What to Do When Things Fall Apart

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What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby RayofLight2 » Mon Jun 22, 2015 6:11 am

It has been a while and I have been dealing with a very difficult situation that has left me again without work and recovering from something serious. Last year, I was diagnosed with early stage ovarian cancer. I just got through treatment and the prognosis has been good. I couldn't stay at my job due to chemo side effects and took time to fight the cancer. Now, my resume really looks like a travel itinerary. It took me forever to find a job after the recession hit and finally working for a small nonprofit made it difficult for them to accommodate me. I'm grappling with how to start over in my 50s. Luckily, we can manage on my husband's salary, but if we want to have any kind of a life later on, I will need to work and play catch up.

It's as if things just gradually fell apart. All of this has cut through my self confidence like a sledgehammer. I have been somewhat paralyzed be fear of having to look for work again. In addition to being older, I now have to sport a wig if I go on a job interview. I'm also dealing with chemo side effects--fatigue, memory issues. I have worked in a field (nonprofit communications) which is now seeming to favor younger workers. I'm looking at other options--like combining my previous experience as a trainer and writing skills to move more into a tech writing role (there's a bit of contract work out there). I have also done foundation grant writing and could circulate some business cards. However, I have been stuck on the idea that I don't do federal grants (a whole other challenge). I'm concerned about looking silly if I put myself out there just as a foundation grant writer.

A counselor has suggested temping and Flex Jobs.

I'm wondering if anyone out there has had such challenges and would have any wisdom or suggestions for proceeding.

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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby SquarePeg » Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:05 pm

Dear RoL, I'm sorry that you're going through yet more medical challenges. My wife's undiagnosed condition put her in the hospital several years ago. The loss of income and medical costs have chipped away our ability to save money. The so-called "safety net" services generally don't seem to kick in until you're in-debt and homeless or officially declared disabled. All this is just to let you know that I sympathize with your plight, but unfortunately I have no suggestions.

I would've thought FMLA (or something similar) would've protected your job, but perhaps it doesn't apply to non-profits?
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby inspiresuccess » Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:00 pm

Hi,

I've had major health issues off and on throughout my life which makes my resume look, well, not the way most resumes look. What has helped me most in presenting my skills and my job experience is a book called The Damn Good Resume Guide by Yana Parker. It helped me get several jobs that I wouldn't have gotten with a more traditional resume.

Also, I know this might sound weird but I've done research on it and there's a solid basis for it. The way you look does matter. One suggestion along those lines is this: The most expensive wig you can buy, the best wardrobe and the best makeup.

I just found this out recently but even stores like Kmart have personal shoppers. They're free. Just contact your favorite clothing stores. They will meet with you and help you pull the best outfit together for interviews. Jewelry and shoes matter, too, and they will help you with that as well.

Then go to a good makeup artist and have them teach you their tricks so you can do a bang up job on your own.

Yes, a good wig, a great interview outfit, and new makeup cost some money. But the truth is (and this is based on research), the younger you look and the more professional you look, will help you get a job.

Good luck. I know how tough it is to start over after a long illness. Unfortunately, I have been through it several times. It is possible, gradually, slowly, maybe, but possible, to start over again.

Blessings to you and all good vibes sent your way.

Inspire Success
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby inspiresuccess » Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:21 pm

One more thing. The last time I used the book I referred to, I went from "Freelance Knitwear Designer" to "Adult-Student Mentor" at a community college. Big leap! She has an appendix D on page 62 which shows you how to "creatively" explain gaps in employment or how to switch from one type of job to another. I was able to come up with skills that I had as a designer that would apply to the mentor position. And I got the job! (I'm trying to remember how old I was. I think I was 42 years old at that point).

You mentioned different areas you've worked in or might work in. Possibly, the book would help you sort that out. Good luck! Be creative! The things you learned while you were not working are still valuable life skills that can apply to jobs. She has one example of one person who said she'd been
"just a housewife for 20 years". She also gives ideas of how to account for times of unemployment.

If you get the book and like it, come back here and we'll brainstorm with you to help you create the resume you want. Even if you don't get the book, come back and we'll brainstorm with you!
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby Elaine Glimme » Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:03 pm

Mostly I'm wishing you good things. Job hunting is hard under the best of conditions.

Now that you're done with the chemo, would your old employer be able to help you with something, since they already know you and know what you're capable of. If they couldn't hire you back right now, could they suggest something for you, or keep you in mind for future projects.

Also, if part-time is an option, would that be something you'd like as a way of stepping back into the swimming pool?
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby RayofLight2 » Fri Jun 26, 2015 7:27 am

Such great posts! Thank you. I was thinking about a better wig that suits me. I had curly brown hair and it has felt funny to wear a strawberry blonde straight style. I didn't know about the personal shoppers...what a terrific idea. I may have the book you mentioned at and will look in the appendix. I at least have temping on my resume to seem more current. More temping can certainly help.

Part-time and contract work have been considerations. There seems to be a bit of it out there...from helping plan events to temping for the USDA to answer questions about small animal certification.

I used to hide, but now I'm getting the word out to former co-workers, fellow survivors, my assemblyperson, hairdresser, physical therapist....etc.
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby inspiresuccess » Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:34 am

RayofLight2 wrote:I used to hide, but now I'm getting the word out to former co-workers, fellow survivors, my assemblyperson, hairdresser, physical therapist....etc.



There's a time when we need to hide in order to take care of ourselves and it's a good and natural thing.

Eventually, we move towards a new time when we're able to come out of hiding and be in the world again. Good for you for moving forward.

Way to go, Sister!
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:54 pm

RayofLight2 wrote: I'm getting the word out to former co-workers, fellow survivors, my assemblyperson, hairdresser, physical therapist....etc.


Good choices. They are people who know you. Of course I hope you get hired in a week or two, and it could happen. But job hunting has a way of dragging itself out. Feel free to post here if you need cheering on or if you need to complain. We're on your side.
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby Vickih » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:50 am

I just wanted to send some love since I don't live in America and don't know how things work there.

Stay positive and focus on the outcome you are looking for. Trust that all will be well in time and don't forget to count your blessings daily. You've been through a lot and have gotten through it. That makes you one very strong lady x
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby RayofLight2 » Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:55 am

Thank you all for your support. I do continue to need encouragement as there is some post-chemo depression and probably a bit of a midlife crisis going on. I did need to hide to take care of myself and people in my 'survivor' support group are urging me to move slowly, but I still have anxiety about the future. They say 'one day at a time'.

Part-time work is an option. In fact, it may be my only option now as I qualified for Social Security Disability, which imposes limits on what you can earn. It can get complicated. :x There is a 'Ticket to Work' program and I'm being encouraged to apply to state positions, since I qualify.

I have typically been introverted and networking is tough for me, but I AM reaching out to people whom I have not reached out to before. They are receptive. I'm also looking to volunteer with our local "Hope Club" that provides free services and activities for cancer patients and survivors. It was formerly known as "Gilda's Club".

I wish I could tell the world that I got through cancer and all the project management that it took to take care of myself as I went through treatment. It's tricky because if prospective employer knows I've had cancer, they may just find another reason not to hire me.

I wonder if there would be a need for a cancer coach out there. I do see some advertised on the Internet. In my own experience, cancer patients are thrown into treatment and are responsible for finding their own supports to cope. It can be a confusing time. And as I'm experience, thinking about picking up the pieces after treatment is another struggle. While many people can continue to work, they face fatigue after treatment and find it hard to work. Others lose their jobs or are laid off and have to later explain the gap on their resumes. Some go through recurrences which making work difficult.
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sun Jul 19, 2015 5:17 pm

I hope you find something that works. The "ticket to work" sounds like a good place to start. You asked about whether you should tell prospective employers you had cancer. Of course there are idiots out there who might hold it against you. On the other hand that's a lot of information to keep secret, and I'd think that holding that much back would affect you in a bad way.

Good luck and keep steppin' along.

p.s. if you want on-going support, like a success team, check out "success stories" and "July 2015 a few steps at a time". (the month will change) You'd be welcome.
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby SquarePeg » Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:43 am

You can do it, RoL! One day, one connection, at a time.
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby Elaine Glimme » Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:57 pm

Just sending you more good vibes, ROL.
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Re: What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Postby inspiresuccess » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:54 am

Hello again,

Some feedback. I was on SSI for a long time. I have some info about that. Both the part-time work and the Ticket to Work are really big no-nos to get involved with. I'll come back later and probably do a PM to you about that.

RE: telling people you have cancer. I dealt with long-term illness and here's my suggestion about that. I've learned the hard way not to go into detail. It's best to say "I was dealing with some health issues". It's really none of their business and it's against the law for a prospective employer to ask any details. If anyone wants more info my suggestion is to be vague. Say, "It was tough for awhile but I'm fully recovered". That's it. Saying you had cancer is way too much info and honestly does not reflect on your ability to do your job.

Hang in there. I agree with your support group; I think you might be putting way too much pressure on yourself to "hurry up and get back to work". Again, I have had personal experience in this area. I pushed myself too hard, too fast and it backfired.

I also know the pressure of NEEDING financially to get back to work. But if you push too hard, too fast you might end up having to cut back on work (not a good idea to have to do with a new employer). If you lose your SSI because of work, it's extremely difficult to get it back again.

I know this all might sound gloomy but I learned the hard way about all of this. Please free to PM me to get more info.

Lots of love,

Inspire Success

P.S. The word "inspire" means "breathe into". So, take a deep breath, and BREATHE SLOWLY, back into your success. And remember, success means even the tiniest progress -- a slightly better attitude one day, one phone call, one viewing of a website, applying for things like SSI. Give yourself credit for EVERYTHING you do to move forward. And I mean EVERYTHING. :D Love yourself because we love you, too.
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