Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0705 - Job search, the next big obstacle

Life is full of irony.

On Sunday, I wrote about one of the best series on television these days, Californication, and reflected on the nature of good writing, blogging or otherwise. Imagine my surprise yesterday when following an interesting Google Alert which led me to the stupid cancer blog to be greeted by the image of one of the characters of the TV series, Evan Handler (Charlie), an actor probably better known for his role on "Sex and the City".

Prior to following the link and the subsequent permalink to the Jobs section of The New York Times to an article titled "For Cancer Survivors, a Job Hunt Can Be the Next Big Obstacle", I'd had no idea that Evan Handler was a leukemia survivor or that his illness has caused him career difficulties (his autobiographical Time On Fire: My Comedy of Terrors documents his battle with cancer and the effect his cancer had on his career).

Sure, it had occurred to me that other cancer survivors wondered what long-term impact their illness had on their careers, but I honestly hadn't spent much time pondering all the implications for my own career. Immediately after returning to work following my own treatment, it became apparent that things had changed, but I was happy simply to be working again. It seemed self-indulgent for me to attribute a sense of diminishing career opportunities to my battle with cancer.

Then, three weeks after getting my discharge papers from my medical oncologist at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre, I became another statistic of "downsizing" in the Canadian manufacturing sector, just about the only sector in Canada assured of producing layoffs in an otherwise prosperous economy (see Warren Lovely's interesting article Canada: America's Dance Partner No More in the CIBC World Markets newsletter article for 15-Oct-2007).

Those "self-indulgent" thoughts boomeranged right back at me.

It seems I'm not alone. There are as many as 10 million cancer survivors in the United States, many of whom have had their careers interrupted (see I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation For Young Adults for just one example of burgeoning self-help initiatives) and now actively wondering what comes next in their career path.

Most companies are doing the right thing. Certainly any company that I would want to work for would have a standard of compassion and a strong realization that survivors can be among the best human resource investments they might ever make. Now, though, I need to concentrate almost exclusively on getting from here to there.

Last night, we held our first IT Careers Night at the Waterloo Wellington IT Professionals user group. We held a guided discussion about the job market, certification, career paths, resume writing, and recruiting. We didn't discuss bouncing back from a battle with cancer. But it certainly occurred to me that such a topic was a pertinent aspect of any reflection on an unwanted journey, be it a journey with cancer or career interruption.

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