Patients and survivors often call Cancer and Careers to share some of the obstacles and fears associated with looking for a job after a cancer diagnosis — in particular, the stress and anxiety that arise when a job-seeker has a resume gap. The bottom line is that while resume gaps can create a greater challenge, they are not the deal-breakers for landing a job that many people believe them to be.
Our friends at The Muse published an article titled “5 Better Ways to Talk About 5 Common Resume Gaps.” We’ve highlighted two of the five that relate closely to job-hunting as a cancer patient or survivor.
- You lost your job. This can happen to anyone at anytime. If you left your previous job on poor terms, when talking about it, try to put a positive spin on the departure and leave it at that. Despite your feelings about a prior employer, it’s important that you remain professional and tactful when discussing that job experience. Were you passed over for a promotion you felt was yours? Rather than saying the company didn’t appreciate you or didn’t recognize your talent, perhaps frame it in a way that suggests there was little room for growth and it was best for both you and the organization to part ways. Many patients and survivors have dealt with employers who were decidedly insensitive and unsupportive regarding their illness, sometimes resulting in termination. Regardless, you’re better off focusing on your accomplishments while at that job — and on how you plan to utilize that experience in the new role you are interviewing for. Doing that can be a great way to turn the conversation back to why you are the right candidate for this particular position.
- You took off time for health reasons. One of the most important things for patients and survivors to keep in mind when job-searching is: You are not obligated by law to share your diagnosis or treatment status with an employer at any point in time. While there are circumstances in which it might benefit you to disclose, operating with the understanding that you are not required to do so is critical to protecting yourself while job-hunting. Whether or not to share information about your health is a personal decision, and many factors (e.g., company climate, limitations resulting from treatment side effects) can come into play when making that determination. When asked about a gap that is related to your health, it can be helpful to use The Swivel — and being vague when doing so is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, saying, “There was a family situation that I had to attend to, but it has since been resolved and I’m fully prepared to meet the responsibilities of this job; let me tell you how,” is perfectly acceptable. It answers the question of why there is a gap, and no one would argue with the fact that cancer can be considered “a family situation.” The Swivel enables you to return the focus of the conversation to your skills and experience — which are what likely got you the interview — without disclosing your diagnosis.
Preparing for questions such as these can make the entire job-search and interviewing process much easier. Having responses at the ready can help prevent your nerves from getting the better of you and potentially putting you in a position where you end up revealing information you hadn’t initially intended to.
Take a look at our Job Search Toolkit for tips on resumes and interviewing, so you are ready to take on the tricky aspects of the job-hunt.
Take a look at our article on “Minding the Resume Gap” for more ideas on how to shift the focus from the gap back to the many reasons why you are the most qualified candidate.
If you’re not sure how best to format your resume to account for a gap, take advantage of our free Resume Review Service and get personalized recommendations from one of our professional career coaches.