Oytun O. on October 30, 2019
Resume Building and Writing,
Dear Career Coaches,
I am going to finish my Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Specialization: Medical Engineering) in April 2020.
I started my Master Studies in October 2015 and I had to face a cancer disease the same month. Nevertheless, I did not want to give up but continued my studies (by taking a few classes instead of the full program). Unfortunately, I had to face cancer at the beginning of 2017 again. Therefore there is a long gap in my master studies.
I am good now, doing fine and being healthy. But I am insecure about how to put this gap into my cv and how I could explain it the best way as I want to look for jobs right now. I really appreciate your help and answers.
Nicole Franklin, MPH
Nov 7, 2019
Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:
Thanks for writing to us. Glad to hear that you’re healthy now. Congrats on getting close to finishing your program and obtaining your master’s degree!
The first thing to know is that your diagnosis is confidential and in general, you are not obligated to disclose a medical condition in a job application or during an interview (or even after you are hired). There are of course some nuances to this so for more information I recommend watching our webinar on disclosure: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/videos/bwc/2016-webinar-online. You can also check out the section of our website on legal rights: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/at-work/legal-and-financial .
Your resume and cover letter are static documents designed to get you a first interview so we generally recommend that people don’t disclose anything about their health, but instead use that space to highlight achievements, sell yourself and align your skills and abilities with the company and job in question. Here are some strategies for dealing with a resume gap: https://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/resume-cover-letter/resume-gap.
One method we 've found successful for fielding questions regarding gaps in employment is called “The Swivel”, which addresses a question asked by an interviewer and then redirects the conversation towards your actual goals and skillset for the job. For example, saying “There was a family situation that I had to attend to, but it’s 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.” But more importantly, it moves the conversation towards the opportunity at hand, thus leaving the interview to move forward from there. Practicing your response is key, so that you feel comfortable when answering. It’s important to remind yourself of your many accomplishments, none of which should be overshadowed by taking time off for treatment and recovery. For more info on “The Swivel”: https://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/interviewing/the-swivel.
It’s also essential remember that in general you are under no legal obligation to disclose your medical history and/or any medical conditions to your prospective or current employer, but ultimately it’s a personal decision. However, if you need to access a reasonable accommodation you may have to disclose some information to show you’re entitled to it, but may choose not to disclose during the interview process and instead wait until you receive an offer to request an accommodation or even wait until you have started the job. For more information on disclosure, I recommend watching our webinar: https://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/videos/bwc/2019-webinar-online
And you might think that if you weren’t taking classes, you have nothing to show prospective employers — but that isn’t necessarily the case. Did you do any volunteering, take any online courses or attend conferences or anything else that would show you were using or building your skillset? If not, that’s completely okay. Focusing on your health was the most important thing to do—but it there anything you did/or can do now to help make yourself more marketable?
I’ve included some additional resources you might find useful:
I hope this is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com or 646-929-8032.
Nicole Franklin, MPH
Senior Manager of Programs
Cancer and Careers
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