There are a lot of unspoken standards and even some rules when job searching, interviewing, and hiring. It’s important to keep in mind, as someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, what those may be, and how your health or health history may factor in.
As we’ve heard from many cancer patients and survivors, a career change following a diagnosis is increasingly common. In particular, many individuals cite a strong pull towards nonprofit work in the cancer space. There are varying valid reasons for this – a new lease on life, a desire to help those in similar circumstances, a newly discovered passion for the cancer community, and so on. With that said, it’s important to recognize how one’s cancer diagnosis can play a role in the job search. It might seem like the most logical choice to share your own cancer history with a potential employer when you're applying for a job in the cancer space, but there are still considerations around disclosure.
Disclosure remains one of the most commonly asked about topics at CAC. It’s nuanced for those with a cancer diagnosis and there tends to be a lot of confusion and worry surrounding the decision, with many unaware that it is a decision.
When deciding to pursue work in the cancer community specifically, survivors often consider their diagnosis an asset. While the unique perspective they can bring is valuable, it’s also important to understand how it can be used. For instance, if you are interviewing for a job and decide to disclose your diagnosis as a positive attribute for you as a candidate, an interviewer is legally unable to ask you further questions about your diagnosis and history (you can read more about the legal aspects of the job search here). So, while this personal experience may feel relevant in the way a potential employee could approach the work, it may not be the best thing to focus on in an interview as there is little potential for an in-depth conversation about it. Instead, you might want to draw attention to specific skills and attributes that showcase how you will fulfill the responsibilities of the role. Explain that you feel passionately about cancer and your ability to empathize and provide further perspective would make you the ideal candidate for the role.
To be clear, the decision to disclose is a personal choice, based on various factors that are unique to your own situation. This is true both in deciding to disclose at a current job, or when you are interviewing. Managing disclosure when looking for work has a number of considerations – job applications, cover letters, and interviews all involve thinking about your diagnosis and what role disclosing it could play. There is no right or wrong decision around disclosure but taking certain factors into account is crucial. The timing of disclosure, the context in which it is being shared and the reason it is being shared should all be considered.
CAC offers a number of resources and programs aimed at helping individuals with a diagnosis navigate the job hunt, an often confusing process. Check out our upcoming webinar on career change to learn how to best approach a transition after cancer. Our Job Search Toolkit provides guidance and examples for resume and cover letter writing. Take advantage of our free Resume Review Service. And finally interviewing can be stressful and we understand that the best way to alleviate some of that pressure is to be as prepared as possible. Check out our website section on interviewing for tips and techniques and suggestions for how to best approach the process.