Stroke Survivor

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Successful Job Search Tips

1. Preparing for a Job Search After Stroke
2. Job Skills After Stroke
3. Successful Job Interviews with Stroke & Aphasia
4. Supporting the Survivor's Job Search
5. Resources

1. Preparing for a Job Search After Stroke

Strokes are the leading cause of disability among adults. Many stroke survivors lose their jobs, like me.  But you can return to work! Over the years since my stroke, I have had a number of different part time and full time jobs. I worked as an accounting clerk, a computer-aided draftsman making blueprints for buildings, and as a publisher and professional speaker.

With a little creativity, a good attitude, and hard work, you can find a new job. Don't give up.

Here are some of my tips for success:

    * Think about your job before the stroke. Why were you interested in that job? Can you find those interests in another job? For example, I was always interested in building and city development. When I lost my speech, I couldn't do my old job for the city housing department. Eventually, I returned to school to learn computer drafting and worked for many years drafting blueprints for office buildings.

    * Think about your current skills and learn new ones. Volunteering is an excellent way to learn new skills, especially clerical, accounting, customer service, and sales. Having the use of one hand means you will be slower than two-handed people, so plan for extra time or fewer activities.

    * Talk to a career counselor at your local community college to explore jobs you haven't thought about. Community colleges have many programs for people of all ages to build new skills and train for new careers. They also have services to help people with disabilities take classes. And, they have contact information for state and local job placement and employment agencies.

2. Job Skills After Stroke

One way to think about new jobs you can do is to list your skills and interests. For example, I run my own small business.  Here is a list of tasks that I do during the month, with one hand, and techniques to overcome aphasia. If I can do it, you can do it too!

     * Networking at Rotary and other business groups
     * Business and marketing planning
     * Researching and drafting articles & speeches
     * Maintaining a website
     * Developing new products & marketing materials
     * Sales
     * Making presentations
     * Balancing the books
     * Processing credit cards and checks
     * Putting orders together
     * Shipping and mailing
     * Looking for ways to save money.

Now it's your turn to write your skills and the things you can do!

3. Successful Job Interviews with Stroke & Aphasia

In the 20 years since my stroke, I have lost and found many jobs, part time, full time, and self-employment. I have aphasia (problems with my speech) and only use one hand. Going on interviews is a challenge. Sometimes I went with a job counselor, but I was more successful going alone.

My key to success was coming prepared with 3 items:

(1) A 3-ring binder, containing:

    * Resume listing skills and experience
    * Letters of recommendation from prior employers
    * Letters from rehabilitation professionals
    * Samples of work from prior jobs and school.

If you have a few different interests or job goals, you should have different resumes that highlight your related skills and experience. With a binder, it is easy to include the right resume, and appropriate work samples for each interview.

Put these in plastic page protectors so you won't hurt them with coffee drips or finger smudges.

(2) A comic strip from the newspaper that showed I was willing to work hard at any job. Remember the old saying, "always open with a joke"? That isn't easy with aphasia, but it is important to put your interviewer at ease.

(3) A completed model application form, listing names, addresses, dates of prior employment, school, references, and other personal data. This takes me a long time to complete, so I ask them to fax it in advance, and fill it out at home if they will let me. If not, having the model form is a big help.

4. Supporting the Survivor's Job Search

We are strong advocates for working-aged survivors and spouses to keep their jobs or return to work as soon as possible after the stroke, for financial reasons, as well as promoting independence. Sometimes this means changing jobs.

Emotional support and keeping a positive attitude are the most important things family members can provide, since finding a job can be stressful and demoralizing.

Family, friends, and therapists can support the survivor's job search by helping the survivor to:

    * Consider the type of job, hours, and location
    * Network with potential mentors and employers
    * Review the newspaper help-wanted ads
    * Find Internet web sites for job finding resources, and companies' job openings lists
    * Develop and format resumes on paper and for email
    * Develop form letters for the survivor to send
    * Organize material for their interview binder.

Helping with these nuts-and-bolts efforts shows the survivor that family members believe in their job search and goal of returning to work.

5. Resources

My books, "How to Conquer the World With One Hand...And an Attitude," and "You Can Do It! 105 Thoughts, Feelings & Solutions to Inspire You," provide additional insights and tips into returning to work after stroke. For details, click here.

“Working with Aphasia”, Topics In Stoke Rehabilitation, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1999,(PDF), click here.

For government resources, visit the US Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy, click here.

Vocational Rehabilitation State Offices, click here.

State Web Directory, click here.

A good book for people looking for a new job is "What Color Is Your Parachute?" available from, click here.   

For other articles about  “Setting Goals to Recover from Stroke” and “How to Overcome Aphasia, Paralysis, and Attitude Problems.” click here.


Copyright (c) Paul E. Berger & Stephanie Mensh
Permission is granted to reprint this article
in your newsletter or magazine only with the following byline
“Paul Berger is a speaker and author.
To find out more about his programs and services,
or call (703) 241-2375.”


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You are marvels!  I just read the newsletter ... and it is simply priceless (I always read them, and they are all noteworthy, but this one is beyond good.)  Paul, your book is in my book as something that all clinicians should have, read, pass on (ie, make them buy) to their clients.
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I came across your website today and just wanted to congratulate you on providing a helpful resource for stroke survivors and healthcare professionals.
     -Marisca Baldwin, The Pat Arato Aphasia Centre, Toronto,,Canada

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