Rosalind Joffe (pictured) is a career coach for people who live with chronic illnesses. In this post, she discusses the pros and cons of disclosing a chronic illness in your job, as well as what to say, and when and how to say it. On her blog, WorkingWithChronicIllness.com, and on her website, CICoach.com, she covers the challenges of living with illness. She has also authored a book, Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend, as well as Career Thrive, a Guidebook Series available in both hard cover and PDF.
As a career coach for people with chronic illnesses, I'm most often asked this question: "Should I disclose my illness when interviewing for a job?"
Naturally, I have more questions than answers. But here's a guideline I’ve found that's worth following:
If symptoms get in the way of doing the job as it is expected to be performed and it will be obvious from the day you start, you should disclose the illness.
But there’s another important factor to consider. A commenter on my blog wrote that the fine print of her employer’s insurance policy says you can be fired or excluded from medical coverage if you don’t disclose an illness in advance.
I don’t think all insurance policies say this, but how do you find out what an employer's health insurance policy says before they hire you? The negotiation phase would be a good time for this, when you’ve been offered the job and can ask questions and negotiate your demands. This includes reviewing information about health insurance coverage. Yet it doesn’t answer the real concern a person might have about losing the job once they disclose their illness. I don’t have to tell you that there are no guarantees, but you can be as prepared as possible by planning carefully.
Consider the situations in which this issue might come up: the interview, the offer negotiation, and once you're hired. Plan what you would say about living with this illness in each step. Include how it impacts you and how it doesn’t. Finally, stress that you have managed it successfully in your work life thus far. The stronger and more confident you are in addressing this, the better the chance you can ease a hiring manager's concerns.
Do you notice that your illness is hurting your chances for career success? Is your confidence eroding because you only see the roadblocks? Consider working with a professional who can help you see your strengths, understand your limitations, and reach your goals.
Have you or someone you know ever asked about health insurance policies just before deciding on an offer? If not, do you think it's a good idea? Tell us about your experiences.
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