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Industries for Former Addicts Reentering the Workforce

For a large number of former addicts, recovery is an enduring process that impacts every facet of life. From personal relationships to education and employment, staying on the path to sobriety can be hard work.

Even after successfully completing treatment, you may need to rebuild trust in various arenas, or find a new job and improve your self-sufficiency.

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The unfortunate reality among former addicts is that it can be difficult to get your foot in the door. If you spent a lengthy amount of time in an in-patient treatment setting, for example, you’re likely to have a notable gap in your resume that may require an explanation. If your addiction spiraled out of control, resulting in a period of incarceration, you may face tough questions during job interviews.

The stigma against former addicts is very real, even more so when you’re a former prisoner. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult for former addicts to find stable jobs in a competitive employment landscape. Research indicates that the national unemployment rate in December 2020 was 6.7%, and the bulk of job losses occurred in industries that pay low average wages, such as food service and retail.

Yet it’s not all bad news for former addicts reentering the workforce. As you embark on a new life, free from addiction, it may be the perfect time to make other changes, including to your career. Your addiction experience may be an asset in numerous work settings, from counseling to construction, creative freelancing, and beyond. If you’re a former addict reentering the workforce, here are some industries to consider, no matter how long you’ve been out of the loop.

Mental Health and/or Drug Counselor

As you examine possible career paths, consider the individuals who helped you throughout the recovery process. Few of us can overcome addiction without a support system, and counselors play a huge part, especially those who were once addicts themselves. Your experience with substance abuse and recovery may thus, in turn, serve to inspire others, with you on the other side of the equation as a mental health or drug counselor.

Keep in mind that your journey to becoming a counselor may be a lengthy one, involving college courses, state certification, and more. One of the biggest hurdles you may encounter in your quest to become a counselor is an applicant tracking system (ATS). Employers may be reluctant to hire those with a criminal record, no matter the charge, and many companies utilize tracking software to vet applicants based on their resumes.

If you have any notable gaps in your work history or served a jail or prison sentence, an ATS will likely flag (and subsequently cast aside) your resume. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, you must build your resume carefully so that it is properly labeled by an ATS’s algorithm. When crafting your resume, keep it simple, be mindful of keywords and their context, and avoid mentioning your addiction, at least on paper. If necessary, you’ll be able to discuss your time in treatment and/or criminal history with a hiring manager in person.

Construction and Various Trades

It’s also worth noting that different jobs may require different resumes altogether. The skills required in a counseling job, for example, may vary significantly from those needed in the more hands-on trades. In fact, using your hands is a cornerstone of most trade industries, which encompass fields such as electrical, auto mechanics, welding, and construction.

The trades, notably construction, are ideal for former addicts and those with a history of incarceration for various reasons. For starters, construction crews typically hire workers on a temporary, hourly basis, often without performing a background check. They’re also typically willing to train you on the job, so even those with little to no construction experience are welcome. As a novice construction worker, you may initially work as a laborer or roofer, with the opportunity to work up to another type of construction job, involving engineering or management.

The World of Freelance

And if the idea of a managerial position is attractive to you, the trades are far from your only option. In the modern, digital age, there are more opportunities than ever for you to become your own boss. The gig economy is ideal for just about anyone.

Yet it’s important to note that freelancing may require technical skills, depending on the industry. Those hoping to work in creative fields such as content writing and web design may want to invest in technical courses, and you may not even need to leave the house. Online classes in web design and other creative fields are offered by numerous institutions and organizations, and many community colleges offer open enrollment for all members of the community, including former addicts.

Key Takeaways

Reentering the workforce after struggling with addiction is often challenging, but it can also be rewarding. For instance, you may be able to use your experiences to help other addicts in a counseling capacity. Or you can finally take the leap into the realm of gig work, and become your own boss with help from technical classes. Whatever career path you choose, post-recovery, your addiction shouldn’t hold you back from a successful career and a promising future.

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Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he has learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.