This 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 http://coachmeg.typepad.com/career_chaos/2009/10/job-action-day-finding-your-mojo-after-layoff.html
Debra Wheatman: Plan B from outer space; or what do you have in case your first plan doesn’t work out? http://resumesdonewrite.blogspot.com/2009/10/plan-b-from-outer-space-or-what-do-you.html
Heather Mundell: Green Jobs – What They Are and How to Find Them, http://dbcs.typepad.com/lifeatwork/2009/10/green-jobs-what-they-are-and-how-to-find-them.html
Erin Kennedy: Cutting Edge Job Search Blueprint http://exclusive-executive-resumes.com/resumes/job-search-blueprint/
Grace Kutney: Securing Your Career While Navigating the Winds of Change http://sweetcareers.blogspot.com/2009/10/securing-your-career-while-navigating.html
Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa– Why Our Job Search Advice is the Same but Different http://hannahmorgan.typepad.com/hannah_morgan/2009/10/why-our-job-search-advice-is-the-same-but-different.html
Gayle Howard: The Enlightened Jobseeker http://www.theexecutivebrand.com/?p=500
Laurie Berenson: Making lemonade out of lemons: Turn unemployment into entrepreneurship http://blog.sterlingcareerconcepts.com/2009/10/30/making-lemonade-out-of-lemons-turn-unemployment-into-entrepreneurship.aspx
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: You Can Thrive In, Not Just Survive, an Economic Slogging http://careertrend.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/you-can-thrive-not-just-survive-an-economic-slogging/
Rosalind Joffe: Preparedness: It’s Not Just for Boyscouts http://workingwithchronicillness.com/2009/10/preparedness-its-not-just-for-boy-scouts/
Rosa E. Vargas: Are You Evolving Into The In-Demand Professional of Tomorrow? http://resume-writing.typepad.com/resume_writing_and_job_se/2009/10/furture-careers.html
Dawn Bugni: Your network IS your net worth http://thewritesolution.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/your-network-is-your-net-worth/
Miriam Salpeter: Optimize your job hunt for today’s economy http://www.keppiecareers.com/2009/10/30/optimize-your-job-hunt-for-todays-ecomony/
GL Hoffman: The Life of An Entrepreneur: Is It for You? http://blogs.jobdig.com/wwds/2009/10/30/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 http://resumesandcoverletters.com/tips_blog/2009/11/job-action-day-09-his-resume-s.html
Martin Buckland: Job Search–The Key to Securing Your Future Career. http://aneliteresume.com/job-search/the-key-to-securing-your-future-career/
Chandlee Bryan: Where the Green Jobs Are: http://emergingprofessional.typepad.com/the_emerging_professional/2009/11/where-the-green-jobs-are.html
Heather R. Huhman, Take Action: 10 Steps for Landing an Entry-Level Job, http://www.heatherhuhman.com/2009/10/take-action/
Barbara Safani: Where the Jobs Are 2009 and Beyond: http://www.careersolvers.com/blog/2009/10/31/where-the-jobs-are-2009-and-beyond/