40,900 people were incarcerated for drug offenses, and by 2013, the numbers increased to 489,000 for drug-related crimes. For people in recovery, learning to skirt around the subject of criminal convictions during a job interview is an essential skill for workforce reentry. And while there are just as many challenges when it comes to employment, New Method Wellness makes that challenge far less daunting. The renowned recovery center, which offers personalized treatment programs as well as family group and extended care, believes there are some key things to know when you’re looking for a job after rehab.
First, it’s important to understand that, if you have a criminal history, all hope isn’t lost. You’re not totally out of the game before it even starts. Most job applications out there ask if you have arrests or convictions on your record. It’s up to you to be honest about it. Employers are legally limited to the types of questions they can ask about your convictions. They can also conduct a criminal background check on you, so if you answer dishonestly about your past, you’ll automatically be disqualified from a job interview. That said, you can be honest about your criminal past and still secure that much-needed interview.
While it’s important to not lie about your past, there’s also such a thing as being too honest. Don’t volunteer too much information. Only answer what is absolutely necessary and required on the job application. Case in point: if the employer asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”, answer honestly. If the answer is yes, just say “yes.” If they ask for more details, briefly mention that you regret it but emphasize what you learned from the experience. Bring the conversation back to your qualifications for the job. Focus on you and your goals. Be positive, upbeat, and determined. Wherever possible, show that you care as much about your future as you do the past that you’re trying to move away from.
If you manage to get a job interview, congratulations! You’ve passed the application phase which, in many ways, is very often the most difficult hurdle in the process. During the interview, dress the part. It’s important to show up on time. Be prepared and present. Remember that a job interview is as much about all the things you say as much as the things that you show. That means you should avoid nonverbal cues that may send the wrong message. Lack of eye contact, constant fidgeting, stiff posture, and too many “fillers” (e.g., “ummm”) are gestures to avoid while speaking to the interviewer because they exhibit nervousness and lack of confidence. Draw strength from the fact that you’ve secured a job interview in the first place. You’re a candidate they’re interested in, and you’re one step closer to getting a job. If nothing else, find strength and confidence in that.
The interviewer will generally ask a series of standard questions that you can prepare for ahead of time. That way, you can anticipate what you’ll be asked and how to best answer. Questions like “Tell me a little bit about yourself” are pretty easy to field, but questions like “What are some of your weaknesses?” require a little more preparation. These are the sorts of questions that can catch you off-guard and deflate your confidence—unless you’re ready for them. The best approach to answer this question is to focus on what you’ve done to correct your mistakes. Employers always want to see and hear about progress—both professional and personal. Emphasize all the work you’re doing to put the past behind you. For example, if a previous employer talked to you about a concern, explain what you did to rectify the situation. If you don’t have examples like that, talk about specific plans you’re making that would make you an ideal, driven, committed employee.
When it comes to listing character references, it may feel like you don’t have anyone in your corner. If you’ve turned your life around after receiving treatment for a dual diagnosis, you should use your substance abuse counselor or sponsor as references. They can provide immediate evidence that you are serious about turning over a new leaf and living productively. Ministers, probation officers, recovery workers, spiritual advisors, and education professionals would also make great references.
Finding employment after rehab isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely 100% possible. Even more: when it happens, it’s incredibly rewarding. Securing a job after a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program is a huge step forward. It’s a landmark in your life that shows not only how far you’ve come but how far you’re willing to go to make positive changes. The past will always be the past, but very often you can use your past problems to your advantage. Liabilities and weaknesses can sometimes become your greatest assets, especially if you’re as honest about them as you are committed to building a brighter future for yourself.