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How to Find an Energizing Workplace When You Have a Chronic Illness

By Jason Reid

Do what you love. This advice is given to job seekers every day. The one exception, it seems, are those job hunters who are challenged by a chronic health condition. However, doing what you love, and seeking out a workplace that is energizing to your personality is even more important when you are sick.

A couple of years ago I was asked to speak to a group of dynamic and ambitious university students who were all challenged by various chronic health conditions. I spent some time talking to them individually to understand their problems and concerns.

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Should You Change Your Career Goals Because of Your Illness?

Most of these students stated that their immediate support network (parents, counselors, and medical professionals) were advising them to tame their ambitions before joining the workforce.

They were being told to look for simple process-oriented jobs that offered security, strong benefits, and a highly structured work environment (such as those in government or other large bureaucratic organizations).

They were discouraged from taking jobs in dynamic or cutting edge fields, because of the possibility they could not keep up with the pace.

This seems like good advice on the surface. However, the advice has at least one major flaw - it does not take into account the personality of the job hunter.

Some people like highly structured and secure jobs. They like things to be process driven. It suits their personality. Others love achieving new goals. They like to lead and explore new territory. They get their energy by being in a workplace where people are action-oriented and driven by results. For these people, a process driven and bureaucratic workplace may frustrate them and sap their energy.

Why an energizing work environment is crucial for people with chronic illness

Finding a workplace that is energizing is important for people who have reduced energy due to chronic health problems.

This may seem counter-intuitive to seek out a high energy, results-driven organization when you have issues with fatigue, but if you enjoy that type of work environment, you will be surprised how much that energy will rub off on you.

I know this from experience. I struggled with many jobs due to my own health issues until I went back to my first love - television journalism. The high-energy atmosphere of both my environment and my co-workers did wonders to make me feel re-energized and re-engaged. In the course of a few years I went from considering long term disability to becoming an award-winning television news director responsible for a million-dollar budget and dozens of employees - all because I ditched the stereotypes and pursued a job and industry I loved and was suited to my personality.

If a process-oriented desk job is heaven for you, by all means pursue it. There is a lot of important and fulfilling work to be done in many of these jobs. But, if you want to live on the edge and break new ground, or just be surrounded by goal-oriented achievers, don't ditch your dream workplace just because you are sick. Being in a workplace you love is the key to having sustainable energy.

How you can find the most energizing workplace and job for you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • If I weren't sick what type of job would I want?
  • What kind of people do I want to work with?
  • What type of industry do I want to work in?
  • How would I want to spend a typical day?

While doing what you love is important, we also know how important it is to be realistic as well. Sometimes you may have a health condition that makes it extremely difficult or impossible to do an integral part of your dream job.

For instance, my restricted diet and need for nearby washrooms made a job as a foreign news correspondent out of the question. In fact, I realized I needed to be in a fairly controlled environment to be healthy and happy. Thankfully, my journalism background and people skills made me an ideal candidate to be a TV news producer and eventually a news director. The things I really enjoyed (writing and working on news stories as part of a high-energy team) were all things I could do in these new jobs.

If you feel your chronic health condition is holding you back from your ideal job, it doesn't mean you have to give up your dream workplace. Ask yourself:

  • What specific requirement of the job is difficult/impossible for me to fulfill due to my health?
  • Are there other jobs in the same industry that do not have this requirement?
  • Are there other jobs in a similar industry that will allow me to use my skills and be around the type of people I like?

You may not have the physical ability to be a professional athlete, but if you love athletics you can still be a sports writer or work at the stadium if you have the right skills. Depending on your condition, a career as pilot may be out, but there are other great jobs in the aviation industry - some of them can even get you up in the air on a regular basis.

Bottom Line

The key is to think creatively and let your heart guide you. If you ask the questions above and find yourself excited about a new idea or opportunity that might work for you, you will soon find you have more energy than you first thought.


About the author...

Jason Reid runs Sick with Success®, an organization committed to helping people with chronic illness, and their employers, become more productive. Jason's success as both a manager and a person with chronic illness gives him a unique perspective on how chronic health conditions affect organizations and their people. An award-winning former television news director, Jason is also a professionally trained coach and speaker. Jason is the author of Thriving in the Age of Chronic Illness - his new book, which is a guide for both employees with chronic health conditions and their managers. Follow Jason at SickWithSuccess.com.


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