L J. on October 29, 2015
I was just unexpectedly terminated from employment as the office manager/administrator of a private specialty medicine practice. I've worked in the medical field about 25 years, and in this specialty for over 20 years. I am faced with the difficulty of finding a new position and overcoming some significant obstacles.
After losing my previous position (more on that later), I thought I had found the perfect job with a caring, understanding doctor. I had known the owner-physician for 15 years as he used to rent space 2 days a week an office I worked in long ago. . Although we did not stay in touch directly, I did see some of his staff occasionally and we had mutual friends in the industry. He learned I had survived cancer, but respected my privacy and kept tabs on me indirectly through others. Last year, the timing finally seemed right as he heard I was looking for work and he needed someone with experience. I was brought on as his manager and had high hopes, but after nearly a year and a half (and without warning), I was called in and told it was not working out, that we have different working styles, and it's not up for discussion. He said apologized if it took me by surprise, but the decision was final.
Sadly, he was not the person I thought him to be, but I figured people are different once you work for them. Since I was not allowed to ask for specifics, I don’t know why he let me go and have no idea what he will say if called for a reference. My fear is it had something to do with my “new normal” after chemotherapy...inability to multi-task like I used to, unable to concentrate with frequent interruptions, easily distracted, etc. although he never mentioned anything about my performance. He is completely unaware of what he is legally allowed to disclose, and may give reasons for termination that he never discussed with me. While I may be better off in the long run to get away from the stressful and sometimes unstable and confusing environment, I cannot count on him for a good recommendation. He is the owner, and I reported directly to him as the manager. I had no other supervisors, and he has no "HR Department".
My previous job was managing another medical practice in the same specialty for over 11 years. I went through my cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment about 7 years into my employment there. I was under reasonable accommodation of a flexible work schedule (coming in late when I had symptoms caused by medications, occasional time off for medical appointments, etc.) and was terminated abruptly after disclosing the need for an additional accommodation (advance notice of future need for 2 weeks off for surgery). I was told I was not being let go due to my health, but because my health prevented me from being there all day, every day. (Nobody can accomplish that even without cancer!) They offered me severance pay and a neutral reference in exchange for signing a waiver of my rights. I did not sign it and never contacted them about it again. I was granted the right to sue by the state under fair employment laws and currently am in legal proceedings. My replacement is aware of this and refers any inquiries about me to the owners. Obviously, I cannot get a recommendation from them.
My employer previous to that job terminated me on the spot when I gave my two-week notice (after I had found employment at the practice mentioned above). I was the 6th manager in a row and had lasted the longest at only 2 years. The problem is - you guessed it - I can't get a good reference there, either.
So basically, I left one job at 2 years for a better working environment. That job lasted 11 years, but turned sour at the end. Without disclosing why I left (and therefore discussing cancer, potentially facing discrimination again), I can't really account for why none of the doctors there would give me a recommendation. I thought it was a blessing when my most recent employer sought me out to assist him part time, then ended up offering me full time management of his office. He knew my story, never contacted previous employers and wanted me to have good insurance to take care of my health. It seemed too good to be true, and I suppose it was because he was not the person I thought he was prior to working for him. All together, I have 15 years of my career for which I have no employer references or recommendations. (That’s hard for the EDD to swallow, as is not calling potential employers to inquire about a job...the HR person is usually the office manager, so I’d be asking “how do I get your job?”). I'm also not the same person I was in terms of age, weight, looks, etc. as I was before cancer - which was the last time I went forth with confidence to find a job. That edge over competition is no longer there.
In my search, I have come up against more obstacles. I found most employers require a college degree (many want an MBA for the administrator position!) which I don’t have. I worked my way up through the ranks from receptionist and gained hands-on experience, so education was never in question and no degree was needed. I've also found most employers want bilingual staff and require fluency in Spanish or another language. Aside from not being the least bit interested in going back to school, earning a degree and/or learning a new language well enough to communicate effectively in the medical industry seem like daunting tasks that would take more brain power than I am capable of and more time than I have since my unemployment runs out in 6 months. I have enough on my plate overcoming residual cognitive impairment, dealing with this so-called "new normal" and trying hard not to expose any weakness associated with "cancer patient".
I survived surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy just to lose the job I would have retired from in 20 years if I didn’t have cancer. I couldn’t find work for 10 months when my networking came through and I found new employment. I thought my prayers were answered, but it was not at all what I expected, and did not last. I threw my heart into it, worked long and hard and was rewarded by being dumped. My confidence is completely shot at this point and I need some perspective. Any advice or insight you can provide is appreciated.