A main goal of Cancer and Careers is empowering those with a cancer diagnosis to be successful and confident in the workplace. We recognize there are nuances to expressing yourself, both when looking for work or at an existing job, that may not exist for those who do not have a diagnosis.
Story telling, sharing personal anecdotes, and communicating effectively with a potential employer/coworkers can create an important bond and show you in a positive light. With that said, it can be challenging to understand best practices for telling stories professionally. It’s important to strike a balance between being honest and authentic about your own skills and experience while also speaking within a professional framework, or highlighting how your story aligns with the job responsibilities.
Part of expressing yourself is having a sense of what, if any, personal information you wish to share about yourself. We talk about the decision around disclosure frequently, because we understand the integral role it can play in the workplace. While we encourage you to make your own decisions around what works best for you, it's important to understand the best ways to tell your (or any) story. Fast Company released an article on how to tell your story in a way that helps to land you a job. We identified some particularly salient points that are applicable to those with a cancer diagnosis who are interviewing for a new job.
Be brief. This is effective advice in both verbal and written communications. The ability to be brief and to the point not only means you're able to keep someone engaged and paying attention, but also that you're adept at staying focused and on task. When you are asked about your experience in an interview, don't just regurgitate your resume and walk them through each thing you've done. Highlight specific relevant achievements or unique experiences that will help you to standout and keep the interviewer interested.
Let it flow. Build your story with the past, present, and future in mind. For instance, when you're interviewing for a job and are asked what makes you the best candidate for the position, think through how to sell your story well. For as long as you can remember, you've been interested in this line of work, in your current or most recent role you implemented xyz practices, and you foresee adding value and passion to this role.
End with action. You may feel out of the loop if you've taken some time off from working for treatment and recovery. Think through what will show your passion and commitment to the role. If you're asked about a resume gap, you can be vague in your response for why you weren't working, but fill it in with things you've done in the meantime: online courses, volunteer work, certifications, etc.
For cancer patients and survivors, understanding the more practical aspects of disclosure is an important piece to the communication puzzle as well. We have a number of resources to help with understanding the various aspects of communication after a diagnosis as they relate to work:
- Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our Communicating Effectively webinars for tips, resources, and best practices for communicating effectively both when looking for a new job and at an existing one.
- Understanding the impact of disclosure is important, take a look at our Job Search and Disclosure section to better understand the considerations around disclosure when job hunting. Additionally our recorded webinar on Disclosure, Privacy & Online Brand can shed light onto some opportunities to protect oneself when looking for work.
- Finally, use our Mock Interviews guide to help you prepare to answer both easy and challenging questions during an interview, and practice getting your story to a place that is appropriate and effective.
Everyone has an interesting story to tell. When looking for a new job, put the time in to figure out how to tell your story that works to your advantage.