Entering or Reentering the Workforce with Arthritis
Use these tips and tools for the job hunt.
Maybe you have just graduated or earned a new certification or are ready to reenter the workforce after taking time off. The whole process of searching for jobs, building a resume, networking, applying and interviewing can be daunting.
The key to jumping into the job search with confidence is to focus on your passions and strengths. Look for jobs where you meet the skills and requirements and are ready to handle the day-to-day responsibilities.
While arthritis-related disabilities can add another layer of uncertainty and complexity, they should not stop you from looking for your dream job. The key is preparation.
You might also:
- Consult with your state’s vocational rehabilitation agency, as many can provide customized assistance.
- Learn more about the workplaces where you are applying. Reach out to any connections on LinkedIn or network with contacts familiar with the employers you are targeting.
- Focus on what you bring to the workplace. How are your skills, training and education relevant?
Check in With Your Health Care Team
If you feel you need more help to gain the necessary physical abilities, consider working with an occupational therapist. You can learn more at the American Occupational Therapists Association.
According to Linda Batiste, JD, principal consultant for the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), “Some people choose to disclose the need for accommodations during a job interview in order to assess whether an employer will be supportive. Others may not want to disclose a disability at this time, so may ask questions to determine whether a workplace is generally flexible for employees.”
Batiste goes on to say that, in general, waiting until after a job offer has been made is the best time to disclose a disability and ask for an accommodation.
One reason for waiting is that while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does generally prohibit an employer from asking questions about a medical condition or disability in the pre-offer period, there are three exceptions:
- The employer reasonably believes the applicant will need accommodation because of an obvious disability.
- The employer reasonably believes the applicant will need accommodation because of a hidden disability that the applicant has voluntarily disclosed.
- An applicant has voluntarily disclosed that there is a need for a reasonable accommodation to perform the job.
Batiste says that one way to handle questioning about a disability is to refocus the conversation and discuss how your skills, education and training make you qualified for the position.
- How many hours per week are expected?
- Does the job require sitting, standing, lifting or repetitive motion?
- Will you be spending a lot of time on a computer?
- Is the workplace climate-controlled or is it too hot or too cold?
- How much, if any, travel is required?
- Are the dates flexible or fixed for trips?
Does the job come with comprehensive health insurance – medical and prescription drug coverage? Is physical or occupational therapy available to you?
- Are your current medical providers covered on the employer’s plan?
- Are your current medications included in coverage and what are the co-pays for them?
- Do you have enough paid time off for vacation and sick leave to cover any arthritis-related absences?
Does the employer offer a flexible schedule as far as start and end times?
Is it possible to work from home on a regular or periodic basis?
JAN, which is funded by a contract with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), has many resources for those who are just embarking on a job search and want to know more about the ins and outs of searching for a job when you have a disability or limitations.
After You Land a Job
- Ensuring the workplace is accessible.
- Providing an ergonomic workstation and equipment.
- Modifying schedules and allowing leave.
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