Reentering the workforce can be challenging no matter what the circumstance, but returning to work following cancer or any major illness can be especially difficult. With a host of new barriers to employment, such as gaps in the resume, new physical limitations and treatment schedules, job prospects for those who took medical leave due to cancer may appear quite bleak. But there are things job seekers can do to increase their chances of landing a new position after recovery.
- Shift your mindset from cancer patient to potential employee. Yes, cancer is a game changer. But, remember serious ailments like diabetes, lupus, and chronic heart disease can also present medical challenges. People can work for years while managing chronic health-related issues and illnesses, cancer being one of them. Make an effort to temporarily overlook your health concerns and think about your professional goals. The purpose is to psychologically level your playing field with other job seekers.
- Focus on skills. Try not to get overwhelmed by your newfound limitations and existing barriers. Instead, take the “glass half full” kind of approach, and concentrate on your skills, experiences and individual talents.
- Rev up your resume. Create a resume that will highlight skills, achievements and strengths, especially if you’ve had some employment gaps or lost career advancement opportunities. Place relevant skills and experiences at the top of your resume if your more recent experience was not as strong as your experience from many years ago.
- Address the Gap. Arm yourself with a prepared response for when you will be asked about any employment gaps during interviews. No need to share all the details; it is sufficient to say: “I needed to take time off to deal with some health issues, but now I’m excited and ready to get back to work.”
- Consider alternative career options. If your previous position is not medically or physically feasible for you, think creatively about applying for positions that would be flexible enough to accommodate your needs. Consider looking for jobs with flex-time, part-time or telecommuting options.
- Delay any special requests. Wondering when to inform a prospective employer about health-related issues that may require special accommodations? Hold off until after you’ve been offered the job.
Getting back to work will be beneficial in so many ways. Psychologically it can provide a nice distraction as well as a big boost of confidence. And from a medical standpoint, work can be the best medicine since stimulating and challenging work releases endorphins which can be effective in controlling pain and promoting well-being and quality of life.
Faye Katz is the resume writer for the JCS Career Center.
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance. For more information, call 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.