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Turning Health Conditions Into Learning Opportunities

Desk with CV/Resume depicting the applicant's name, experience, and skills.

Looking healthy while battling invisible disabilities

My name is Katherine Gould, I am 25 years old with a marketing degree with eight years of internship and volunteer experience. Since high school began, I've always made an effort to take every opportunity to learn and grow so that once I obtained my university degree I would have acquired the skills and experience to get my dream job. So why, after over two years, am I now working at a bank rather than a position geared toward my career? The simple answer is that my health got in the way.

There are no visible signs that I experience health issues. At a glance, you will see a young energetic woman. This leads to misconceptions about the reality of my everyday life. Beneath this facade, my body and mind are in a constant battle to remain in a state where I can present myself as such. I was first diagnosed with a kidney stone disorder in high school, following symptoms of what was later diagnosed as arthritis. Within the last two years, I've been seeking a diagnosis of what is most likely a sleeping disorder. All of these conditions are due to an overreacting immune system. My invisible symptoms can be debilitating and are a constant fight to keep manageable. Naturally, this affects my ability to perform a job and cultivate my career. So, in the spirit of my current job search, I've decided to change the narrative. Instead of looking at how my health has suppressed my career opportunities, I will be exploring how it has strengthened my abilities to perform in the workplace.

Changing the conversation: Finding opportunity in suffering

When reviewing my CV, I see how I've highlighted the skill sets and statistics that best showcase my experience. Regardless of the type of position, there was always something positive I learned that bolstered my skills. So why not apply this logic to my health? In the nine years I've been experiencing these symptoms I've surely gained some useful experience. I decided to analyse the skills I acquired through my medical journey by dividing them into Hard vs Soft Skills.

Hard Skills:

As explained by LinkedIn, hard skills are;

...technical knowledge or training that you have gained through any life experience

I've come up with three specific hard skills that, if interviewed about, would display how I've managed my health problems proactively and learned from them.

  • Negotiation Skills - Advocating for consistent treatment while moving between the US and UK health systems. Justifying the current treatment plan despite differing practices.

  • Analysis Skills - Understanding a variety of symptoms and the possible causes behind them. Documenting and understanding the normal and abnormal symptoms and when to seek help.

  • Risk Management Skills - Identifying activities and behaviour that aggravates my conditions. Learning what actions prevent or ease reoccurring symptoms.

Further examples of hard skills can be found on LinkedIn and can be helpful to have when presenting your experience.

Soft Skills:

Contrary to hard skills, one LinkedIn article expresses that soft stills represent;

...personal habits and traits that shape how you work, on your own and with others.

Soft skills are more difficult to express as they are not as quantifiable. However, LinkedIn explained how displaying your soft skills shows how well-rounded you are. I identified three key soft skills I felt were the most valuable in my health journey

  • Time Management - Being able to manage multiple appointments in different cities and countries, up to months in advance. Knowing the details of the appointment and providing any required testing or paperwork prior to the appointment.

  • Organisation - Coordinating the timing of different treatments and their relationship with eating and drinking. Keeping track of prescription refills, authorisations, insurance, and different pharmacies.

  • Interpersonal skills - The ability to maintain a strong patient/doctor relationship, where developing trust and honesty are the foundation. Coordinating discussions and participation between healthcare professionals to develop a smooth treatment plan.

Finding acceptance in the worst circumstances

Everyone faces challenges throughout the course of their life, whether detectable or not. My immune diseases have altered the life I planned for myself. Despite the immense difficulties it has created, the strength and other skills I developed throughout the journey made me more resilient. As I spend the next few months looking to take the first step in my career, I plan on utilising all of the hard-earned skills I've learned throughout my life. I encourage all of those facing health challenges to look deep within themselves. You may find that even during the most challenging times, you learned a skill that will guide you through the rest of your life.


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