Marisa C. on June 25, 2019
I have been looking for a teaching job since I finished my undergrad in special/elementary education in May 2016. I've been working as a substitute teacher for almost three years. I was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in 1996, and have been NED for over 20 years. The treatments caused high frequency and general hearing loss (I wear hearing aids), and my growth was severely affected (I am 4-foot-6 inches.)
In 2016, right after I graduated, I had 6 interviews, 3 of them followed up to ask me for a demo lesson, but no offers. In 2017, I had 17 interviews, only 3 asked for a demo lesson, no offers. I had thought, since I wasn't being asked back for demo lessons or second interviews, that I was being discriminated against (due to my hearing disability and (more obviously) my height).
In 2018, I changed my cover letter to mention that I was a cancer survivor, to address and explain away my differences before they (school administrators) make those judgments. I only had 4 interviews, and none asked for demo lessons. I don't believe this is a random coincidence, I think my disclosure may have cost me a number of interviews.
Any tips and suggestions (for the disclosure or the discrimination) are very much appreciated. Thanks so much!
Nicole Franklin, MPH
Aug 5, 2019
Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:
Thanks for writing to us. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had difficulty with your job search, but it sounds like you have a ton of skills and experience to offer an employer. I understand that maintaining motivation can be difficult after a prolonged job search, but it’s encouraging that you’ve had several interviews and demo lessons. I also understand your concern about the lack of follow-through from prospective employers and what that could mean. Unfortunately, discrimination (in many forms) is still a reality in the world we live in.
While your reasoning behind disclosing your cancer history before you think hiring managers can make any assumptions/judgments based on some of your physical attributes makes sense, it’s important to remember that in general you are under no legal obligation to disclose your medical history and/or conditions to your employer (prospective or otherwise). There are some exceptions to that though. For instance, if you need access to a reasonable accommodation you may need to provide some information about your health issue to show you are eligible—that said it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to discuss all the details.
In terms of your resume and cover letter, they are static documents designed to get you a first interview so we generally don’t recommend people disclosing anything about their health. They should be used as an opportunity to highlight your achievements, skills and align your interests/abilities with the job in question. As you move through the various rounds of the interviews and would like to disclose, you'll want to pick a moment where you think the company is invested in you and likely to hire you, or wait until the offer comes through and then share this information as part of your discussion of salary, benefits and other related factors. Ultimately, disclosing is a personal decision but I would recommend watching our webinar to get a better understanding on the issues: https://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/videos/bwc/2019-webinar-online
I’ve reached out to our career coaches to get further insight into your situation, but in the meantime, the following resources might be helpful:
A coach will be in touch soon!
Nicole Franklin, MPH
Senior Manager of Programs
Cancer and Careers
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