Creating A Career Path As A Chronically Ill Young Adult

Janice Crow

We are taught to start reading at the beginning of a book, not to look ahead to the last chapter, and to begin a long journey by taking the first step. However, if you have a chronic illness and you are trying to get to a certain point, you need to begin at the end. If not, you may end up somewhere where you do not want to go. If you are trying to find a physical destination, you might use a GPS or a map, but if you are searching for a career path, which is less concrete, you need to develop your own mapping system.

Whether difficult symptoms mean that your career path will become a dead end or that you will not be able to pursue the job of your dreams, chronic illness often leads a person to loss of employment as well as loss of income. Most people are unprepared, but like any adversity, working with a chronic illness is a challenge that can be managed if you are aware of your limitations, create a plan, identify your support group, and access your available resources. The best strategy is to start at the end point, identify your desired outcome, and work backward.

  • The End:Create Your Vision - Where do you want to be in 10 years?

    Write a list of what you want and need from work- schedule, salary, insurance needs, environment, working hours, flexibility, potential for advancement, vacation time, etc.

    Prioritize your list.

    Create a list of people who may help you, as well as available resources.

  • The Beginning - Start to prepare with what you know

    Be realistic- Consider what you know about yourself (your interests, competencies, values and your health) as you explore and evaluate opportunities.

    Job Analysis – Identify jobs/careers that are realistically possible for you.

    Identify your three best career options by taking a “Career Assessment”.

    Develop an “action plan” of what you need to do within a realistic time frame.

  • The Middle - Work on skills and meeting people in the workforce.

    What new skills do you need?

    What skills do you need to improve?

    Learn new skills and improve current skills needed for your three best career options.

    Network to expand your contacts.

    Volunteer to gain work experience and to build your resumé.

Few people realize how important it is to think strategically about planning a career from the outset- even healthy people. It’s even more important when you have a chronic illness because you have, and will probably continue to have, specific needs that challenge your ability to be successful at work. With thoughtful planning, you might just find the right career path to take care of your health and pursue your dreams.