By Rufus Carter

Life throws us a lot of curveballs. Sometimes, those curveballs stack up and leave us in a rut that feels impossible to escape. If you’re seeking to reenter the workforce after dealing with addiction or being on disability due to mental illness, you’re probably feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. Sending out job application after job application, only to be rejected, takes a toll on your self-esteem. And as Work It Daily explains, when your confidence nosedives, it only gets harder to land a job.

Finding meaningful work isn’t hopeless, even when you have big obstacles like limited experience, gaps in your employment history, and mental health conditions that influence where you’re comfortable working. However, you may need to change your approach.

Choosing the Right Jobs

Traditional employers tend to be wary of thin resumes. When faced with two candidates — one with recent experience and another without — most employers choose the candidate with the longer track record, unless there’s a personal connection. If you’re not having luck applying to jobs, look for work that bypasses traditional recruitment practices. There are plenty of jobs you can do where no one examines your employment history or asks probing questions about your time on disability. Such jobs are usually independent contractor positions that don’t include benefits like health care or a dedicated place to work. Before seeking nontraditional employment, make sure you can access these things on your own. Self-employed people can shop for insurance on the HealthCare Marketplace. Depending on your projected income, you might qualify for a subsidy.

Making the Space to Work

You’ll also need space for a home office. Even if most of your work is conducted outside the home, you will want a dedicated space for handling emails, accounting, and other administrative tasks. Avoid setting up a desk in the busiest part of your home. You’re more productive when focused, so choose a quiet, well-lit space separate from your home’s main living areas to prevent distraction.

As for the type of work you can do, the options are virtually limitless. If you have a skill, whether that’s writing, crafting, playing an instrument, or speaking a language, you can monetize it. While some people opt to work through gig economy apps for the convenience, others create their own business so they can choose their own customers and set their own rates.

Potential Jobs to Consider

These are some gigs to consider when you’re first reentering the workforce:

  • Dog walking: With a friendly disposition, a love for animals, and a few neighborhood connections, you can get started as a dog walker. Walk through apps like Rover or Wag!, or hang flyers around the neighborhood to find clients organically. The best part: Dogs are great therapy for mental illness.
  • Freelance writing: You can land a freelance writing gig without a big resume, so long as you submit quality writing samples. Find work on freelance sites like Upwork or contract with a company seeking regular writers and editors.
  • Teaching music lessons: Playing music is therapeutic. It’s also a highly valued skill that many adults and children want to learn. Turn your hobby into a business by becoming a music teacher. Offer in-home lessons to local kids or teach lessons online.
  • Driving a rideshare: Rideshare driving is the quintessential gig economy job. If you have a clean driving record, a newer four-door car, and are older than 21, you can start driving for Uber or Lyft within one to two weeks.

When a situation seems hopeless, sometimes what we really need is a change of perspective. While gigs don’t always generate a full-time income, starting a gig is a great step toward rebuilding your resume and your confidence. And when it comes to recovery, we all know it’s one step at a time, one day at a time.

Rufus Carter has been in recovery for 9 years. For the past 6 years, he has worked as a personal trainer. His website,, organizes resources for anyone in recovery who is trying to choose their career path. With the site, he hopes to help those in recovery create fulfilling and lucrative careers.