JobActionDay2009LogoThis month the “Career Collective” collaborates with Quint’s Job Action Day.  We’re asked to provide workers and job seekers with information, ideas and concrete steps to secure their futures in a changed economy.  As always, I’ll do that with  working with chronic illness in mind.

When I graduated with a degree in photojournalism in 1973,  the word career wasn’t in my vocabulary.  I took jobs because they appealed to me with a mindless hope it would work out.  Even in a tough economic time like the mid 1970’s recession, there were always jobs.  You simply looked in the “want ads”  (remember those ?) and followed a lead.  I got my first job as a photographer’s assistant by knocking on the door.

Looking back,  I think the greatest skill I honed in those years was talking my way into great jobs that sounded fun and exciting. They didn’t always pan out as I’d hoped.  Somehow, however, in spite of this clueless approach, I developed a solid resume and valuable skills along the way.

Yet, even when illness imposed limits on my life,  I didn’t think beyond the job I was in.  At least, not until I was unemployed and too sick to go back to the career I’d built.

Lucky for me, chronic illness taught me  about preparing for the unexpected and landing on my feet — so to speak:)

But that lack of preparedness won’t fly today. You might get the first or even second job.  But moving up the ladder, the competition gets stiffer for fewer positions.  And when you live with unpredictable illness, climbing ladders gets even trickier.  Even with a stellar track record, market forces can cause you to lose a job you love dearly.

But it’s not all bad news.   Here are two examples of what you can do:

A client with multiple sclerosis  stopped working as a primary care physician when she was so impaired that she couldn’t do her job.  Devastated, she thought her career was over.  When a colleague suggested a non-paid job teaching a medical school course on chronic illness, she balked.  It seemed like such a “step down”.  But the topic interested her and she was desperate to get out of the house so she went for it.  The course was a huge success and she was asked back.  Now she is developing a business to help medical schools  train students on the needs of patients with chronic illness. Unpaid work  showed her what she loves to do, has given her new skills and has opened new opportunities in a growing market.

Another unemployed client with heart disease and asthma has a strong background in compliance regulation and financial services.   Unable to find work in her field and desperate for income, she looked into an area that was compelling but she had no experience, “green” environmental projects.  She researched organizations  in her community, developed criteria to evaluate what would be the best fit, and attended meetings.  She also took on part time work and cut her expenses to the bone to pursue this. Knowing she had to prove her worth, she was willing to start at the bottom. After 2  years of volunteering,  she’s landed  a part time job in a company that trains companies in “green” compliance issues and sees growth opportunities here.

What can you learn from this?

  • Invest in building your knowledge and solid skills.
  • Before you take a job, volunteer to learn about the job opportunities and the industry.
  • Look for opportunities that will allow you to grow and develop new skills.

Most importantly?  Use what you’ve learned from living with unpredictable illness. Take charge of your career strategy and stay flexible so you can respond to what comes up and develop your ability to bounce back from disappointment so you can continue to thrive.

Read other Career Collectives posts on the subject:

Meg Montford: Job Action Day: Finding Your “MOJO” After Layoff

Debra Wheatman: Plan B from outer space; or what do you have in case your first plan doesn’t work out?

Heather Mundell: Green Jobs – What They Are and How to Find Them,

Erin Kennedy: Cutting Edge Job Search Blueprint

Grace Kutney: Securing Your Career While Navigating the Winds of Change

Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa– Why Our Job Search Advice is the Same but Differen

Gayle Howard: The Enlightened Jobseeker

Laurie Berenson: Making lemonade out of lemons: Turn unemployment into entrepreneurship

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: You Can Thrive In, Not Just Survive, an Economic Slogging

Rosalind Joffe: Preparedness: It’s Not Just for Boyscouts

Rosa E. Vargas: Are You Evolving Into The In-Demand Professional of Tomorrow?

Dawn Bugni: Your network IS your net worth

Miriam Salpeter: Optimize your job hunt for today’s economy

GL Hoffman: The Life of An Entrepreneur: Is It for You?

Katharine Hansen: Job Action Day 09: His Resume Savvy Helped New Career Rise from Layoff Ashes

Martin Buckland: Job Search–The Key to Securing Your Future Career

Chandlee Bryan: Where the Green Jobs Are:

Heather R. Huhman, Take Action: 10 Steps for Landing an Entry-Level Job,

Barbara Safani: Where the Jobs Are 2009 and Beyond:


31 Responses to “Preparedness: It’s not just for boy scouts”  

  1. 1 Gayle Howard

    This is such a moving and inspirational post Rosalind! Particularly the client with MS who capitalized on her passions and strengths to overcome personal doubts and achieve something of real value. I hope others are equally inspired by your post!

  2. 2 GL Hoffman

    Inspirational yes, I agree with Gayle. Kudos Rosalind. Your entire blog is testament to the fact that people can do whatever they want, even with a hampering illness. But the real message for me, and as it regards your writing and focus…what a great way to show the power of owning a category by focusing. With all of us giving job advice…your focus really sets you apart…and as a real expert.

  3. 3 Barbara Safani


    These stories give hope to anyone facing an obstacle in their search. And they remind us that no problem is insurmountable. Well done!

  4. 4 Rosalind

    Thanks, Gayle. I appreciate the kudos but I don’t write or coach to inspire. It’s too easy to do that on the topic of chronic illness. I do try to encourage a way to view all this, though, rather than give a set of steps that don’t necessarily apply. I hope that I inspire people to foster an attitude.

  5. 5 Rosalind

    GL – Not sure I’m an expert but I do have experience and I’m one of the few who pays attention to this part of our world. You’re right about a focus and an attitude. My blog and website(even more) work to promote that – that’s the coaching I do,too. It doesn’t always fit into a neat package but I don’t think much does :)

  6. 6 Rosa Vargas

    Very empowering post. I echo your message of “prepare, take from your experiences, and take charge!”

  7. 7 Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter


    Where to start in commenting on this wonderfully rich article! Every word resonates, and I’m still digesting your thoughts even as I write this comment.

    What I love about your writing is your ability to inspire while also providing pragmatic, kick-us-in-our-tush advice (sitting on one’s laurels and / or licking wounds at length is not acceptable). For career empowerment, even for those with chronic illness, one must remain forward-moving and flexible in both attitude and action.

    Even for those who are physically unrestrained, we have found the value in flexibility, particularly when ‘life’ throws us personal and professional curves. Sometimes reevaluating and rebuilding is needed, and in fact, rewarding!

    Taking charge and charting our own course is vital!

    Volunteering one’s time, exploring alternatives and keeping an open mind, inevitably moves us from being stuck to unstuck!

    Patience and hope are key, as well as an ability to listen and take action :)

    GREAT post, as usual, Rosalind,

  8. 8 Rosalind

    What a terrific comment, Jacqui. Those words mean a lot coming from you!

  9. 9 JT O'Donnell

    Rosalind, I’ve been a fan of your work from the day I met you on Twitter!

    You prove to everyone through that leveraging an interest and creating a vehicle to help others is a powerful way to build your expertise and personal brand.

    Thank you for creating such an inspiring site/resource!!


  10. 10 Rosalind

    Thanks JT – It’s true that I’ve leverage what I know and care about. Also good I love doing the coaching as much as I do – the writing is a secondary love too. So it’s a win/win.

  11. 11 Dawn Bugni

    Rosalind –

    I can’t add anything to what’s already been said. Your posts always inspire and enlighten me. Thank you for sharing. It’s apparent your posts come from a spot very deep in your heart.

  12. 12 Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers

    How true…No matter what the job seeker’s circumstances, this is not a “come as you are” job market. It’s even more crucial than ever to plan and take time to analyze what is in store for the future.

    Stopping to “oh woe is me” is not an option for anyone who wants to take charge and take control. Thank you for this terrific post!

  13. 13 Meg Montford

    Having worked 7 years helping people with disabilities conncect with employers to find work in the competitive marketplace, I understand first hand the frequent challenges faced. Your post is encouraging and supportive, Rosalind, and gives real examples with real action steps for navigating today’s work environment for those with special needs. Bravo!

  14. 14 Rosalind

    OOPS – I deleted a comment that wasn’t spam by accident. So if you don’t see your comment here, my apologies!

  15. 15 Rosalind

    Hi Meg -I didn’t know that about you.Thanks for commenting.

  16. 16 Erin Kennedy


    I love how you used examples and stories to illustrate your point. It really helps people see possibilities when they see others have done it.

    Great post. Very inspirational.


  17. 17 Jim Edwards

    Good post!

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  3. 3 You can thrive in, not just survive, an economic slogging! « Career Trend’s Blog
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