A Path to a Paycheck After a TBI

So much of “who we are” is linked to our employment. I’m an electrician, a fireman, an accountant, an attorney, a teacher. Yes, we all have a deep attachment to our occupation. So after a mild traumatic brain injury, a part of our “identity and purpose in life” gets a jolt of the new reality we now face. 

After months, maybe even years, of rehab and therapy we are ready to test new waters, but we are stuck in a stream of … where do I start. 

The Brain Injury Hope Foundation’s free Survivor Series luncheon Aug. 9, 2019 at the West Metro Fire and Rescue Center,

gave participants a sort of blueprint for starting the journey back to employment. 

Facilitated by Gayann Brandenburg, the audience sat in small groups and discussed various ways member found employment, along with some of the resources used on their journey to a pay check.

One of the first topics discussed was disclosure – whether or not to tell your employer about the mTBI. This is a totally personal decision. If you need special accommodations at work, some say it is imperative you tell your potential new employer about the disability and that it’s a must if you are still employed with the same company before the TBI. By doing this, the company cannot fire you for your medical condition, some participants said. 

One group suggested you do not reveal the mTBI during the interview process, but discuss it during the “intake” process. 

Researching the company to see if it accommodates people with disabilities and finding out the corporate culture are essential, said one group of participants.  

If your disability is “invisible” then it’s important to disclose it because it might be hard to convince your employer you have a disability after you are hired, said one group. 

The disclosure issue is an in-depth topic the BIHF took up during a luncheon in March 2018. Here is a link to the blog about that series, if you would like to explore it. 

Resources are Available

The task of looking for a job can be so daunting that it can delay the process of getting self-sufficient. However, there are resources available, including many state and county entities. Below are some avenues to explore. 

The public library system. Do NOT be afraid to ask a librarian for help. They are more than willing to answer your questions and steer you in the right direction, including free online courses.  Below are some links to county library systems in Colorado.


Arapahoe County

Douglas County

Jefferson County

Broomfield County

The county business and workforce centers are an excellent resource as they hold free classes on computer programs, including Excel, Word, along with classes on interviewing, resume writing, and accessing resources. The workforce centers also hold events linking companies with potential employers. Below are links to some state and county resources. 

Links and map of Colorado’s workforce centers

Colorado Division of Labor and Development

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

Colorado Small Business Development Center Network

Goodwill Industries was cited numerous times as an option for finding help in looking for work, along with a place of employment. In June 2019 the two Goodwill organizations in Colorado merged. Link to story

The new company is discussing whether to take on a new name, but for now it is operating under two names: Goodwill Industries of Denver link here  and Discover Goodwill of Southern & Western Colorado. Link here 

Volunteering is a good way to find out what has changed with your work abilities. For example, you can test your stamina, your ability to deal with lots of people or noise, and other variables. Volunteering may be an option if you would like to work for an organization, along with being a great place to network and maybe even securing a job as you get to know the people and the company culture. 

Part-time work and temporary work are great ways to finding full-time employment. Remember you, too, are testing out the company, just as it is testing you. 

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

The topic of staying with your old company or moving on to something totally different and maybe even more fulfilling was discussed. 

The reasons cited for remaining with your old company are:

  • You know the company and the culture.
  • The company may be willing to place you in a new job in which you can succeed, along with meeting your accommodations. 
  • The benefits, and who doesn’t want to keep their benefits. 

Moving on to a new career and source of income can be quite empowering once we are dedicated to the change. Here are some reasons for a change:

  • You might discover a hidden talent. 
  • Doing what you love can bring happiness. 
  • A fresh start may give you renewed energy and motivation.

Applying for jobs in person or online

It seems as if technology is everywhere and the only way to get a job is through the online process, but Brandenburg said “Do not stop with the online process. After submitting an online application, you must go in person or contact the company via phone to make sure they received your application, draw attention to your application, and express your interest in working for the company. There are too many online applications submitted – you need to stand out if you want a viable chance of landing a job.” But she did caution against contacting a company that specifically states: Do Not Contact. 

Some online job resources




And here’s an article that details its top 10 online employment sites.

Alternatives to Employment

The traditional way of commuting to work and working for an employer is going to the wayside as more and more employers are allowing people to work from home, along with people starting niche businesses. Here are some options to the tradition workplace model. 

Turning a hobby into a paying career can become liberating and enjoyable. Don’t sell yourself short and keep your options open. 

Take classes and seek out support groups. Health and fitness classes can be a way of testing to see if you could become an instructor. 

Finding employment after a mTBI can be difficult, but remember there are people and organizations out there that are willing to help you become independent. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. 

In September 2018, the BIHF held a series on finding employment in which it dispensed additional information on the process. Here is a link to the blog.