This is a GUEST POST, written by Nate Broughton, one of the founders of Eligibility.com, a free resource for Americans seeking easy-to-understand information about government benefit programs.
Even in the best of times, with a low jobless rate, a flawless resume, the right amount of experience and perfect health, searching for a job isn’t easy. Typically, there are dozens of other qualified candidates with skills and experience equal to yours, and who are just as hungry as you to get that job.
And if you live with chronic illness, you can feel the deck is stacked too high against you, even when you’ve done everything right regarding your career. You’re not alone in these thoughts, but they will inevitably hurt your chances. Without realizing it, your job hunt efforts will reflect your own sense of unworthiness and make a daunting task more difficult.
So why not turn the tables and take steps to mentally, emotionally, and physically employ effective strategies that will move you closer to your goal of going back to work?
Here are 6 things you can do to increase your odds for success:
Begin with you. Although you’re living with symptoms of a chronic illness, how you approach your day-to-day life and corresponding job search will play a big part in how successful you are. Is your job search going to be tougher than that of a healthier person? Probably. But consider that everyone faces challenges in their lives, and it’s not those challenges that should define a person, but how they react to them. Whether you have recently been fired or you have exhausted your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you are entering a job search that is indifferent to your situation.
That’s why conducting a job search begins with you and your mental preparation. A positive outlook will be reflected in your conversations with employers, and get you through those tough times when you have doubts and drift towards self-pity. Find what motivates you to stay positive, whether it’s taking a good walk, meditation, reading, or spending lots of time with your family.
Network! Network! Network! Living with a chronic illness is not a reason to ignore or avoid doing the single most important activity that can advance your career. In fact, you may actually have an advantage if you can find a support group for your type of illness and plug in to their resources. The good news is that you can even network electronically on days when you may be experiencing flare ups instead of always relying on networking that involves attending industry events and job fairs. Also, consider finding a caring and compassionate group of people who understand your challenges and can share their own job search strategies.
To disclose or not to disclose? There’s a right time and a wrong time to disclose that you live with chronic illness. The early stages of a job search or during an initial interview are not the right times. In the early stages of trying to fill a position, hiring managers look for any excuse to pare down their list of qualified candidates. Disclosure too early could cost you your chance to pitch an employer on all the positives you bring to that job. If you need to talk about possible job accommodations, wait until you’re close to or have a job offer.
Look for jobs that are the most compatible with your chronic illness. If your chronic illness flares up frequently, then for the sake of job security, it may be best to look for a job with maximum flexibility. This may mean looking for a part-time job or a job that allows you to work from home some or all of the time. As the world has moved more to a technology based environment, more companies are redefining the modern day office and creating virtual offices instead. Often times, work can be done from the comforts of home and in some instances, during non-traditional hours that extend beyond the traditional 9 to 5 routines of years past.
Finding a job vs. creating a job. One of the best ways to ensure you have a job is to make yourself the boss. The internet based economy has opened up countless opportunities for people to be the masters of their own fates by starting online companies. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have carved out a niche for themselves on by creating small businesses on Ebay, Etsy, Amazon and dozens of other similar platforms.
For a person with an unpredictable chronic illness, this can be a panacea, because while you will need to be dedicated and run a business like a business, you are up and running 24/7 and can devote longer hours when you’re able, and less when your illness overtakes you. There is the added benefit of unlimited potential upside you can enjoy as you build your business over time, perhaps surpassing many times over the amount of wages you could earn as an employee. A venture of this type also makes it easier to utilize the contributions of family members who can help out when your illness doesn’t allow you to be productive.
Learn to manage stress. Different illnesses will require you to manage your body in different ways, but a job search is undoubtedly a time that adds stress in your life. For many, anxiety and loss of sleep could cause your illness to flare up. Even though you are job searching, it’s critical to be find ways to soothe your nervous energy. When you’re not in active search mode, do what makes you happy and allows you to find balance in your life.
Everyone needs some luck when they’re in a job search mode. Now you’ve got 6 tools to increase your chances for success.