In this post, I’ll discuss disclosure. I’ll cover employment gaps next time.
Disclosure centers on 3 big questions:
- Should I say it?
- What should I say?
- What is the right time?
Recently while discussing what he’d say in his upcoming job interview, my client said that I seemed to have shifted my position on whether to disclose or not. He was referring to Managing Your Career in The Wall Street Journal (”Should Job Hunters Reveal Their Illness“ — scroll down to the article on my web page), in which I seem to make a case solely for pre-employment disclosure. The article makes some good points and is worth reading.
But that article was written over 5 years ago, in a very different job market when jobs were plentiful. And the reporter only captured part of what I said.
For the record, I’m not a believer in rampant disclosure. I haven’t heard a good reason yet to disclose a chronic illness if you can do the job as it’s expected. This is your health history and there’s no reason you have to share it if it’s not relevant to the discussion. “Leave This Info Out Of Your Interview”, offers good tips and puts your health history in the red light, tmi zone.
But what if you live with symptoms that affect your performance? Or maybe you’re “fine” at this moment but frequently have symptoms that make work difficult? In that case, disclosure might be a good idea.
Yes, there’s stiff competition for this job and you don’t want to create “red flags” unless it seems necessary. On the other hand, if you ask for a flexible schedule in the first of work because of illness that you never brought up, you could make people pretty angry with you. Tred lightly and carefully.
If you decide to disclose during the interview stage, wait until you’ve created a positive impression. Don’t bring it up in the first interview when they’re getting to know you. Keep your explanation simple, to the point and focus on how the symptoms affect how your work.
Now — use this to your advantage. Demonstrate that you’re a proactive employee by offering a few suggestions for what can be done relatively easily to accommodate your needs. Show that you’ve done your homework and found that their employee benefits policy allows for the flex scheduling you need. You might even suggest that illness has to you how to think on your feet, problem solve and be resilient. Just don’t go overboard with the sob story
Looking for more info and ideas? I discuss this in detail in my booklet (Are You Talking? – part of the Career Thrive Series).
What have you found works – or backfired – for you?
Rosalind Joffe built on her own experience of living with chronic illnesses for 30 years, including multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, when she founded cicoach.com. This career coaching firm is dedicated to helping professionals with chronic illness develop the skills they need to succeed in their careers. Rosalind believes firmly that living with chronic illness does not preclude living a full and successful life. * She will be speaking during our Invisible Illness Week Virtual Conference.
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 Develop your passion into a job with joy. What do you love to do? What inspires you? Keep your work time simple and energized by spending that time doing what moves you and makes your heart sing. Working while living with a chronic illness can be difficult and draining so having a job with joy to go to everyday can not only bring in an income but also help to alleviate the stress and struggle.
 Work because you WANT TO or it may just make you sicker. (If you have to work, it honestly may be easier to just get a job and not dedicate yourself physically and mentally to the success of a company) If you have something that you truly love doing and want to work then finding a way to modify that passion to allow for your chronic illnesses needs can be quite successful.
 Accept and welcome that your business plan and structure may look quite different from someone who does not have a chronic illness. The coolest thing about starting your own business is that it is YOURS! On your terms, timing and style. This means you can flip your chronic illness to a strength. Use it to help define exactly what you want and incorporate that into your work style just like you do your lifestyle!
 Build your illnesses limits into your business plan and daily working style. If you need to take naps, schedule shorter work sessions, if you need to be close to a bathroom, set up your office from home and no longer worry about being away from the loo. Structure your work day to allow easy access to medications, comfortable chairs, whatever you need.
 Allow for busier periods by not overdoing or scheduling too much. If you have a wedding or holiday coming up, schedule back on your work agenda and vice versa…if a busy push will be coming up within your business, set aside free time for rest and rejuvenation, not a bunch of activities with family and friends leaving you drained. Finding a good balance is important.
 Develop a positive cheering squad. Find those that understand you and your illness and support your dreams. Share with these individuals about your business successes and invite them to support and encourage you. Ask your squad for help, most people love to be asked to give a hand or advice.
 Build relationships with trusted sources and create alliances with like minded individuals whom you feel comfortable and confident sharing your challenges. It is often said friends are family you choose and I believe you should choose wisely. The same can be said for colleagues and businesses that work with you. Pick the ones you respect and practice values in alignment with yours. This increases the joy factor and reduces stress.
 Remind yourself that chronic illness or not you are still running a business and making decisions and taking action requires business knowledge and skills. You can certainly learn and educate yourself in this area if you are new to being a business owner or solopreneur. Just ensure you make solid business choices, don’t hire friends and family just because they understand your illness or challenges but don’t have the proper skills or knowledge to do their jobs well.
 Become clear and comfortable with your chronic illness. Develop a way to explain to others what your illness is without it being cumbersome or embarrassing for you or them. There are ways to stay honest and professional. It may never come up, but being prepared helps to reduce stress and awkward moments.
 Don’t make your chronic illness your “personal brand” unless you are selling a solution to that type of illness. I have seen business websites that spent more time talking about the person’s illness on different pages than on what their product or service was and the two were not related. Coming across as “sick” can put people off. It may also cause them to think you might be unable to get the job done. Focus on your strengths and successes. In fact there may be no need to even share you have a chronic illness. If it isn’t relevant and not important to your target market then let it remain private.
Bonus tip: Incorporate various forms of stress reducers throughout your day to ensure your body and mind stay focused and strong. (Drink lots of water, take breaks, do 10 minute yoga spurts, listen to calming music, practice stand-stretch-smile)
Julia Ferguson Andriessen is a life and business coach who has worked with multiple chronic illnesses for over 20 years and still found joy in her life. You can find out more about her and her work at www.juliaferguson.com or call her at 1.714.633.3601 to set up a complimentary 30 minute session to explore how working with her can help you set your dreams in motion. Julia works with clients via telephone and email globally.
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One of our visitors recently said, “Please create a Twibbon so I can help spread the word about II Week.” Well, I headed on over to their web site and we now have a “Twibbon.”
Basically you just click here for the Twibbon site and put in your twitter name and password and it will update your image with our orange balloon logo that says, “Invisible Illness Week.”
If you Twitter, it’s a great way to show your support (and may just bring you loads of new followers too!)
Thanks in advance!
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