Be the Boss Over Cancer

Refocusing on your career after cancer is probably hard enough, but to add an extra challenge, you may be more likely to be looking for a job that will allow you the flexibility to accommodate your health needs. Maybe it’s a part-time schedule, a flexible schedule, or the option to work from home. These kind of jobs aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, but I want to tell you that they are out there. From my perspective as a passionate advocate for flexible jobs, now is a better time than ever to be considering work flexibility because there are multiple trends pushing for it in the workplace – from health to work-life balance, economic to environmental benefits, and many more. The important thing is that the combination is finally starting to get employers to listen on a broad scale.

This doesn’t mean every company is keen on flexibility (at least not yet), but it does mean that more and more are realizing that flexible positions – such as telecommuting, part-time, and flexible schedules – can both save them money AND benefit employees. Flexible jobs are getting more widespread than most people think – while only 2.8 million people in the U.S. work from home full-time, another 15 to 20 million people work from home a couple days each week, and another 27 million people have full-time jobs with flexible schedules.

So there’s hope, which is a great start, and only getting more and more important in the unfortunately growing cancer community. There are over 800k working age adults who receive cancer diagnoses every year in the US, and 70-80% of those people will return to work, not to mention the millions already currently in the workforce. But this issue, and the labor economics of it, is never talked about, despite that almost every person who walks down the street has a story (or sadly, multiple stories) of a friend, family member, or themselves who have struggled with how to juggle with work after a cancer diagnosis.

Personally, one of our long-time staff went through a cancer battle a couple of years ago, and as her employer, it was an eye opener for me. I remember when she told me of her diagnosis, and I remember working with her to both figure out professionally how we could accommodate her new, unwanted situation, but I also remember trying to support her as best I could as a person. I know that I couldn’t begin to understand how scary and emotional of a place she was in, having never been in the shoes of receiving a cancer diagnosis myself. But I, like way too many millions of people, have watched people I love battle the disease, and I just wanted to support her through it as best I could. I’m so happy to say that she was able to continue to be a contributing member of our team throughout much of her treatment, and into her recovery, with a flexible schedule and reduced hours.

So as you look for a job after cancer, here are three tips to set yourself up for success both in your search and once you land the job:

  1. Be honest with yourself about what you can commit to in a job. For example, only try to get a full-time job if you really feel strong enough, otherwise look at part-time jobs.
  2. Consider all kinds of work flexibility, and think about which will work best for you. There are many factors that can be considered, but telecommuting (100% or occasional), flexible schedules, or part-time schedules all offer different benefits for allowing people to juggle other priorities in their lives.
  3. Focus on doing something that you really want to do, and ideally with people you want to work with. This should be for everyone, but especially if you’re keenly aware of how precious every day is, doing something worthwhile is far more gratifying than not.

I have such an appreciation for work flexibility, both as an employer and as a worker myself. There are lots of reasons for this, but for me, I have two young children and strive to have a healthy work-life balance. Same goes for many of my staff. Others have had health issues, one of us is a military spouse, another’s husband is relocated annually. For all of us, working from home with flexible schedules gives us more time and energy to devote to our lives, and taking care of our lives. And I wish you the absolute best in your job search for the same reasons! 

Sara Sutton Fell is the CEO of FlexJobs.  For more information on her, and FlexJobs - the go-to resource for flexible job listings - visit www.flexjobs.comPLUS 50% discount on membership fees for Cancer and Careers constituents by entering "CANCER" into the promo code field during payment.


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