June 29, 2011

Meds and Their Effect on Job Search

Well, here’s a depressing thought: If you’re depressed and taking medication for that, it could affect your job search. With luck, the effect will be positive, as in: I feel so much more able to handle this process now that my depression is being treated. But, as everyone knows, medications can sometimes go awry, leading to very difficult adjustments.

As a career counselor, I’ve seen (I think) a tremendous uptick over the years in the number of my clients who are on medications. I say "I think" because in the early days of my work I never thought to ask job seekers whether there were any medications in the picture. But when more people began volunteering that they had prescriptions for a variety of mental and physical illnesses, I paid attention. Depression has been one of the most common diagnoses, with attention deficit disorder coming in a close second. Other illnesses common in my client base have been diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart conditions and bipolar disorder.

In my role as a job search strategist, I track these issues very closely now. For one thing, the disease itself needs to be considered when a candidate chooses a career path or job. Some workers can’t easily tolerate noisy environments, for example, while others need flexibility to allow for a late start if they wake up with greater than usual joint pain.

In addition to the illness, however, the medications also play a role in both the job search and the workplace. Some meds cause drowsiness, for example, which limits certain careers. Other meds affect mood or have apparent side effects. I would never presume to advise my clients on the drugs themselves.

But I do ask a few direct questions, such as:

  • Do you feel you have the energy for a job search? If not, how would you manage the job itself? And,
  • Do you feel as if your meds are stable for the time being, or have you been planning to make adjustments?

The reason for this last question, by the way, is that adjustments can cause unexpected mood swings and side effects, which would be best to get out of the way before starting a new job.

The bottom line? You don’t need a career as a mental health worker or psychiatric nurse to track these issues. But if they affect you, you do need to stay on top of things.

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