Be the Boss Over Cancer

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer Dec. 2006 a few months after graduating from nursing school and passing the boards. I finished my last treatment April of 2008. When I attend jobfairs I'm asked why haven't I worked since graduation? I always answer honestly, because I feel like what I've been will help me be a better nurse. I am very confident that I will make a great nurse but after looking for almost 2 years, my confidence has fallen. One professional resume writer told me to state what I've been through on my resume. So, I did. i don't know what else I can do. I still attend job fairs, although the hospitals want you to do everything online & won't even take my resume. I apply for positions online, mostly new graduate positions since several hospitals have told me that is the only way they would hire me. But still nothing. I need help to know what to say to recruiters and how to explain anything on an online application. I feel like walking into the next job fair singing "Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA. Do you have any advise? Thank you. Lori


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  • Judi Swedek

    Judi Swedek on Nov 19, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:


    You are so very welcome!


  • Lori W.

    Lori W. on Nov 19, 2010

    Judi & Margot,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to help me out.

    I will practice answering the infamous question with both your ideas and see which one I feel more comfortable with. Who knows, maybe it'll be both. Before I would stumble over the answer but answering it truthfully because I was afraid if I was too vague, I would come across as lying. But your advise & support helps tremendously.

    I have been working part time for a real estate agent, who I have worked for through school & throughout all my treatments. But I will definitely look into nursing organizations to join and look into volunteering at a hospital or clinic.

    I am also working on my resume again, removing the statement regarding breast cancer & treatments.

    I attended a Planet Cancer/Livestrong retreat recently & that is where I found out about Cancer and Careers. I am so greatful!

    I will take the advise you have both given me & will move forward. I hope I can come back at anytime if I run into any other "bumps" in the road or if I am not feeling confident with the way things are proceeding.

    I cannot thank you enough. I wish I knew about this resource a year or so ago.


  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Nov 19, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Lori –

    It sounds as though your first hurdle is to answer the question: Why you have not worked since graduation?

    Would you feel comfortable responding “because of an illness in the family?” Since you were not yet employed, it seemed appropriate to put that as a priority?

    Or you could say: because of health issues that are now resolved. (no further elaboration)

    As for your resume, would you be able to fill the gap by listing any other activity such as volunteer work, part time job, etc..?

    While you are job seeking, consider volunteering in the healthcare field. The experience will help build your confidence and your reputation and will provide you with new contacts. You will become a known entity and you will probably be able to identify a position through your network. Join a professional nursing organization or an association of Women in Healthcare to expand your network. These will build your contact base and make you visible.

    What was your previous career? Can you integrate that experience along with your nursing degree to seek a job in the field even if it is not hands-on nursing? This could be a valuable bridge to where you want to be.

    I would advise against providing too much information up front since you cannot rely on how someone else will interpret it. It may make you a better nurse but not everyone will share that opinion. This is not information that should appear on a resume, on an application or even shared in an interview.

    When responding to openings or posting online, your cover letter or email would be the place to answer that question with some of the suggestions above.

    It is always better to build your marketability rather than appear desperate and beg for a chance.


  • Judi Swedek

    Judi Swedek on Nov 19, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Lori:

    I understand your frustration. It's a tough call to determine what is right; that is, should you or should you not share the information about your cancer. The advice I always give to others is to limit yourself to professional information when applying for jobs and interviewing. Information about our personal lives, health, family life, etc. is just that, personal, not relevant, and in some case, can work against us. The market is competitive so you really don't want to give anyone a reason to pass on you. In an ideal world it shouldn't make a difference, but in this sometimes flawed world of ours, it may.

    With that said, I'd suggest taking it off your resume and focusing on your professional credentials and experience. If you're concerned about it being almost 2 years since gaining your degree, use years rather than months and years on your education and experience...sometimes that helps to fill some of the gaps.

    Also, think about what you will say when asked about what you have been doing since you graduated. You can say you decided to take some time off (no need to expand further) and are now excited to be moving into this amazing field. Then talk about how you are an excellent fit for the position. Many people take time off these days and that shouldn't deter anyone from hiring you.

    From my experience, job fairs can be distressing and as you said not a great way to find a job. Instead, try reconnecting with your school and their career services center or alumni services. They may have access to employers interested in hiring from your school. Try networking with others in your field to open some doors...networking is the best way to find a job, almost 80% of all jobs are found that way. Join nursing groups or associations to network and open doors to opportunities. Perhaps take a part-time position as a way to network into a organization you want to work for.

    When you apply for a job, try to find someone you may know in that organization so you can get to the right people, rather than just be one of many applicants. If you don't know someone, ask everyone you know if they know someone they can introduce you to.

    You have chosen such a worthy profession...don't get discouraged. Focus on what you want, remember to be creative in your approach, present the professional you, and you will definitely see the results. And maintain your sense of humor...and someone will soon "Take a Chance on You".

    Hope this is helpful...please let me know how things go and if I can share addtional thoughts.

    Kind regards,


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