As if a job search were not daunting enough on its own, it becomes vastly more complicated and anxiety-inducing when you’re going through drug or alcohol rehab at the same time.

Faced with this reality, many of us might go so far as to quit the job search altogether. Most of us would at least toy with canceling our subscriptions to LinkedIn.

That said, tackling a job search when you’re in rehab isn’t just possible — it’s something many Americans do every day. Not only are these people trying to survive, but they also know that finding gainful employment is a strong predictor of success in recovery.

What Outpatient Rehab Is Like for Job Seekers in Early Recovery

For those who wonder how they’ll manage a daily schedule of outpatient rehab with the pressures of looking for a job, knowledge of what outpatient rehab is like can make all the difference. Here are some important things to know:

1. Outpatient programs typically give clients greater freedom and independence than inpatient programs. Inpatient programs have highly structured and intensive daily regimens that require clients to stay on campus 24/7. Outpatient programs often allow clients to choose where they want to live, whether in on-campus residential housing or another sober living environment. In some cases, clients may even choose to live at home while commuting to an outpatient program. This slightly more lax structure gives clients more free time to look for a job, attend interviews, and participate in other career-building opportunities.

2. Outpatient rehab is often a step-down level of care from inpatient rehab. This means that the amount of time you spend daily in group and individual therapies is usually less than what you would spend in an inpatient program. For example, in the four-week outpatient program I help to oversee, clients receive group therapy on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., plus one individual therapy session weekly. This schedule is intentionally designed to give clients a sizable chunk of time every day to dedicate to their job searches.

3. Resume-building and other employment tools are often part of your daily schedule in outpatient rehab. Because having a job correlates with better recovery outcomes for their clients, outpatient rehab programs have a natural incentive to see you employed by the time you leave their care. For that reason, many rehab programs include career coaching and vocational development classes in their daily curricula.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Job Search During Rehab

Here are some basic tips that outpatient programs often share with clients on how to tackle a job search during rehab:

  1. Have a polished and up-to-date resume in hand. Crafting a good resume can be an art form — especially when a past addiction has created lots of gaps in your employment. A good resume will highlight your skills and experience in a format that minimizes any holes in your work history.
  2. Practice punctuality. Being on time for an interview communicates that you are professional, respect the employer’s time, and can be trusted to follow through on your commitments.
  3. Look professional and use clean language. In other words, appear employable by exercising good hygiene, wearing appropriate business attire, and avoiding obscenities. Some therapists encourage clients to use only clean language during their sessions in order to prepare for the professional world.
  4. Be prepared to answer questions about gaps in your resume or a past criminal record. If you’re asked a direct question along these lines, you need to be honest. But you can keep your response short and sweet. Never volunteer information that an employer has not specifically asked for. You should also emphasize that you’re successfully in recovery. When in doubt about what to share and how to share it, your case manager or another appropriate staff member should be able to advise you. You can also rehearse your responses out loud before the actual interview.
  5. Reflect on the positive growth you’ve achieved in rehab and how rehab is preparing you for the professional world. Having a grounded sense of self-confidence about what you have to offer — based on the tools, lessons, and gifts you’ve gained from even the hardest of experiences — is priceless in any job search. By helping you find freedom from addiction, rehab is making you into a person whom employers want to hire. Affirm this truth as often as you can.

Most importantly, as you continue your job search, remember to be patient. The right job for your is out there, and thanks to your work in overcoming your addiction, you already have the skills you need to excel.

Anna Ciulla is the vice president of clinical and medical services at Beach House Center for Recovery.

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