Job Seekers, Know Thyself
Job Seekers, Know Thyself
Integrating Your Health Challenges to Reach Your Goals (by Rosalind Joffe)
If you live with a chronic health challenge, navigating the career landscape can be daunting. You know that unpredictable health can make even the simplest planning complicated. You may ask yourself, “How can I plan my future when I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow?”
When you’re feeling stuck or unsure about what you’re doing, a good place to start is to acknowledge your thoughts because they can directly impact on your actions.
Are you thinking:
I’m no different from any of my friends, and I’m going to approach my career plans just like they do – probably take the first job that comes up.
I’m totally different from anyone I know, and there’s no point in trying to figure out a career plan with my health issues
There is a third option. You can approach your career path by setting a clearly defined intention for yourself that you can use as you consider options, take action and make decisions. For example, you might say: I will take care of myself, physically, emotionally and mentally, as best I can. With that as your guidepost, you’re ready to lay down the foundational Building Blocks that allow you to maximize your strengths, create choices based on who you are (not what you aren’t) and influence your life where you can.
Building Block: Your career plan starts with a Strategy, your approach. Everyone, healthy or not, should consider how to acquire the skills, competencies and experiences that are needed to be a valuable asset. This is especially true when unpredictable and debilitating health symptoms impact your performance and could put you at a disadvantage. When you think about your strategic approach, think big picture, rather than specific jobs.
Ask yourself and write down the following: What kind of career or careers do I see myself in? Just brainstorm about this – whatever comes up is fine. Now write down: What do I know? What do I need to know? How will I get the information I need? Include any time frames that might be important.
Building Block: Identify the Adaptive Skills you’re developed thus far. Living with chronic health problems teaches you that wanting the pain to go away doesn’t make it go away. On the other hand, what actions can you take to try to lessen the pain, or, at least allow you to do what you want to do? Your successes occur when you’ve figured out how to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
Identify at least one time you worked within the limits of symptoms an/or illness to achieve a goal, not necessarily work related. Write down the health challenges and what you did do to work around them. This is your own reminder that you can work with what you’ve got to achieve both small and big successes.
Building Block: Know yourself. Below is a simplified version of a career assessment,
designed to put you at an advantage when you’re networking, researching opportunities, and talking to potential employers. These questions can be helpful when you’re choosing a job, but they’re most valuable when you’re preparing to invest your time and energy in developing a career for the long term. They build your strategic picture.
What do I like to do? Interests, hobbies, skills – let this be wide ranging.
What do I dislike doing? Be honest.
What do I want from employment? (e.g.,am I just looking for a paycheck, do I want a situation in which I can learn new things, do I want to feel responsible without answering to anyone else, etc.?
What kind of cultural environment do I want to work in? (e.g.,large or small organization, family friendly or driven to produce, mission driven, etc.)
What kind of work life do I want? (e.g., do I want to be self employed, to do contract work or to work for others on a permanent and full time basis, etc.?)
What are my symptoms, and how do they typically impact me (e.g., do they vary, are there triggers or adaptive measures that help)?
What kind of tasks, schedule, or environment would be more difficult for my health?
What kind of tasks, schedule or environment would be amenable for my health?
When you start with a Strategy, Identify your Adaptive Skills, and Know Yourself, you’ll be prepared to create what’s ahead. In all likelihood, the course of your health, your personal life and your livelihood will shift over time, as well. Obviously, none of us can predict the future, and health is only one factor in the picture. But why not be prepared where you can? A strategic approach gives you the tools you need to respond to inevitable changes with resilience, buoyancy and hope so you can keep going, even when you hit the inevitable roadblocks.
Rosalind Joffe, co-author of Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! published by Demos Medical, is a recognized national expert on chronic illness in the workplace. cicoach.com.