For the last year and a half I was part of the masses looking for a job. This is a frustrating, demeaning process at its best. I constantly felt like I was never good for any companies for any positions anywhere. In fact, this whole process had me so depressed that I actually couldn’t bear to write this post until now – 2 weeks into a new job. Of course, this whole process is only complicated by the whole chronic disease thing. I don’t qualify for disability, which makes life harder because I have no legal ground to stand on. I have to work because otherwise I don’t get health insurance, and that just doesn’t work with a chronic illness.
There are a lot of things that have to be considered that you might not consider quite as carefully otherwise:
You have to figure out for yourself whether you want FT/PT. How many hours can you work? Do you do better with standard hours 9-5, etc or do you prefer a more flexible sort of position.
2. Physical Demands
What will your position require for you to do? Can you sit for long hours? Stand? Walk? Can you handle a lot of typing? Lifting? Also pay attention to things like exposure to things like the flu/colds/infections – especially if you’re immunocompromised.
3. Mental Demands
Brain fog, brain fog, brain fog. Did I mention brain fog? How well can you focus for long periods of time? Can you keep track of things that need to get done, or do you easily get confused with complicated tasks?
4. Office Culture
One of the things that’s really hard for me, in general, is the concept of sharing my health conditions with other people. While I’m fully in favor of educating people, I’m also a private person by nature and don’t always want everyone I know to have the details of my health. This goes one step further in the workplace where it feels like it really shouldn’t be part of the work-life culture. I don’t want my illness to be part of my relationship with my boss and co-workers – or at least as little as possible. This can be difficult – or even impossible depending on the work environment. It is definitely something that you want to think about as you look for jobs.
In addition to #1 and #2 above, you want to think about flexibility in terms of things like working from home. Can you work from home if you’re not feeling up to going into work? Can you work late one day to make up for leaving early another day?
For me, benefits were one of the key reasons I needed a job. If you can get benefits from a family member/spouse/etc then this may not be quite as pressing for you. Pay attention to how many hours you need to work to qualify for benefits – and also look at vacation and sick days. (Be sure to check whether you can use your vacation days as sick days if you run out of sick days.)
I’m sure that this list of workplace challenges will probably grow as I spend more time in the workplace, but these are the things that I was thinking about when I was applying for jobs… The job hunting process itself isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. Even setting aside the constant rejections, it’s a lot of time spent staring at a computer or typing. I really had to set a certain number of applications I wanted to get done each day/week/month otherwise it was easy to just not do them. It’s an exhausting process, and it took me a year and half. I’m grateful to have found a job, I know how hard it is out there and if you are looking I wish you all the best!