Be the Boss Over Cancer

Hi, I have just finished my chemotherapy for state 3 colon cancer and need to find a job. I am unable to return to my prior job as they have given it to someone else. What should I say on an application as to why I left my last job?


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  • Rosalind Joffe

    Rosalind Joffe on May 11, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Kayleen

    Congratulations on getting through this rugged treatment. I'll try to respond as best as possible from what you've described.

    I've seen this issue come up frequently with clients when they lost or left a job due to illness, regardless of what the illness is. Typically, I suggest leaving any discussion of illness, cured or not, to the negotiation stage of interviewing, if at all. But if the job application asks you directly about reasons for leaving last job, then you clearly have three choices: tell the truth, lie or avoid a direct answer. I see no point in telling the truth since by doing so, you're setting off the alarm bells before you get a foot in the door and have shown your "best" and can explain. On the other hand, if you lie and get caught in the lie, that will make the situation much worse for you. I think the best response is to give a small bit of vague information. You might play around with: " was no longer a good fit" or "...the job had changed and was no longer a good fit". If that's too vague for you or not truthful enough, you might say that personal issues, now completely resolved, led you to leave.

    I don't think there is any easy way to respond to this on an application where your task is to get to the interview state. And then, if it does come up and you believe you must discuss it, you can explain the situation fully. But here, too, I suggest that you don't discuss this directly unless it will directly you on the job.

    My best wishes to you in finding employment!


  • Alice McKenney

    Alice McKenney on May 11, 2010

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Kayleen,

    Thank you so much for reaching out! I have sent your post on to one of our career coaches but I wanted to respond with a quick note.

    Legally, you are not required to disclose your illness at any point in the job application process. And unless you plan on requesting an accommodation later on, you do not need to disclose your illness at all. Does the job application require you to identify why you left your last position or is it optional?

    You may also want to refer to this recent discussion about disclosing cancer on your resume:

    Please don't hesitate to be in touch with follow-up questions and again keep an eye out for our coach's response to your post as well.


    Alice McKenney

    Foundation Coordinator

    Cancer and Careers

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