Working Strategies: Mental health issues no obstacle to search

I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist or medical professional of any stripe. So I’m careful to “stick to my knitting” — job search strategies, that is — when my clients describe their treatments for anxiety, depression or any of a host of mood disorders.

In nearly all cases, my clients speak positively about the drugs they take to help them cope with the illness. Still, I worry sometimes about the impact of the drugs on job search, so I’ve compiled a list of tips.

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

● DO practice interviewing, possibly with a video recorder. You may not be completely aware of how you appear to others.
● DO be aware of what your meds take away from you, including short-term memory or spontaneous humor. For example, people with short-term memory issues (especially under the stress of an interview) can use note-taking during the meeting to present the appearance of being organized, rather than forgetful.
● DO target your next job to suit your current capabilities. A common mistake for someone new to their diagnosis is to miscalculate the level of work they can do.
● DO choose work that is flexible, particularly if you are still searching for the right dosage on your medications. You may need to work from home or get a later start some mornings.
● DO identify the factors that make you most stable in your mental health and look for settings that suit those needs. For example, you may thrive in more structured work with clearly defined tasks, or you may find that working behind the scenes is better than customer service.
● DON’T mention the meds or your mental health issues during an interview, even if the story is a positive one. If you use accommodations, such as noise-canceling headphones to help you concentrate, you should say so when an offer is made.
● DON’T adjust your medications during an intense job search. Unpredicted side effects will make a mess of your job search.
● DON’T push your limits during the search itself. Listen to your gut — when things feel overwhelming, try to alleviate that feeling.
● DON’T imagine that your life has changed for the worse because you’re using medications now. According to some of my clients who were coping for years without the drugs, things are better at work now than they were before.

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at 
alindgren@prototype or at 626 Armstrong Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.

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