Be the Boss Over Cancer

I was recently diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer (about 1-1/2 weeks ago). My appointment at the Cancer Center hasn't been confirmed yet, so I feel very in limbo since I'm not 100% clear on next steps. I quit my job about 5 months ago because I was burnt out and also because I wanted to focus on a career transition. It's been a challenge job searching, but I feel positive that I'll find a job in the new industry I want to be in (I've been networking a lot, volunteering with a professional organization to make connections, etc). But now that I've been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I'm not sure what my strategy should be for my job search/career transition. I'm currently on COBRA for health insurance, and working a part-time retail job for extra cash. I quit my previous job for a purpose and still want to pursue the career transition, but coincidentally around the time I was diagnosed a contact of mine informed me of an opportunity in my previous industry that she thought I would be interested in. Do I now start looking into jobs in my previous industry because I have the experience and have higher chances of getting hired (and of course get health insurance!)? But my previous industry was stressful and I fear that once I start treatment and medication that it will affect my work performance. Or do I focus on finding work that I know is less stressful (possibly without health insurance benefits) so that I can focus on my treatment and my health? Do I put my career transition on "pause"? Being a natural "planner," I find myself unable to figure out my plan or unable to plan ahead. Any thoughts or suggestions?

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  • Julie Jansen

    Julie Jansen on Feb 8, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Jeannie,

    I am so sorry about your diagnosis and believe me, it's a big reason that you can't figure out what to do. There is too much that you don't know yet. But you will as you move along and this will make it easier to decide what to do.

    My gut feeling along with my experience tells me to stick with pursuing your career transition plan, especially because you are on COBRA and had already thought this through before your cancer diagnosis. The more you can minimize your stress, the better right now. And if you reenter your previous industry, the stress of proving yourself, balancing your treatment and keeping your head straight while doing work that doesn't fulfill you isn't a healthy recipe.

    So, keep doing what you have been doing and warm wishes for a healthy recovery.

    Take care,

    Julie

  • Rosalind Joffe

    Rosalind Joffe on Feb 15, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Dear Jeanne,

    I agree with Julie about pursuing your career transition plan. But I also worry about your getting caught without insurance and without a job. The thing that is hardest right now is trying to plan without knowing what your immediate and long term future will be regarding your health. I always encourage people who are in a stressful state to stick with what they know and that seems to work. In this case, you have 3 sources of potential stress: the illness, finding a new job, creating a new career. It seems like you need a short term and a long term plan and if you can separate this out, it might help you feel better about the short term.

    You might try to imagine what would feel best for you? You might ask yourself some questions: How would it feel to take a job in your previous industry - maybe even take a job that means "under employment" but ensures the benefits? How it would feel to keep looking in this new industry while you're dealing with the uncertainty of the disease? Try listing pros/cons - all the while seeing how you feel inside.

    There really is no right or wrong here so you can let yourself be guided by your own sense of what will help you feel that you've taken care of yourself as best you can. When we're struggling with illness, that's a powerful tool to call upon!

    I wish you the best with your health and your career!

    Warmly,

    Rosalind

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