Looking for work

You may see cancer as a barrier to finding a job and worry about the attitude of employers or be concerned about gaps on your CV. However there are things you can do to improve your chances of success in finding a job.

You can be proactive by targeting your job search, talking about positive aspects of your cancer experience and preparing yourself thoroughly for job interviews.

Not all employers understand the support you might need. Telling employers about your cancer diagnosis can sometimes be beneficial but remember it's your choice who you tell. Knowing about your legal rights in employment can also help you feel more secure.

Top tips when looking for work

1. Know what you're looking for

If you're in any doubt about what kind of job you are looking for, speak to a careers adviser or a CLIC Sargent care professional. Having cancer may have changed your ideas about what you want to do.

2. Find out about the culture of the organisation

Some employers have a very positive attitude towards recruiting disabled people. You may be able to find out the attitude of an employer by looking at the general culture of the organisation. This includes the messages in its brochures, equal opportunity policies and annual reports.

The disability symbol is awarded by Jobcentre Plus to organisations that have made positive commitments towards employing disabled people. You'll see the symbol (two ticks and the wording 'positive about disabled people') displayed on apprenticeship adverts and application forms.

3. Think about how to present your CV

There are various ways of presenting your skills and work experience. For example, small amounts of part-time studying or voluntary work can help cover gaps during treatment and recovery. If you have a section showing employment dates, you could choose to leave out the month and show only the year. This has the advantage of keeping your CV to the point and any gaps to a minimum. Think about whether you can highlight other skills on your CV, for example if you write a blog.

4. Think about what to include in covering letters

Employers like to see covering letters which demonstrate enthusiasm and readiness to work. If you decide you want to tell them about cancer, you could consider presenting your experiences in your covering letter in a way that sounds positive and proactive, e.g.

"I decided to take a few months off after treatment to re-focus my career."

"I now feel ready to take on my next challenge."

"Through having cancer I've learnt... and this position is a good fit because..."

5. Sell your skills in your application form

Some employers prefer you to fill in an application form rather than send a CV. This makes it easier for them to compare candidates however it can make it harder for you to cover any gaps. On the other hand it's a good chance for you to sell your skills, including any gained through cancer e.g.

"My experiences of overcoming cancer have given me greater resilience and determination, the ability to manage change and build relationships with people."

Other skills you may have gained which employers like to see include: problem solving, effective time-management and the ability to plan activities.

6. Practice for job interviews

If you're offered an interview it's helpful to prepare what you're going to say in relation to cancer and any gaps in your work history. Practice short, pertinent responses with your friends or family and ask for their feedback so you won't be caught off guard in the real interview.

7. Learn about the organisation

Find out as much as you can about the employer before the interview and prepare questions to ask. This will show them you're keen and that time off hasn't affected your ability to keep up-to-date with the industry or your chosen field.

8. Ask if you need support for the interview

You may want to tell the human resources department about any support you need for the interview or any assessment tests.

9. Plan your journey to the interview

Make sure you're not rushing on the day. It might be especially important to plan your journey if you have mobility difficulties or tiredness and fatigue.

10. Be polite, honest and positive

Don't think you have to hide your cancer diagnosis or gaps in your education and work history at any cost. Confidence and honesty are qualities that employers value highly. If you get an interview, the chances are you already have many of the things the employer is looking for.

Discussions about cancer should not be part of the selection process. You should only be judged on your skills and experience.

Last reviewed: November 2015
Next planned review: December 2016

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