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Stroke Smart Magazine

September/October 2008

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Going Back to Work
A New You, A New Job

By Karen Karvonen

Finding a job can be tough, especially after a stroke. But as a stroke survivor you have an advantage: the strengths you relied on to recover from your stroke will help you better meet the challenges of a job hunt.

Think about the persistence it took to meet difficult goals during rehab. Then, if you have to explain a gap in your work history, “say you had to take time off to handle a challenging issue. Talk about what you learned. As long as you can do the job, you don’t have to mention your disability,” says Richard Massaro, executive director of HireAbility (www.hireability.com). The Philadelphia, Penn.-based agency places 100 people with disabilities in jobs each year.

When do you mention your disability? “Only after you have accepted a job and then only if you need an accommodation,” says Massaro. Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer needs to provide aids that enable people with disabilities to do their job. For instance, someone with reduced grip strength may require a writing aid. The law also bans discrimination against workers with disabilities.

What if you have an obvious disability, for instance you are in a wheelchair? “Don’t surprise the employer,” advises Massaro. “Say ‘I hope the interview site is wheelchair-accessible.’”

A job seeker’s biggest obstacle is staying positive in the face of rejection. The best way to  keep up your spirits is to join a support network, says Massaro. Check your hospital for a stroke support group. Ask people if they know any stroke survivors. Teenagers may prefer to connect online.

Networking is also key to uncovering the “hidden” job market. According to Massaro, two-thirds of all jobs are filled by word-of-mouth and are never advertised. “Look for people in your field. Don’t ask if they have a job. Ask how they think someone with your background would fit. Ask who else you might contact,” he says.

Don’t assume a disability will prevent you from returning to your old career. “I had a client who was a social worker and had lost his eyesight, “says Massaro. “He couldn’t keep client records by sight. But with JAWS, which turns written text into speech, he could return to his former job.”

“It’s ability that counts,” says Massaro. “Keep the focus on what you can do.”

Finding Work

  • Develop a job support network. Try www.stroke.org/surv,  http://www.strokenetwork.org/ or http://www.disaboom.com/.
  • Identify your achievements, knowledge and abilities.
  • Research companies online.
  • Network with all your contacts.
  • Tell employers how hiring you would benefit their business.
  • Rehearse answers to interview questions.
  • Project confidence.
  • Look for a good fit between you and prospective employers.

My Turn
Use National Stroke Association’s discussion guide to develop your personal plan for getting back into the workforce. The guide includes questions to discuss at your next stroke support group meeting, with your family, or independently. Go to www.stroke.org/myturn to download the guide or call (800) STROKES.



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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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