Laurie D. on January 4, 2017
Resume Building and Writing
I'm hoping you can direct me to make some good choices in my job applications and hopefully an interview.
I've just finished up a year of chemotherapy for breast cancer. So far, I am cancer free. However, I continue to cope with a very negative reaction to the chemotherapy that has impaired the quality of my life. There most likely is no solution at least in the near future (2 to 3 years).
I am an occupational therapist and my resume reflects several years of clinical work. I have finally admitted to myself I don't have the physical stamina to make it through a day and provide quality care for my patients. When I worked in the hospital, prior to the cancer diagnosis, I worked long hours, on my feet, helping patients get out of bed, transferring to chairs or wheelchairs. Helping them complete their ADLs. I often was very tired after a day of work. There are other positions in occupational therapy, some with less lifting of patients, but all of them require lots of stamina and energy.
Consequently, I am looking into jobs that are not strenuous or physically demanding. I like the idea of staying within a hospital setting, and I would be open to a job where I interact with cancer patients/survivors.
My questions are:
1. In the resume and application, how do I explain this career change? Why would I choose a job I am "over" qualified for? There are plenty of occupational therapy jobs, so I couldn't say that the job market is limited, pushing me into jobs I may be over qualified for.
2. I'm considering part time work, being respectful of my energy level.
2. Do I disclose my cancer diagnosis? I would think that would be a plus, especially if I'm working with a cancer population. But, then again, the employer may see the cancer diagnosis as a negative. (Needing to go to doctor's appointments, possible relapse of the cancer, etc.)
Thanks for your help!
Jan 5, 2017
Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:
Hi Laurie, Thanks for writing to us. These are some really great, thought-out questions. I've sent your post over to our coaches who will get back to you soon. In the meantime, if you haven't already, I recommend that you take a look at these resources to help answer some of your questions: -Read through the Cancer and Careers articles on Exploring Your Options: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/exploring-your-options. -View our past Balancing Work & Cancer webinar recording on Career Change here: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/videos/bwc/career-change. -You can also sign up for Balancing Work & Cancer live webinars on topics such as Job Search and Career Change at this link: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/events/webinars -Download or order a copy of our Job Search Toolkit. There is a section specifically geared towards disclosing a cancer diagnosis in an interview or resume: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/publication_orders/new. -Visit www.flexjobs.com. This site helps you to find telecommuting jobs, part-time jobs, and all other sorts of flexible work options that may be helpful for you as you figure out the next steps in your job. If you enter the code CANCER at the checkout you will get 50% off. Please let us know if you have additional questions and our coaches will be in touch soon. Best, Maddy Meislin Associate Manager of Programs
Jan 6, 2017
Career Coach Comment:
Thanks for reaching out to Cancer and Careers for advice! I am thrilled that you are cancer free and sorry that you cannot continue working as an occupational therapist. I do think that your perception that you would be over qualified for other jobs within a hospital may not be accurate. Usually over qualified refers to a situation where someone was in a management role and then decided to go back to being a single contributor, or something similar. Here are my answers to your specific questions:
1. You do not need to explain why you are changing careers on an application or a resume. In a cover letter, you would briefly mention the reasons you are qualified for whatever the position is that you are applying for based upon your skills and past experience (e.g. working directly with patients, understanding hospital procedures, etc.) Obviously you would always need to explain this in an interview and then move the conversation quickly to the reasons you would contribute. It is important for you to realize that employers are rarely as focused on negative things as you may be. So your communication needs to be more focused on the future not the past. In other words talk about why you are interested in and excited about the new job or career rather then why you want to stop being an occupational therapist.
2. Disclosing your cancer diagnosis is a very personal decision. I have heard cancer survivors say that healthcare professionals sometimes are not as empathetic as they think they would be, probably to your point because they understand the reality of what can happen. You will have to decide situation by situation what makes sense for you.
I hope this is helpful. Please write back if you have any other questions.
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