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5 Tips for Finding Work As a Cancer Survivor

5 Tips for Finding Work As a Cancer Survivor

Now that cancer treatment is behind you, you might be ready to start thinking about what’s right for your career and for your family. Perhaps you have an interest in returning to your old job if it’s available. Or, maybe you’d like to find something new to do altogether. 

Regardless of whether you’re a cancer survivor, finding the right job can be challenging. With that said, having a history as a cancer patient can make it even more so. The good news is that you’re not required to disclose any of your medical history to a current or potential employer. Furthermore, 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. While this does relieve some stress, it doesn’t mean you won’t experience any at all. 

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 search for employment. 

1. Determine How Much You Can Handle

Landing a job is only part of the process. Once you have the job, it’s important that you set yourself up for success (keeping and thriving at your job). In order to do this, it’s imperative that you only take on what you can handle. Cancer treatment takes a toll on the body, and for some, lingering side effects can inhibit the ability to take on any kind of job. 

There may be times fatigue zaps your energy level or affects your ability to perform physically demanding tasks. Other cancer treatment side effects like mental fogginess can make it difficult to focus. Moving forward, carefully consider whether a full-time or part-time position is best. If you want or need a full-time job, only seek out jobs 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 the sake of your health. 

2. Make Sure Your Skills and Tech Knowledge are Current Before You Begin Applying

If it’s been a while since you’ve worked, 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, it’s time to fix that. Today, computer literacy is very important. In fact, one of the most effective ways to look for a job is online. Furthermore, technology is commonly used in all industries on the job.

In many industries, technology is constantly evolving— and the more familiar you are with the computer, the more likely better opportunities will open up for you. 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, take time to brush up on them. That way, when an interviewer asks you if you have those skills you can truthfully say you do.

Another thing to keep in mind is your social media presence. If you have accounts on various platforms, it’s a good idea to search for yourself online to see what comes up. Oftentimes, hiring companies search the names of potential job candidates. If you find anything that could damage your opportunity to find a job, consider removing it.

3. Plan Ahead for a Successful Interview

As a cancer survivor, long-term treatment side effects can affect how you go about your job search. However, there are ways that you can remain in control. Schedule job interviews during the time of day that you usually feel most energetic. Consider wearing a wig if you’re self-conscious about your post-cancer hair. To boost a blah kind of mood, treat yourself to a makeover or a new job interview suit. The more confident you are, the more likely you’ll be hired. 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

Did you know that employers can’t discriminate against you because of your status as a cancer survivor? In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers cannot legally decide not to hire you because you had cancer. 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

Taking a break from work for cancer treatment means there’ll be an employment gap on your resume that will need to be addressed. While you can be forthright and explain that you are a cancer survivor who took a break during treatment, it’s important to remember that you have the choice not to. 

Before submitting resumes, it’s a good idea to have yours looked over 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 so it can be reviewed by a career coach. Within 7–10 business days, you’ll receive professional advice about how to improve your resume.

Use Available Cancer Survivor Resources

As a cancer survivor, it might take some time until you’re accustomed to being independent again. That does not mean that you have to do it alone! 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. Be sure to speak with your cancer care team to see what resources are available to you. 

Remember, taking the time to prepare both physically and mentally before launching your job search can increase your likelihood of success. Do your homework before you get serious about your job search. Then, when you feel ready, set out with confidence and optimism!