Tips for Maintaining a Career

Congratulations! You have finished up rehab or completed schooling and you’re ready to go to work. Now what? How do you go about maintaining a job or career with a disability? A lot of energy goes into simply living life with spinal cord injury or other disability. Adding a career into the mix can be daunting, but very rewarding. Here is Jenny’s story.

Throughout college I had several different part-time jobs and volunteer positions. These allowed me to find my areas of interest and guided my decisions for my academic degrees. My first “real job” after graduating was just twenty hours a week, which was very do-able. Since I was still living at home with limited expenses, it got me on my feet (so to speak) in the world of work. I then took a position that was full time, but very flexible. I worked from home since the main office of the organization was in another state. I had the ability to be involved in sports and do other activities that I enjoyed.

When I changed jobs in 2009, I was going into an office setting with set 9 to 5 hours. With a knot in my stomach, I nervously requested a 32-hour work week and two days working from home. Thankfully, they were willing to accommodate me. I believe this was the best decision I ever made, although I admit, it took some humility. I wanted to prove myself to new co-workers. But I wanted to maintain my health in the process. At the end of 32 hours, I’m tired, but I still have enough “fuel in my tank” to have a life outside of work.

Here are my tips on maintaining a career (and staying healthy and sane in the process):

  • Find out what you love to do and do it as your job.
  • Ask for reasonable accommodations, whether it be modifying the work schedule or requesting assistive devices that will allow you to do your job well. For more information on reasonable accommodations and the ADA, go this website:
  • Get extra help at home, if you need it. I hire someone to clean my house. I just don’t have the energy it takes to do it. Having an extra hand in the morning to get ready for work allows me toget ready more quickly and easily. It is worth it, in my opinion.
  • Readjust your expectations. I admittedly have high expectations for myself. I’ve learned to acknowledge when I can’t – or shouldn’t – do something. For example, the first year in my current position I worked an insane number of hours one week since we had a conference going on. I developed a small pressure sore and ended up in bed the following two weeks. Was it worth trying to “prove myself” to my peers? No. I knew I was pushing the limits. And I paid for it.
  • Take time to care for yourself. Make sure you are getting in enough time to work out, maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends, and staying involved with other activities that are important to you.

Yes, life takes longer with a disability. But in my experience, working is well worth the effort.

Just remind me of that when my alarm goes off at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning.


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