Rethinking Your Career (Part 2): 3 Strategies to Help Navigate a New Career Post Cancer

After a significant, life-changing event how do you navigate your career and are there any good tips to do so?

This is a two-part series about how to reassess your career after a life-changing event. Click here to read Rethinking Your Career Part 1: Change After a Life-Changing Diagnosis or Illness.

In this second part, Lauren shares 3 strategies to help navigate a new career post cancer.

1. When looking for work, should someone address cancer in a cover letter or in the interview?

I’m not an employment lawyer or a Human Resources expert so the below is my personal opinion.

I can understand that one doesn’t want to be discriminated against during the interview process. This would be a compelling reason not to disclose a prior illness.

As a recruiter, several of the candidates and clients that I worked with had undergone treatment for a life-threatening illness at some point in their professional lives. I found that sharing this information with me helped to build our relationship and helped me represent them more accurately and compassionately.

While I don’t think it’s necessary to disclose your illness in a cover letter or even in the first or second interview, it may be appropriate and strategic to do so at some point during the process depending on your comfort level.

Employers want to get to know you and they want you to be authentic. Building trust is part of the interviewing process and your interviewer will get a sense if you are avoiding topics or shying away from certain questions.

There are likely time gaps in your resume due to cancer treatments and recovery. The interviewer will have questions about those times if they’re not explained and you don’t want them making up answers in their head.

In addition, it may help employers understand your motivations for the career change and some of the requests you make as an employee.

So unless you think it will put you at a disadvantage during your interview, I vote for transparency.

2. What are some things to consider when going back to work?

You may want to spend some time journaling on questions like the ones below. That way you can figure out what’s most important to you as you head back into your work life.

When you consider yourself back at work, ask yourself:

What’s most important to me now? How do I want to show up? How do I want to be? How can I honour my needs and also be a great team member? Am I aligned with my values and what I care about? How can I develop good supportive relationships at work?

3. Are there resources for people?

There are tons of career change resources out there. Here are some to get you started.

What Colour is your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers is a classic book that helps you uncover your strengths, values, skills and interests.

I’m also really keen on the Clifton StrengthsFinder. It’s an online assessment that helps you uncover your strengths.

Another well-known career change book is called The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success.  

Lauren Malach is a career coach. As a former executive recruiter, Lauren got really good at answering the strategic and tactical questions– how to interview well, how to craft your resume, how to source potential opportunities. And while that still interests her, what interests her, even more, is how to help clients live better lives. She believes we spend most of our lives at work, and if we can improve our outlook on our work, we may increase our overall life satisfaction.

Now her clients are individuals who want to create more fulfillment, engagement or clarity in their career path. She also works with proactive leaders who want to influence their teams with intention.

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