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Work: Seeking New Employment


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Looking for a new job is never easy. Having a serious health  condition or a history of one can complicate the process. However, the good news is that just the existence of a health condition no longer prevents finding a job. As a general matter, prospective employers cannot ask about the health of a job candidate. Prospective employers also cannot ask about genetic make up which can indicate probability of contracting a serious illness in the future.

You are likely to improve the chances of getting what you want, and minimize the number of surprises, if you look for a job as an educated job seeker. For instance, consider the following. (For more information, see the articles mentioned below.)::

  • Before applying for a job:
    • Think about how your current and reasonably foreseeable health condition may affect your work. 
    • Consider what would be your ideal job.
    • Think about the benefits you would like. Start the process by reviewing benefits currently offered by employers, such as health insurance or group life insurance for which no health questions are asked. 
    • Consider whether your skills are up-to-date and whether you have the education needed for the job you want.
      • You can update or learn new skills on your own or by taking courses, many of which are available on line. There may be free state or local programs (generally known as Vocational Rehabilitation) that you may be able to qualify for. If not, there are ways to update skills on the cheap.  
      • The federal government helps all states fund a CareerOneStop center where job seekers can obtain credentials certifying that they possess the minimum skills needed for certain jobs. To find a center in your area, type into your favorite search engine, "CareerOneStop" plus your city and state.
      • Consider returning to school. Education does not have to be costly. You cannot be prevented from getting an education because of your health condition because of the Americans With Disabilities Act and similar laws.
      • To make the most of a retraining program or additional education, start by finding a field that is hiring people and is likely to grow.  New skills don't do any good if no one is looking for them. 
  • It is advisable to prepare as follows before making first contact  with a potential emloyer.
    • Decide who to use as references. Find out what they will say about you.
    • Check your credit. Many employers will check it. It is useful to know what they will learn. (For information about improving your credit score, click here.)
    • Try to get a copy of your personnel files from your previous employer so you will have an idea of what the new employer will be told if the previous employer is contacted. 
    • Let your neighbors and work colleagues (both past and present) know that you are looking for a job. 
      • Informing people alerts you to possible problems. It also lets them know that there is no reason to be suspicious if someone contacts them with questions about you. 
      • Tell them that they might be asked to provide information about you. Remind them that a potential employer cannot ask about your health condition and there is no reason for them to volunteer it. If they are asked none-the-less, it is best if they just confirm a diagnosis and not talk about specific symptoms or what the future could be.
    • Think about what you need to do to look good in an interview.
    • It is helpful to have a resume. Many employers will require it. 
      • Of course, prepare your resume with your best foot forward. 
      • If you have gaps in your employment history because of a health condition, there are different ideas to consider to deal with them..
    • Many employers do an internet search about you before even agreeing to meet. After a meeting, they may do an even more detailed search in addition to checking references and possibly even neighbors. It  helps to do your own internet search. 
      • If you do not want to disclose your health status before you are offered a job:
        • Remove any indication about the condition from your social network pages, such as Facebook.  For instance, if you are a member of a disease specific non-profit or are registered for any of their services, including chat rooms and buddy programs. If there are public references, either take them down, ask the non-profit to block your name, or change the posted name to a fictitous one. If you cannot have the identifying information removed, ask the non-profit to block your name, or change the posted name to a fictitous one.
        • Ask friends and relatives to remove any such postings from their sites as well. Also search on your name on the internet. Look for any references to your condition
      • Add information to your postings that would make you more likely to be hired.
    • Set a block on your browsers to prevent prospective employers from seeing searches for health information or support.
  • When thinking about potential employers: Keep in mind protections from laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
    • In general, the ADA prohibits discrimination because of your health condition. The ADA also requires that a reasonable accommodation be made if needed to help you do your work. 
    • The FMLA provides time off for medical leave - without pay but with continuation of benefits. 
    • If these protections are important to you, limit your search to larger employers that are covered by these federal laws or similar state laws. 
  • Once you identify the job you seek, there are many alternatives for learning about available jobs.  
    • Alternatives range from the internet, to newspapers, friends and employment agencies.
    • If you are older, consider looking for work through an agency that finds jobs on a temporary basis. Such firms care more about experience than age.  Temp jobs often result in being hired permanently. Also consider buying AARP's book: AARP Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy... and Pays the Bills. Information includes salaries, qualifications and tips for finding jobs on line. 
    • Consider joining LinkedIn ( offsite link). Recruiters and hiring managers do keyword searches on LinkedIn. Be sure your profile:
      • Includes all important key words for your profession and industry so an employer searching for people with those skills can find you
      • Showcases your achievements
      • Is well written
  • Learn how to maximize your chances of acing an interview, including how to act an interview, what to say and not say, and how to dress. For instance, while it is against the law to ask about your health condition,it is wise to be prepared with an answer just in case. It is also wise to keep in mind time tested tips for completing an application and acing a job interview. For tips about an answer, and other tips for acing a job interview, click here. For information about your legal rights during a pre-employment interview, click here. (NOTE: There is no reason to volunteer information about your health before a job offer is made. While as a general matter it is illegal to not hire you because of a health condition, it is difficult to prove. Once you are hired, unless your condition can be harmful to co-workers or others, it is up to you whether to disclose it. For a helpful discussion about that issue, click here.)
  • In addition to the normal facts to consider before accepting a new job, consider the following:
    • The health insurance you need for yourself and/or your family.
    • The other benefits the employer offers.
    • The impact of the new job on your current benefits.
    • Whether the employer is friendly to people with your health condition. This may not be easy to find out. Your local disease specific non-profit organization may know. So may friends, or friends of friends, who work for the company.
    • How much time you will have outside work to do the things that have become even more important to you since your diagnosis.
    • Your  "Real Earnings." Real Earnings reflect what you will really earn per hour as compared to what it appears that you will earn. To calculate Real Earnings, take into account the expenses you will incur with respect to the job that you wouldn't otherwise have to pay. "Real earnings" also involves all the time that relates to work, such as commuting to and from. We have an interactive tool to help you determine Real Earnings.
    • To help determine whether a less than perfect job offer works for you, read Evaluating A Job Offer.
  • Keep track of your search related expenses.  They may be deductible from your income taxes.


  • If you have been unable to work because of your health condition, and are willing to disclose this fact to a new employer, you may have an advantage over other applicants because of a tax credit offered to employers who hire people with a "disability." To learn more, see: Work: Employer Tax Credit.
  • If you know other people who are looking for work, consider forming an informal club to help each other. Together you can share ideas, leads that you may not be aware of or have overlooked, and generally support each other. It does not have to be other people with your health history, or any health history, and they do not have to be in your field to be helpful.

For additional information, see:

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