Be the Boss Over Cancer


During the summer I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer; Merkel Cell. Since that time I have begun radiation therapy and chemo therapy.
Now I find myself out of a job. I just turned 60 and I can't get an interview. I have so much to offer and an extensive executive background in a thriving city. My age and my cancer stifle any conversation from the start.
My finances are nearly depleted and I'm not sure where to turn.
Any suggestions?


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  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Sep 24, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:

    Steve –

     The job search process, at our age, can be so frustrating.  I can probably provide you with several good
    ideas; I need to know more about your skill set and your profession over the
    past few years.

     Your best approach is to access the job search through the
    side door rather than responding to ads and job postings.  You will need to network your way into the
    job.  You will want to develop your
    networking skills in order to expand your network and build relationships.  So fill me in, so I can provide specific
    ideas to you.

     In the meantime, I would advise you not to share your
    current diagnosis with a potential employer or interviewer.  I know it’s foremost on your mind, and part
    of your reality.  However, you have no
    way of knowing whether you will encounter empathy or a fear that you are a poor
    risk to their company. You don’t know what their previous experience has been
    with illness and other employees.

     To address your more urgent need of earning some money, I
    would encourage you to sign up with a few temporary services so you can have
    access to part time and temporary assignments.  
    Depending on your profession, there may also be contracting firms where
    you could register.  When I was a
    recruiter, I noted that several companies brought individuals in as contractors
    or temporary employees and later, after seeing the performance first hand, offered
    them positions with their company.

     Looking forward to learning more about your career, so I can
    advise you in greater detail.


  • User avatar

    Anonymous on Sep 24, 2012

    How may I send you my information?


  • Sarah Goodell

    Sarah Goodell on Sep 26, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Steve,

    You can write to Margot at and we will pass the information on to her directly.


    Sarah, Cancer and Careers Program Coordinator

  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Sep 27, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:

    Steve -

    Now that I have a better idea of your professional
    background, here’s what I recommend.

    Identify a few contracting firms who specialize in IT
    particularly in project management.  A
    few years back, I worked with such a firm and there was a great demand for
    Project Managers.  Do you have the
    certification?  There were also several
    positions that were virtual, where you could work from home.

    Be sure to check out the Big 6 firms.  You could work as a contractor for one of
    their accounts.  Also, network with the
    smaller consulting firms close to your home where you might be able to get a
    long term assignment.  Today we find many
    seasoned experts working on a consulting basis. 
    The positive side of that is that you usually make a high hourly rate
    and therefore don’t have to work as many hours to meet your financial
    needs.  The downside is that there isn’t
    always a constant stream of work and you have to carry your own health care.

    You have an impressive background.  Register with senior job banks and with
    interim executives sites where the focus will be on your expertise rather than
    your age.   Google the following keywords to identify
    sites:  interim executives, senior job
    bank, project management, IT Consulting firms, Management Consulting, IT
    contractors.  Visit websites that focus
    on those types of jobs and instead of applying to the company, find someone who
    can give you an introduction to an individual in that company.

    Check to find out whether there are conferences coming to
    your area, where company leaders might be attending. It would make it easier to
    “run into” those decision makers and take the first steps to developing a

    Since you also have Business Development skills, perhaps you
    should volunteer some hours to help your local Business Association, Chamber of
    Commerce, Professional Association of Project Managers or IT Professionals where
    you would have visibility in the business community.

    Give this a try and see what comes of it.  I hope these ideas help.


  • Bud Bilanich

    Bud Bilanich on Sep 28, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:


    I’m sorry to hear that you’re having both health and employment problems. However there is a bright side. You have a lot going for you – extensive executive experience and a thriving city.
    There are opportunities out there, you just need to uncover them.

    Here’s what I suggest…

    • Avoid the job boards. Looking for a job through them is a disheartening experience. Don’t waste your time sending your resume out into the void. Instead, take the personal route. Cultivate relationships that can help you identify opportunities.
    • Tap into your network. Speak to all of the people with whom you’ve developed relationships over the years. Let these people know you are looking for a new opportunity. Focus on your wealth of experience and your accomplishments and how they demonstrate that you can make a significant contribution in a new organization. Be proactive – come at this from the perspective that a company would be lucky to get someone with your level of experience and demonstrated accomplishments.
    • Downplay your age and illness. Present yourself as a “seasoned pro who has a lot to offer,” not as an “older guy looking for a job.” You know the language of your industry. Pepper your conversation and resume with the buzz words that demonstrate you know what you’re talking about.
    • Don’t bring up your illness unless you have to. It may never come up until you receive an offer. If your condition is obvious because of the chemo, present it in a matter of fact way. Say something like, “I’m battling cancer, but the prognosis is good. This illness has made me realize that I still have a lot to give.”

    In short, my best advice is to present yourself not as a victim of age and illness but as someone who has a lot to offer. Be proactive in your job search. Wear your disease with pride. Looking for a job while undergoing radiation and chemo demonstrates a resilience and inner resolve that define you as a battler. Use this to your advantage.

    Bud Bilanich
    The Common Sense Guy
    Denver, Colorado USA

  • Sarah Goodell

    Sarah Goodell on Sep 28, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:


    wanted to follow-up on this great advice from Margot and Bud with a little more
    information on deciding whether or not to disclose your diagnosis to potential
    employers. This is a very personal decision and there are a number of factors
    that may impact whether you share this information or not. They include your
    personal privacy preferences, treatment side effects that may impact your work
    and the need for reasonable accommodations. The decision to disclose is a bit
    more tricky when looking for work, because you don’t know what the environment
    is like and how people will respond. In either scenario, the only time you have
    to disclose something (though not necessarily the specifics of your cancer
    diagnosis) is if your employer is bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act
    and you want to request a reasonable accommodation. For more information on the
    ADA and reasonable accommodations, check out our legal and financial section
    and we always recommend speaking with a legal professional before disclosing,
    to find one visit

    hope this is helpful, please let us know if you have any other questions!


    Cancer and Careers Program Coordinator

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