BIPOLAR: How it can impact the ability to maintain a job and how we help

There are several typical concerns that many job seekers have, such as conflict with co-workers or a supervisor and being overworked and underpaid. But for those dealing with a bipolar diagnosis, being able to cope effectively with these concerns, among others, can make the difference as to whether the young adult is able to maintain a job.
While on the job search, we ask our participants to consider a few things before deciding on where to apply. We specifically ask them to consider the work environment, schedule, and potential stress level of the position and how shifts in mood, energy, behaviors, and thinking will affect his or her ability to cope with these.

Aside from the job being a good fit with interest areas and desired career path, we want each participant to get an idea as to whether the job’s environment will likely be a fit for them as an individual. We often utilize online reviews, word of mouth, and Google searches to find out about work conditions at the companies they are considering.

We use this information to help determine whether the environment will be potentially supportive or harmful. It is important for each participant to know how they work best. Is it a busy, fast-paced environment or something more quiet and relaxed? To determine a participant’s best environment fit, we offer in-office career assessments and recommend volunteering as the step prior to obtaining a job. One-time commitments, recurring commitments, and community service all serve to test different environments and structures. The participant then has information to work with in order to make a Wise

Mind decision about pursuing a particular job.
For scheduling, we want participants to secure positions that will have set, structured schedules as opposed to those that have call-in shifts. Schedules that do not change weekly and that do not require staff to stay after hours without advance notice are recommended. This will help with decreasing stress that can trigger a manic episode and negatively impact job performance.

Ideal jobs often include tutoring, office work, after school programs, and certain retail stores and restaurants that hire for specific days and times. We also encourage participants to find work that won’t interfere with sleep routines. Regular sleep routines increase the likelihood of mood stability. For example, working at a movie theater that has late showings and overnight jobs would not be conducive to balanced sleep.

We generally want our participants to lead balanced lives, and stress on the job can negatively impact this balance. We research jobs that have stressors like last minute deadlines, unclear job descriptions, and no consistency. Commission-based jobs in retail or telemarketing or fast paced jobs like busy coffee shops are not typically the best match.

We also recommend a part-time job when participants are adjusting to medications and that the young adult has open communication with his or her therapist and psychiatrist about changes in mood. We do weekly check-ins with the option to increase or decrease hours worked to ensure that each participant is getting the needed support.

Once participants have a list of locations to apply to, we talk about the applications and the interview. We recommend that participants not disclose too much personal information about medical history on the application or in the interview to ensure they being hired based on their experiences without judgment. We also encourage participants to read employee handbooks front to back to ensure they know about time-off policies in the event they need to take some self-care days.

We have had success with participants with bipolar and the job search process, even when a young adult has experienced difficulties or failures with the process in the past. Our approach to finding the appropriate fit for the unique needs of the young adult, rather than the first job that comes up, continues to be the key to success.

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