As you start to feel better after your cancer treatment program is complete, you may be trying to decide what’s right for your career and for your family. You may want to go back to your old job if it’s still available. Or you may want to find something new to do.
Finding the right job can be tricky, even if you’re not a cancer survivor. Your history as a cancer patient may make it even tougher to find the right job. You’re not required to disclose any of your medical history to a current or potential employer. And, it’s illegal for employers to ask about your medical history or require that you take a medical exam as part of the application process.
Whether you desperately need to find a job to fulfill financial and/or socialization needs, or you simply want to fill your days with work that you find fun and/or meaningful, the following tips should help you in your job search.
5 Tips for Finding Work as a Cancer Survivor
1. Decide What You Can Handle
Landing a job is just the first step. Set yourself up for success (keeping and thriving at your job) by being careful not to take on more than you can handle. Cancer treatment takes a toll on the body, including lingering side effects of treatment, that can limit what type of job you’ll be able to take on.
You may experience fatigue that affects your energy level or ability to perform physically demanding tasks. Other cancer treatment side effects like mental fogginess can make it tough for you to concentrate. Think carefully about whether you want a full-time or part-time position. If you want or need a full-time job, consider positions that are within your range of physical capabilities. Be honest with yourself. If you start a job and later realize it’s too strenuous, you may have to give it up for your the sake of your health.
2. Brush Up on Your Skills and New Technologies Before You Begin Applying
If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, consider enlisting friends and loved ones to help you practice your job interviewing skills, in person and on the phone. Additionally, if you’re not comfortable around a computer, consider changing that. Today, one of the most effective ways to look for a job is online. And, technology is commonly used in all industries on the job.
Being computer literate will open up more opportunities for you. In many industries, such as banking, graphic design, and healthcare, technologies are constantly evolving. Software programs are created or updated, new devices are invented, etc. If you’ve been out of the workforce for more than 6 months, ask peers in your desired line of work about the technologies and software programs they use on the job. Then, spend time familiarizing yourself with them. For instance, if much of your industry uses a computer-aided design (CAD) software program, learn it or catch up on the latest version. That way, when an interviewer asks you if you have those skills you can truthfully say you do.
Additionally, if you are computer literate, and especially if you’re active on social media, search for yourself online. Potential employers will probably search your name online. If you find anything that could damage your opportunity to find a job, research how to remove it.
3. Plan Ahead for a Successful Interview
As a cancer survivor, your long-term treatment side effects will also affect how you go about your job search. Schedule job interviews during the time of day that you usually feel most energetic. If one of your treatment side effects involves loss of self-confidence (if you’ve lost your hair as a result of chemo, for example), take steps to change that! If you’re self-conscious about treatment-related hair loss, consider a wig. If you feel blah about yourself, treat yourself to a makeover or a new job interview suit. You’ll probably be more likely to be hired if you exude confidence. Interviewers can often detect when a candidate lacks confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should they?
4. Understand Your Rights as A Cancer Survivor
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that protects you from discrimination based on your status as a cancer survivor. Among other things, it states that employers cannot legally decide not to hire you because you are a cancer survivor. It also requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” to help cancer survivors function in the workplace. These accommodations may include acquiring or modifying equipment or devices and allowing for part-time or modified work schedules.
5. Update Your Resume Strategically
If you were employed before being diagnosed with cancer and then quit your job during treatment, you’ll need to address the employment gap on your resume. You’ll need to decide whether to be forthright and explain that you are a cancer survivor and took a break during treatment. Of course, you do not have to divulge any information about your illness if you choose not to.
Before submitting resumes, make sure to have yours reviewed by a professional. Cancer and Careers provides this service free of charge to cancer survivors. You simply answer a short questionnaire and upload your resume to their website. The Cancer and Careers team will read your information and send it to a career coach to be reviewed. Within 7–10 business days, you’ll receive professional advice about how to improve your resume.
Use Available Cancer Survivor Resources
Resources such as oncology social workers and vocational cancer counselors are available for cancer survivors.
When you take time to prepare physically and mentally before launching your job search, you’ll increase your likelihood of success. Now that you are a cancer survivor rather than a cancer patient, you are probably slowly becoming accustomed to being independent again. That does not mean that you can’t seek help! You can and you should take advantage of cancer survivor resources, including oncology social workers, career counselors who specialize in helping survivors, and occupational therapists who help survivors adapt to long-term physical side effects.
The more prepared you are mentally and physically for your job search, the more successful it will be. Do your homework before you get serious about your job search. Then, when you feel ready, set out with confidence and optimism!