Injured Worker Uncovers Creative Talent as a Career

By Lindsey Novak

April 2, 2015 5 min read

Q: I had a serious accident and permanently injured my back. I had to go on disability, but as many Americans know, no one can live solely on disability. I had back surgery and was in rehabilitation for four years after that. Forget about whether one has insurance. Without a kind, generous and emotionally caring family, which I don't have, having a permanent disability makes life nearly impossible. Trying to get a job in my condition has been a continuation of the nightmare created by the injury.

I have applied for full- and part-time jobs that require no physical work, but nothing has worked out. I can't take a retail job, because I can't stand for hours at a time, and I obviously can't do heavy lifting or anything else physical. Companies that advertise for receptionists want attractive, young people, and I am neither. I did get a part-time job where I could sit at the counter and check people out, but I had to learn the computer, which was the store's register, and the manager decided I was not fast enough. That lasted a week.

I am very creative and had designed jewelry in the past, so I started to do that again. I used all sorts of items — stones, buttons and charms — anything that worked. I held a show and sold every piece, and everyone raved about my talent. Unfortunately, because I have very little money now, I can't buy more of the things I used to make the pieces, so I've been trying again to find a job. Any ideas?

A: It sounds as if having a typical job isn't going to work for you, seeing as many retail jobs require hours of standing, filling inventory, working a computer for registering sales, and heavy customer service. Many of the stores favor hiring younger people because they can easily and quickly adjust to all those requirements.

Focus on your creative abilities as a career. You don't need rubies, sapphires, emeralds or diamonds — or even the lower-priced turquoise, lapis, onyx and moonstones — to design jewelry. Visit vintage, resale and charitable stores to find items you could use to create jewelry pieces. You may not have the big bucks now to buy real stones, but artists have used buttons, wire, safety pins, zippers and hooks as pieces to form all types of jewelry.

Also, hobby stores always have sales and carry low-priced items such as glass beads, sequins, colored threads, wires and all else you might need to create necklaces, bracelets and rings. Jewelry is whatever you use to create wearable pieces of art, so no matter how your body is feeling in the aftermath of your injury, your creativity can live on untouched, undamaged, as long as you hold a positive attitude and value your other assets.

Stay in touch with a disabilities job coach from your local Social Security Administration office to see whether there are any particular programs offered to help those in your situation. There are many with severe disabilities, and even though they may not have anything to suggest at the moment, all connections are valuable.

Creating and maintaining contacts is crucial. Even though you are not part of the corporate world, formal and casual networking and socializing are still a must. If you haven't used Facebook or LinkedIn, start by connecting to all you know. Don't limit yourself to people based on their workplace titles. List yourself as a jewelry designer beyond the norm, and get involved with charitable, religious and artistic organizations.

Offer your talents in whatever way you can as a way of making local connections to people who might be able to help in the long run. Having a disability without the support of close friends and family is extraordinarily difficult, but sometimes the best creations stem from hardship and even desperation. Your future is still under your control, so go forth and create.

Email your questions to workplace expert Lindsey Novak at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter @TheLindseyNovak. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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