Finding Employment After a TBI

Our jobs are a part of our identity. When we meet someone new the first questions often are: What do you do? And where do you work?

After a head injury, staying on your job or gaining substantial employment can be difficult. Unemployment or under-employment not only affects our bank accounts it affects our well-being. Depression and lack of self-esteem are just two of the “side effects” of not being able to do the work that you were capable of doing before a traumatic brain injury.

“Employment is inclusion into our society,” said Gayann Brandenburg at the Brain Injury Hope Foundation TBI Survivor Series No. 8 “Re-inventing Yourself: Options for Successful Future” on Aug. 10, 2018, at the Rocky Mountain Human Services sponsored by Jordan Law. “The right job can support wellness and recovery. The wrong job won’t do that.”

And how do you go about finding the right job after a brain injury and are you unable to perform your prior line of work?

“Sometimes you have to reinvent yourself,” Brandenburg said. “Everybody can do some type of work. It’s up to you. AND NEVER let a professional tell you that you are not ready. You are ready when you say you are ready. Let that be your mantra.”

One of the first things you can do is discover WHY you want to work. Here are some positives (besides a paycheck) that were revealed after small breakout groups at the luncheon event:

  • Self-esteem increases
  • Social interaction increases
  • Brain stays engaged
  • Sense of giving back to society.

Yes, there may be barriers to employment and you MUST take them into consideration when looking for employment. Some of the barriers that you may have to hurdle include:

  • Physical barriers, if you need transportation, a walker, a special chair, etc.
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive issues, such as attention span, slower processing, organizational skills
  • Emotional and behavior issues, such as impulsiveness, depression, irritability.

Now that you have figured out your barriers or boundaries, do not dwell on them -- it’s time to take stock in what you CAN do, and to highlight those areas when seeking employment.

“Be concise,” Brandenburg said. “Know your strengths and your interests. Look to your hobbies for clues. Look at your prior work experience and assess what you are still capable of doing. Volunteering is a great way to try something new.”

Brandenburg pointed to some resources and support systems that are available to people who are recovering from a TBI. County workforce centers, vocational rehab centers, local mental health agencies with employment programs, job fairs and support groups are just some of the resources to tap.

Going back to school for a certificate or starting a business are also ways to re-enter the workforce. If you are thinking of starting a business take a look to see if self-employment is a “fit” by asking these questions:

  • What are you good at and what would you need help with?
  • What product or service would be a good match to your interests?
  • What experience do you have in this industry?
  • Do you need more education, financing, computer skills, business planning?
  • Who in your network could help you?
  • What is the market? And is there a niche for your product?
  • What are the risks?

A meeting with a mentor through is a good place to start as you assess self-employment.

And don’t forget to prepare when embarking on the hunt for a job. Revamp your resume, and tweak it for the job you are applying for. Write the cover letter BEFORE starting the online application process – some systems will “kick you out” if you are taking too long on the application. Practice interview questions and answers. And will you need to disclose your TBI?

The need to disclose our injury is a personal issue. Our third survivor series dealt with this one topic. If you need accommodations to apply for a job or do a job, such as special equipment or help, you must disclose that you need an accommodation because of a disability, Brandenburg said. You do not have to disclose before you start a job – you may not even know if you need an accommodation until you start working. Typically transparency about a disability and/or a need for an accommodation is a positive way to start a new job.

And remember people with and without TBIs are hired based on their capabilities. So don’t give up. Stay positive. There is a job out there for you.

by Eliza Marie Somers