Are you living with a chronic illness and under 40?
If you’re saying, YES, regardless of how debilitating or not your symptoms are, now it the time to take stock of your future in the workplace. Don’t wait until your hand is forced and you have no choice.
I know because that’s what I did. At age 45, I had to reinvent my dual career of 25 years in multi-media production and teaching. I had an impressive resume but I was too ill to keep working in either industry.
With no resources to turn to, it took me many years to figure out how to reinvent myself in the workforce when I lived with impairments. But I’m grateful every day that I did that rather than push myself to keep going in the same direction just because it was what I knew.
I took a risk, financially and emotionally, that I could develop work that I could do regardless of my health. Sure, there were no guarantees and there’ve been many bumps and course corrections along the way. But it was clear to me that I couldn’t go on as I was.
Looking back, I wish I had done made a career switch even earlier, when I was healthier and younger. I might have made different decisions that gave me more options. But it didn’t occur to me at the time.
That’s why I encourage you to start now. Consider what you can do to keep working for the long haul. I can’t guarantee you’ll be employed for as long as you’d like if you do this. But I’ve learned from my clients that this kind of planning is more likely to lead to success than if you ignore the issue!
Are you thinking, why is it so important to keep working when you live with chronic illness? If you haven’t figured it out from my other posts, read my book (Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!).
I’m not saying that everyone can or should work or even have a “career”. But the reality is that most people need to work for all sorts of reasons and working has been shown to improve well being. You want to be able to continue to work, in some way, regardless of your impairment.
Continuing to work with debilitating symptoms from chronic illness takes planning that’s best done when you’re relatively young. Why?
- Most of us learn new tasks more easily when we’re young.
- You need sufficient years to develop expertise so you’re more highly valued even as you’re an older worker.
- Many chronic illnesses get worse as you age, not better, and that makes getting hired even more difficult.
- Younger people are more likely to be hired than older people – regardless of experience, even those with impairments (Jobless at 58, New York Times)
Planning includes learning what you’re made of. This includes (but isn’t limited to) knowing:
- Your values
- Your talents and strengths
- How illness impacts you
- What kind of environment you thrive in, particularly with illness.
It’s easy to think that the last is a luxury you can’t afford, especially in this economy. But illness can be very debilitating. If you’re also fighting a difficult workplace, it can all become overwhelming.
There are many job resources out there (I mention these in other posts and the resource pages in my website). My workbook (Keep Working With Chronic Illness) is a good place to start.
Regardless of what you choose, get the help you need. Find someone you trust who understands what chronic illness does to a person — a friend, a mentor or a career coach (see my services page on the website, cicoach.com) to help you create a meaningful plan. It’s more than worth your time, energy and resources. Do you have other ideas to share here?
Don’t wait until you have very limited or no options left. You’re worth the effort! Contact me if you have questions about how I can help you create your plan of action.