July 1st, 2020

How to Get a Job Despite Your Mental Health Condition

Wooden Scrabble® tiles with a black letter in each, spelling the word "anxiety".

Looking for a job can be difficult because of how stressful the process can be. The job market is competitive, and employers aren’t always sensitive to the needs of job seekers. You may face quite a bit of rejection or even get ignored — even after taking the time to write and submit a cover letter or fill out a detailed job application. It may take longer than you’d like before you’re finally employed again.

If you’re job searching and feeling concerned about your prospects because you have a mental health issue, don’t write yourself off. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older (18.3% of 44.7 million people) reported any mental illness in 2016.” So you’re certainly not alone.

A mental health condition can make the process of finding work challenging. But you can still be an asset to an employer. Whether you have a condition you manage with medication or are undergoing treatment for an addiction, you are in a position to take into consideration the best type of environment to help you be a productive and happy worker, and go after it.

If you have a mental illness, it may take some extra time and effort to find the job that’s right for you. You may want to consider the workplace wellness programs your prospects offer. Rest assured — whether you’re looking for your first job or have years of experience under your belt, you can find fulfilling work. Here’s how:

1. Think about what you need

Looking for work takes a lot of effort and energy. Before you start looking, think about you need from a job. Ask yourself the following:

  • How will the type of work impact your health?
  • What did you like about your past jobs, and what would you like to avoid?
  • In what type of environment would you prefer to work?
  • What type of wellness plan do you need?

Knowing what type of job is best for you before you get started saves you from wasting time chasing after employment that may not be the right fit.

2. Look at unconventional options

Today, there are countless unconventional, outside-the-box jobs and job-hunting approaches that may work better for someone with a mental illness.

Look for low-stress ways to hunt for a job. For example, looking for work through social media, job apps, or online job boards may be less stressful than making cold calls or approaching potential employers in person.

Besides the alternative ways to look for work, consider unconventional jobs that may be a better fit for you. They include:

  • Working in the gig economy: There’s a whole new world of freelance jobs you can pick and choose to do, according to how you feel or your motivation for the day. Uber and Lyft are two examples. You can choose to drive people for money on the days and hours you choose, with no long-term commitments. Other gigs worth checking out include making deliveries through Uber Eats, Instacart, or Postmates.
  • Starting a small business: If you have an idea you’re passionate about, you could turn it into a small business and work for yourself. Some small businesses you could start include a dog walking or pet sitting service, car wash service, pet grooming, house or office cleaning, handyman, or landscaping business.
  • Remote work: If you’d prefer to work from home and away from a stressful office or workplace environment, consider working remotely as a freelance data entry specialist, graphic designer, freelance copywriter, or customer service agent.

3. Know your worth

Although you may have a mental health condition, recognize your own worth when job hunting. You have unique talents and experiences that could positively contribute to a company’s success. Don’t compromise on what you want from your job. Steer clear of potentially toxic managers who don’t give you the level of consideration and respect you deserve as a person.

Knowing your worth goes both ways. To avoid being let down, be realistic about your expectations. Don’t apply for “dream jobs” for which you are not qualified.

4. Show your best self

Showcase your best self to potential employers at every turn. When you’re struggling with anxiety or a mental condition, it isn’t always easy. But putting your best foot forward is essential. Some ways to show your best self include:

  • Dress and groom yourself neatly for interviews and meetings
  • Appear organized for interviews or applications by keeping your items, such as your resume, in a file folder to keep it from crumpling
  • Avoid meeting with others if you’re not feeling well
  • Prepare for interviews by learning more about the company
  • Get plenty of rest the night before you have meetings scheduled

5. Take things one day at a time

Job hunting can be difficult and taxing. Those who are following a rehabilitation program for the treatment of substance use disorder may already be familiar with the wise advice to take one day at a time. Leave the day’s struggle behind when you go to bed. Start the new day with a fresh slate. Don’t rush the process. Avoid settling on the first job offer you get. Stay focused on the present. Take the time to make the right decisions. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed, a feeling that could undermine your mental health.

6. Consider whether to disclose

You are not legally required to disclose a mental illness to an employer. You’ll need to think about whether you should reveal your condition. If the company that hires you has an open and diverse work culture, it may be advantageous to disclose your condition to receive accommodations for your condition — the company may already have assistance for struggling workers. But if you’re not sure about the company’s inclusivity and culture, it may be best to avoid disclosure, to reduce the chances of facing discrimination.

7. Take advantage of accommodations

If you do disclose your mental illness to an employer, take advantage of any available workplace accommodations or programs. If there aren’t any, do not hesitate to ask for help.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health condition that may be related to a drug or alcohol addiction, contact Kolmac Integrated Behavioral Health for a consultation at (888) 331-5251. Patients can usually begin receiving telehealth treatment within 24 hours. So, whether you call, come to one of our centers, or are referred, you can start your recovery right away. 

Our recovery centers are located in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. (We also see patients from New Jersey.)   


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We welcome the opportunity to help you in your road to recovery. If you’d like to learn more about Kolmac Integrated Behavioral Health Centers, contact us at:

  (888) 331-5251