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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What should I expect returning to work after a long time out of the workforce?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30553points) January 7th, 2013

As many users here know, I am disabled due to mental illness. Last summer, I applied for a job certification program by the state working with other people like me who have mental illness. Most of the work will be with people who are newly diagnosed helping them fill out paperwork, get used to new daily routines, and other things of that nature.

I begin training for the job at the end of this month. It will be followed by an internship, and then I will look for a job in the field. I have been assured one particular firm will hire me on a part-time basis, which is all I want.

I am nervous. In the past five years, I tried returning to work and failed miserably. I ended up catatonic on my couch and quit after less than two months. It should be noted this job was in my old field of outside sales and was high stress. The new position will be part-time, and I set my own pace.

I am also excited. I believe I can help where it’s wanted and steer people to proper channels where they can get the services they need. As a person with mental illness, I will be a peer and not an authority figure. I will have no power at all over those I work with.

For those who left the workforce for a long period and returned, what did you experience? How did you feel?

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22 Answers

Bellatrix's avatar

Firstly, congratulations. I am really happy for you @Hawaii_Jake. I hope it is a fabulous experience for you.

I have had a couple of long(ish) periods of being at home with children and when I did go back to work I remember being a bit tired at first. It was very exciting, but having to be out of the house for long periods, plus trying to look after things at home, was a bit waring at first. So, pace yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself about stuff that has to be done at home. Perhaps make some meals and freeze them so you can come home and relax.

I remember feeling very nervous about wanting to do a great job too. Probably unrealistically hard on myself. So, keep in mind it will take you between three to six (and more likely six) months to really feel at home in your new role. That you know where you fit and how to do the nuts and bolts work (admin etc.).

serenade's avatar

Part time is definitely the way to go. The whole stamina/discipline/routine aspect of full-time work takes a good bit of ramping up to. I was out of work for a few years, got into very part-time delivery work, and now am doing 30 hours/week of office work. I wouldn’t even be able to handle the office work I’m doing now straightaway. I can feel myself, though, ramping back up toward a capacity for more full-time responsibility. Give it time.

wundayatta's avatar

There are two people in my group who have been out of the workforce for a long time and then received peer counseling training and got part time positions in different organizations—on warmlines and such. The experiences were disappointing for both of them. They hardly received any calls. So it didn’t feel real. It was more like make work.

Both of them were quite nervous about their ability to return to work, and both really wanted to work. It was sad the jobs didn’t match their expectations.

One person is always down on himself about his abilities. He is an amazingly smart person, but the disorder we share does a number on you, and he just doesn’t feel worthwhile. So I would say to watch out for that. It’s not a realistic feeling, but it will devil you. Don’t listen to it. You are fine. You are doing fine.

I would say your goal is to have fun working, and not to judge yourself. Please, please, please do not judge yourself. If someone wants to fire you, fine. Nothing you can do about that. But your goal should be to enjoy the job as long as it lasts. At least you aren’t hanging out at home any more.

I know most of us want to contribute to society, but I think you do contribute just by going to work, no matter how well you do. Again. Self judgment won’t help. I know you want to do a good job, but evaluating yourself does more harm then good to people like us. It is best to not question your value. Just do the job. You are contributing by doing the work. It is good for you and good for everyone.

Congratulations! This is a great thing you are doing, and I hope you have fun. It’ll go well for you if that is you goal.

augustlan's avatar

Congrats, @Hawaii_Jake! I think you’ll be great at this type of work.

I had been a stay-at-home mother for 14 years when I went back to work. I remember being very nervous and I felt out of my element for the first few weeks, but in time it felt familiar again. Starting out part-time is a much better idea than what I did…I jumped into a full-time office manager job straight off the bat.

zensky's avatar

Hey buddy – this is great news. From our many chats I know you will be brilliant at this – I am 100% certain. You are smart and funny. You are charismatic yet sensitive. You will learn the job as well as you can and with your compassion and empathy be able to help out the people in the best way possible.

burntbonez's avatar

I don’t really have any advice, but I did want to wish you good luck. I can only imagine how difficult this might be. I think it will be good for you.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Good on you!! We are so proud of you. You will be just fine, and will feel at home in weeks. I haven’t worked in years and years either, I have to start back in, and am scared to death. I am so glad to have read this question.

pleiades's avatar

Well I was laid off for about 1 year and a half. Maybe 2 years. Getting back to work, I had great gratitude for the opportunity and am still making the most of it. Working in a community where gossip is normal, I try and refrain from at least initiating any sort of gossip talk about the work place and especially from home. But yeah congrats HJ!

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zensky's avatar

A quote for you buddy:

A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.

Anais Nin

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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I don’t know if anyone is still following this old question, but I wanted to let anyone who might be know that I’m starting my second week of job training tomorrow. :-)

The first week was excellent. I learned an enormous amount that has really done more to help me in my own recovery from mental illness. We spent time developing our individual WRAP plan, and putting things on paper made a palpable difference in my attitude about life.

This second week will be telling. One of the units to be covered is about negative thinking, which plagues me. I’m sure it will help.

If you don’t hear from me for a week, I’m in Honolulu studying hard.


bkcunningham's avatar

Nice to hear. Positive thoughts for you, @Hawaii_Jake. Take excellent care of yourself.

augustlan's avatar

Thanks for the update, @Hawaii_Jake. Glad it’s going well!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

To update this old thread, I passed both my written and oral exams and am now waiting only to find out where I will be placed for my internship.

I am nervous and happy at the same time. My stomach doesn’t know whether to lurch or churn.

bkcunningham's avatar

Fantastic news. I really hope this is a very positive and beautiful experience for you. Yea Jake! I love good news. It motivates me.

How is your diet and health? Hoping it is better than ever.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Updating this old thread, I am starting my internship at our state’s local community mental health center here where I live as soon as I get back from a trip to the mainland for a family reunion and to visit my parents. In other words, I GOT A JOB!

bkcunningham's avatar

Fantastic update! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful trip, Jake, and congratulations on the new job.

augustlan's avatar

Congratulations, Jake!

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