This site focuses on giving people with chronic health conditions the strategies, tools and insights they need to thrive in their work and their lives.

Is Career Change What You Need?

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At a recent dinner event, our table of 10 was sharing what we do professionally. do you need a career change? When I shared my business, career coach for people living with chronic illness, one person excitedly piped in that she was exploring how to reinvent her career. Another said he'd done it five years ago.  I've noticed that this has become a hot topic in just about any group - from young mothers, the unemployed in their 40's and baby boomers wanting to try something new.

Why?  My guess is because we can.  Jobs and careers are more fluid these days -- for good and for worse.

What's true for the healthy people is even more true for those of us with chronic illness.  I'd bet that if that dinner table was made up of people with chronic illness, the number wishing for career change would be closer to 80%.  I've seen it in my own coaching practice.

Some people living with illness are able to redefine how they work in their jobs and don't need a big move.  But for many, as illness becomes more debilitating, the job they've been doing becomes increasingly more difficult.

Which is the time you start to think, "I can't keep doing this. I've got to leave this job?"

Do you imagine that if only you could find another job, you'd have a clean slate where they don't know you and don't resent your lowered performance?   But how likely is it that you'll repeat the same story?  Maybe you can convince yourself you just need a clean slate-- and the time and energy to look for a new job or figure out a new career.

Then you realize you can't afford to be unemployed.  Even if you have some savings, you know how hard it is to find a new job, especially if it's work you don't have experience doing.  So, you give up and keep doing what you're doing, hoping you don't get fired -- and you don't lose your mind from the stress this is causing you.

But there is another choice.  You can choose to take what energy you can muster to do this  strategically. Yes, it will take planning and resources.  It means that you have to carve time out in your life - both personally and at your current job.  I know that it can feel too hard - you don't have it to give.  But do you?

Ask yourself:

What keeps me in my current job? Do I like/enjoy my current job - why or why not? What don't I like about this job and is there any way to change that here?

What did you learn about yourself? If you're thinking it's time to do something else, then you might start with a simple career analysis:

List your likes /dislikes regarding the tasks and jobs you've held thus far. List your interests and what you value in an organization. List your job, task, or organizational dislikes

List Your Strengths:

What are my skills (the specific things you've learned how to do)? What am I competent at (what makes you special at your job)? What do I shine in - excel in?

Now, list your symptoms and their impact on what you can and can't do.

What disabling symptoms do you experience? How does each symptom impact your performance at work?  If it doesn't impact you at work, write NA. To what degree does each symptom impact your performance and if possible, specify how often this happens.  You might differentiate those that are constant and those that are periodic symptoms.

What did you learn about yourself?  Create a snapshot of what you've learned. Write it down.  If you find that this energizes you to do more, then find the resources you need to help you.  From what you've written, what do you believe is possible and what is not?  If you decide to work with a career coach, you've got some valuable information to start with.

The above steps are the critical foundation to the transition process.  Briefly the next steps are generally:

Take what you've learned about yourself and research what jobs/careers are available to you.  Use online resources, the library and talk to colleagues and friends, telling them what you've learned. Once you've come up with a few solid ideas, research the job market to find out what it would take to get such a job.  One really terrific and comprehensive online resource is my fellow blogger, .
You want to learn what you need to know.   My workbook, Keep Working with Chronic Illness, assessments and more, including goal setting,  networking and interviewing  specifically focuses on issues with chronic illness.  But there are many similar assessments and resources online. Your resume from a decade ago needs to be revised to display your strengths and speak to your new market.  A resume writer (there are many great ones in the collective list below)  is particularly worth investing in when you've got an unusual resume - either due to employment gaps or changes.

I've seen first hand how critical it is to get help around illness and life changes.

As Tom Landry, a famous football coach said, "A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be." Find the help that will work for you and get it if career change is what you need.

Original author: Rosalind Joffe
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Rosalind Joffe is passionate about coaching people and giving people the tools they need to thrive in their work while living with chronic illness. Rosalind Joffe built on her experience living with chronic illnesses for over 30 years, including multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, when she founded . This unique career coaching firm is dedicated to helping people with chronic illness who care about their work lives develop the skills they need to succeed. A recognized national expert on chronic illness and its impact on career, Rosalind is a seasoned and certified coach, the co-author of Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!, publishes a widely read blog, Working With Chronic Illness and can be found on twitter @WorkWithIllness.
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