If you decide not to continue in the job or occupation you were doing before your stroke, it may be possible to stay at the same company but retrain or change roles. You might take some time to look at your options and consider a career change.
Explore the different options that are available to you with the help of a Work Coach or IPES (Individual personalised employment support) at Jobcentre Plus. Free careers advice is available at the National Careers Service website nationalcareers.service.gov.uk.
“Not being able to return to my previous job after my stroke allowed me to re-think what I wanted to do with my life. I could have died, but I didn’t. I wanted to do something to help others, and that is what I now do.” Alvin, stroke survivor.
You're on page five of the guide 'Getting back to work after a stroke'.
The information on this page can be accessed in the following formats:
Re-thinking your options
If you decide to start job-hunting, see it as an opportunity to choose a new career.
Don’t feel limited by your previous job roles: think the unthinkable! Play with new ideas about what you wish to do.
It can take a long time to find ideas for a new career and look for jobs, so allow yourself plenty of time. Some people use a stroke as an opportunity to re-evaluate their lives and this could involve re-training or starting a new career.
Quick guide to thinking about a career change
Think about your hobbies, skills and interests. What new job can you see yourself doing? Do you enjoy working with children? Are you a keen gardener? Pick something you enjoy and that interests you.
There are many types of courses and qualifications available. These include introductory courses or formal qualifications such as an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) or a university degree. You can sometimes do a taster course to see if you enjoy the subject and like the place you are studying in.
The types of centres that offer qualifications can vary. Most areas have a local college or further education centre. Your local authority will usually list all local college and places where you can study on their website. You can browse the courses available and contact the course leader directly if you have any questions.
Be realistic about how frequently you can attend classes. Think about your energy levels and travelling time if you have fatigue or mobility difficulties. You could start with a shorter course and build up to a longer one.
Most colleges and further education centres offer additional support to disabled students. This can mean a support worker to take notes in class, specialist software, or additional time to complete assignments. When applying for a course, explain you have a disability and ask what the college can offer to support you.
Applying for jobs
There are more than 4.1 million disabled people in employment in the UK, and many employers now have a good awareness of disability. But it can be hard work looking for a new job. Most stroke survivors have said it was their own determination and motivation that landed them a job so be patient, proactive and persistent. When applying for jobs, always tailor your CV to the specific job you are going for
Tip: look out for the Disability Confident scheme
The Disability Confident scheme means that an employer is taking positive steps to employ disabled people. Employers who join the scheme are committed to interview all applicants with a disability who meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy. You'll be considered on your own abilities. The employer also promises to support people with disabilities in the workplace.
Disclosing a disability on a form or at interview
In your application, account for gaps in your employment by explaining when you took time off for rehabilitation and recovery. List any courses or volunteering you did after the stroke. Remember to focus on your skills, experience and suitability for the job. Be positive and proactive.
At interview, if you feel someone is making assumptions about your disability, ask questions about the role and explain how you will fulfil the duties.
Some employers will have very little experience of working with people with disabilities or health problems. If you're asked about how you would approach tasks, you could mention the ways that you have found to do things, such as using aids and technology to help you with planning or physical work.
Employers often say that they recruit the best person for the job, regardless of whether that person has a disability.
Some stroke survivors worry that admitting their stroke or disability on an application form will mean employers will not interview them, let alone offer them a job. But this is not necessarily the case.
“The day before my interview I was really stressed as I couldn’t wear high heels like I did before my stroke, or use my right arm to shake hands. I realised that I had to remove embarrassment by explaining I’d had a stroke, and would shake with my left hand. I needn’t have worried. They were far more interested in my experience and didn’t pay any attention to my physical problems.” Sam, stroke survivor
If you don’t wish to go back into paid work or don’t feel ready, volunteering can be a great way to keep active and build your confidence. How volunteering can help you:
- Lets you explore new hobbies and interests.
- Helps build new skills or develop skills you haven’t used in a while.
- Allows you to meet new people. This can help with feelings of isolation many people face after a stroke.
Quick guide to picking the right volunteering opportunity
Think about your skills and interests. What appeals to you? Are you a keen gardener? Do you like working with the public? Pick something that you enjoy doing and that interests you. If you're unable to travel long distances due to fatigue or mobility difficulties, think about what exists in your local area.
Think about how often you'd like to volunteer. It can be a good idea to start once a week and build up to more if you feel able to. Think about your energy levels and travelling time. You could start with four-hour shifts and build up to longer periods. Ask what training is available. Many organisations have a dedicated volunteer team. As you're giving up your time, you will often be rewarded by training sessions and other volunteer resources.
Most organisations will reimburse expenses such as lunch and travel. Things to consider It can sometimes take a while to organise a volunteering position. For instance if you're working with vulnerable groups like children, you may need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check which can sometimes take a while to come through. If there are no current vacancies, you can ask to go on a waiting list.
Be persistent! Approach a few different organisations and you’re more likely to have success. “I had to give up my job as a music teacher after a stroke. I was devastated, because teaching was my life. I carried on playing the piano as part of my rehabilitation. I then discovered I loved meeting other stroke survivors and telling them how I dealt with the effects of stroke. I started to volunteer with my occupational therapist working on a stroke ward with people who had no speech. Then I became a Stroke Ambassador and now regularly share my story inspiring and motivating others.” Dave, Stroke Ambassador.
Find out more information about getting back to work after stroke.