Two men in suits shaking hands at the table with a document in front of themReturning to work after leaving due to a disability can mean starting a new career. In part three of our Start Where You Are series, we highlight how to take the skills you've previously learned to the new career you're ready to try. As well as the supports available to help you succeed.

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Start Where You Are: On a New Career Path

Jan 27, 2022

Two men in suits shaking hands at the table with a document in front of themSometimes, leaving the workforce due to a disability means that when you're able to try working again, the job or career you once had is no longer possible. If you find you want to work, but you're unable to return to your previous profession, changing careers is the next logical step.

If you're unsure where to start your career change, we have some tips to help you figure out where your return to work may lead. Once you decide on a new career path, it's time to prepare for your hunt for a new job. You may be transitioning to a different type of work within your field or even a new field entirely, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to start over from scratch. Here are some ways to make yourself a strong job candidate.

Identify Your Transferable Skills

When you're looking for new type of job or career, it can be discouraging to learn that the  requirements listed in a job posting don't directly match your experience. That shouldn't stop you from applying. You may have the skills and experience the employer is looking for even though you took a different path to get those skills.

For example, you may have "transferable" skills that hiring managers want for all types of positions—from customer service representatives to management positions. Soft skills such as communication, working in a team or time management are essential for anyone working in a collaborative environment.

Even some technical skills can help you move more easily between industries. A basic understanding of Microsoft Office, project management principles or writing skills can be useful in a variety of workplaces.

If you need help figuring out what skills you've gained during your time in the workforce or volunteering, Career OneStop has a helpful tool to identify your transferable skills that you can highlight during an interview.

Build Your New Network

Changing jobs may mean working within a different industry. Unless you're one of the lucky few, looking for a new job may take some time. While you're applying for jobs and waiting for interviews, networking can help you find new opportunities and show people you're looking to try something new.

Attending career fairs, alumni meet and greets or reaching out to potential new companies for informational interviews helps you build professional relationships in the industry before you've even had your first day.

Update Your Resume

You know what new type of work you'd like to try. You learned from your new friend in the industry about a company that's hiring. How do you show the hiring manager you're a good fit for the job? Adjusting your resume can play an important role in your application process.

Not all resumes are equal and using one that highlights the transferable skills you have is an important tool for your career change. We have a collection of tips and tools to help you write an updated resume.

Your position titles may not match the traditional path to your new career, but explaining how your skills could be applied to a new position may help you secure the next interview. For example, running an elementary school classroom takes strong, clear communication skills and exposure to different types of computer programs. A mechanic understands attention to detail and rapid problem-solving skills. A nurse can work well under pressure and with a wide variety of personality types.

Don't forget an important part of your job application: Your cover letter! To add more context to your skills and show what a great fit you are for the new position, customize your stand-out cover letter to focus on your experience.

We all start somewhere, and occasionally we must start over. If you find yourself looking to try something new, know you're not alone. It's not impossible, and there are supports and services available to you if you need them.

About Ticket to Work

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) Program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits and want to work. Through this free and voluntary program, eligible participants can work with service providers to receive the supports and services they need to find and maintain employment as they move toward financial independence through work.

As you think about returning to work and possibly changing careers you may have questions and need support. Working with a Ticket Program service provider can help you develop achievable goals and steps to find and maintain employment in your new career. Ticket Program service providers can even help you identify the type of career you might enjoy and any transferrable skills you may have.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket Program, visit choosework.ssa.gov or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket Program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket Program, visit choosework.ssa.gov or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket Program Find Help tool.

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