Be the Boss Over Cancer

Hello.  I was very open with my employer about my diagnosis and treatments.  Although I had worked for them previously in another capacity prior to returning to college full-time and earning a bachelor degree, upon graduation, I returned and worked there for only 6 months before diagnosis.  After my LOA for the 2 breast surgeries was completed, I did not return into my position, and instead was placed as an interdepartmental assistant (that's what I call it - no formal title given) as I worked part-time hours throughout my long-term treatment.  My previous position was reassigned to a new employee a couple of months after my diagnosis.  Although I was thankful to remain working and earn a paycheck during this time period, at the end of my course of treatment, it remained unlikely that a comparable position opening up similar to the one I held before diagnosis.  While working through the treatments, without a formal workspace (worked in a dark corner of a conference room), and without regular duties assigned from any one particular office, I became depressed and felt that I needed to leave the environment so I could focus attention on finding suitable employment that more closely matched my education and future goals.  Now as I'm applying to different postings, what do I do on my resume and cover letter to address the lack of employment over the last couple of months.  In my heart, I want to be honest and upfront about my recent disability and reason for leaving, but I feel that doing so will remove me from further consideration.  Do I just ignore the gap completely? and avoid the topic?  If so, might I get called for an interview even when I'm not currently employeed.  Thanks in advance for any assistance.

4 Comments

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  • Sarah Goodell

    Sarah Goodell on Nov 14, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Karin,

    Thanks for reaching out. I have sent your question over to one of our career coaches who will get back to you soon. I want to let you know that your questions are some of our most common, there are a lot of people facing these challenges. I also want to recommend that you read through some of the articles on our website that address resume gaps and looking for work - I have listed some of the key ones below.

    • Minding the Resume Gap: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/resume-gap
    • Job Hunting After Cancer Treatment: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/Job-Hunting-After-Cancer-Treatment
    • Interviewing Methods and Tips: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/interview-methods
    • Job Search Tools: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/job-search-tools
    • Mock Interviews: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/mock-interviews

    I hope that this was helpful, please let us know if you have any other questions!

    Best,

    Sarah, Cancer and Careers Program Coordinator

  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on Nov 14, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Karin,

    While we wait for our coach to weigh in as well, a few other thoughts.
    Because resume gaps are so common now, not just due to cancer but the
    state of the economy for the last few years it is important that you are
    prepared to address the question and have practiced for it (Sarah has
    given you links to all sorts of info) but it is also possible that it
    won't come up or if it does it won't be a significant part of your
    conversation. Career Builder did a survey of employers about this very topic, to read more visit http://www.cancerandcareers.org/blog/good-news-about-resume-gaps. Generally, we recommend that you come up with a simple
    response to the question about your gap and make sure it concludes in a future focused
    way and returns to the position in question. Your desire to do
    something more closely aligned to what you studied helps immensely
    because you could simply say when "I realized that I wasn't being
    fulfilled in my last job and that I really wanted to get back to doing
    something I was passionate about I decided to step away so I could focus
    on getting the kind of job I could be excited about, which is why I am
    thrilled to be talking to you now."  And, this approach could be modified for your cover letter as well.

    Coaches differ on resume writing best practices meaning there are different ways to modify your resume, for instance many people no longer put months just years that you were in jobs, which can help. You also definitely want to include and volunteer or community involvement work you have done or any projects you have helped on, which can help mask gaps or highlight skills.

    Don't hesitate to write back with follow up questions!

    Best,

    Rebecca

    Rebecca V. Nellis

    VP, Programs and Strategy

  • Karin G.

    Karin G. on Nov 15, 2012

    Thank you, Sarah and Rebecca.

    These comments help me tremendously, and I am very greatful for your speedy responses.  Although I've read some of the articles noted, I will re-read and refresh my brain again.  I really feel that I have a lot to offer an employer and a huge desire to engage in something that adds value and provides meaning.  I think I will try to focus on these positive notions, and address the gap only if/when requested.  Thanks again.

    Karin

  • Bud Bilanich

    Bud Bilanich on Nov 30, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:

    Karin:

    On your resume, I suggest you use the dates you worked for your previous employer prior to leaving to go to college, the time period you were in college and the time period you worked for them after you received your degree – even if you were undergoing treatment that kept you out of work on occasion during this period.

    Here’s how I suggest you resume could look.

    June 2011 – September 2012 XXX job at YYY Company

    September 2008 – June 2011 Student at ZZZ University

    June 2005 – September 2008 XXX job at YYY company

    Obviously, you need to fill in the correct dates, job titles, company and university. And, of course some people separate out their education into a section of its own as you will see on the examples that the Cancer and Careers team mentioned above.

    I agree with Rebecca, your cover letter can explain that you left your previous employer because you wanted to pursue a job in the field you studied in college. You can reiterate this information when you get an interview.

    It’s difficult to give you more advice without knowing a little bit more about your work history. Feel free to send a copy of your resume to cancerandcareers@cew.org and I will help you to revise it to present yourself in an accurate but favorable light.

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