Accounting for Period of Illness on Resume


Karen writes:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and have not gone back to work yet. I will not be done with my 33 radiation treatments for several more weeks. How do you suggest I update my resume for the time I have not worked?? I have NO IDEA what to do about this situation. Do you??


gapsThe Career Doctor responds:
Well most importantly I hope you have fully recovered from the cancer and the treatments you have received because of it. Discussing job-hunting almost seems trivial next to the ordeal you have been through.

Remember that job-hunting is all about marketing … all about giving the potential employer all green lights and no speed bumps when evaluating your potential performance.

Thus as with any major medical problem in which you are unemployed for a long period you may want to consider switching to a functional resume from a chronological resume. A functional resume focuses on the key skill areas and successes you have had in your career and de-emphasizes your actual work experience until the end of the resume where you list the places job titles and dates relating to your past employment. You can find some helpful hints by visiting Quintessential Careers: Resume Resources.

Keep in mind however that many employers dislike functional resumes. We recommend them only when no other choice exists. If a functional resume doesn’t seem to be working for you switch back to chronological. Although the obvious gap on your resume won’t be ideal it certainly won’t be unusual in these days of high unemployment.

You will have to face the issue of an employment gap at some point but hopefully not until you are in the interview and can give a quick explanation of a medical condition (you do not need to go into details) while showing that you are in good health now.

Again best wishes for a return to full health and a full life as well as a successful job search.

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