Top 8 Things to Do When Job Hunting With a Chronic Illness

Patient Expert
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Looking for a job is hard work. Searching for appropriate listings, researching companies, crafting your resume and cover letter to fit each position, going for interviews, and following up...It’s exhausting**.** And even more so when you have a chronic illness, which is often, at the very least, a part-time job of its own.

Here are the top eight things you can do to make job hunting with a chronic illness easier.

Treat your disease

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Prepare for the interview process and the work you will eventually do by doing everything you can to be the best you can be. That’s not just about your professional skills, but also about your physical ability. Talk to your health care team about how they can help you be as strong and healthy as possible. This may include tinkering with your treatment, seeing a physical therapist to reduce your pain and increase your strength, or talking to an occupational therapist about accommodations that may help you work better.

Pace yourself

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There’s a saying that looking for work is a full-time job. Granted, most of the time you can do it in your PJs, although this is not recommended when you go for an interview. Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks for a drink (nonalcoholic is probably best), to move around, or play with the dog. Make sure you take your lunch hour, just as you would if you were working. If you can, get out of the house for some fresh air to decompress.

Network, network, network

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Individuals working in your field may become aware of positions before they are listed. Talk to everyone you know and let them know you’re looking. Put yourself out there without hesitation, but do keep it professional and don’t pester people. You want them to think you’re the right person for that job they heard about, not have them start blocking your calls.

Stand out from the crowd

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Chronic illness can erode your self-esteem, but try not to let that affect your job search. This is not the time to be shy and self-effacing. Remind people how great you are in a confident way, without being arrogant. If you’re having a hard time with self-esteem, consider seeing a social worker or counselor for a few sessions.

Consult a professional

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Depending on the kind of job you do, it may be a good idea to consult a career counselor, staffing firm, or headhunter/recruiter. They can help make your resume and cover letters shine and give you a targeted list of job postings. Make other people do the hard work for you while you focus on fine-tuning your interview skills.

Develop a thick skin

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You will get rejected. Much like in dating, looking for work requires that you kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find your prince of a job. Don’t despair if you don’t get an interview — these days, employers get an avalanche of applications for each job listing and usually only interview five to seven applicants. If you were interviewed but not offered the job, use it as a learning experience. Most employers will be happy to have a conversation with applicants to give them feedback on their resume and interview. This can help you hone your skills for the next opportunity.

Don’t disclose your chronic illness

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There will be a time when disclosing your chronic illness may be the right thing to do, but the job search and interview process is not it. When employers look at the mountain of applications, they are searching for reasons to eliminate applicants. Keep your chronic illness to yourself until you need to talk about possible accommodations in the job. The one exception is if your chronic illness is directly relevant to the job. In such cases refer to it only by the skills it has enabled you to develop. For instance, if you are applying for the job of a patient advocate at a hospital, mentioning the volunteer advocacy you have done for your chronic illness may boost your chances.

Enjoy your life

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Work isn’t the only thing in life and neither is job hunting. Don’t make your entire life, personality, or conversation about the fact that you’re looking for a job. You are much more than that and all the other roles in your life still need you. They will also be what sustains you in the job search process and when you’re working. Spend time with the people you love, laugh every day, and enjoy your life.

See More Helpful Articles:

Getting Back to Work with Chronic Illness

Talking about Chronic Illness at Work

How to Make Your Office RA-Friendly


Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She’s the author of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.