Allison Cheston, Career Connector


Career Connector Blog

Job Hunting When You're Not Up to the Job


I have been an MIA blogger lately, I admit it. Here’s why: I’ve been preoccupied with an injury. Now of course it could have been worse. During my ski vacation in March, I took a fall and tore a major ligament in my knee. Through plenty of physical therapy and (aggressive) exercise, it healed well. But as my friends and family will attest, I agonized over whether to have surgery to restore full capability for all the things I love to do.

And all that agonizing took a lot of energy away from my work and other things I could have been doing.

So I had the surgery, and I write this as I lie on my bed on a beautiful sunny morning, my leg going up and down on a machine to help me regain my mobility.

The reason I’m boring you with my story is that it is a common theme with people over 40: the mind may be willing but the body isn’t always. Many people have chronic health issues, or sudden accidents that lead to surgery. And if you’re looking for a job, there’s no question a health problem is an impediment.

One of my clients is considering neck surgery at the moment, and is dealing with constant pain. He has good days and bad days, and on the good days he is a productive job seeker. On the bad days? Well, nothing much gets done. 

A big part of getting out there is projecting a vital, positive image. And that’s very tough to do if you’re in pain or on medication that fails to help you present your best self. And you really don’t want to get into a discussion with a prospective employer about any health limitations.

So my advice is to lay low when you have to, and try and be as productive as you can on the good days. Don’t answer the phone if you’ve been sleeping or are groggy from pain medication. If you need to cancel a meeting, be brief and apologetic, and make sure the reason is a cold, not a chronic illness. Only show up when your best self can show up.

Obviously if you have a condition that will continue to affect your ability to work, that is a different story. But if it’s something temporary, and you expect it to resolve in the near term, be kind to yourself during your recuperation. Don’t beat yourself up for being less productive than you might. And be patient–when recovering from any illness or surgery, or if you suffer from depression, it really is just one day at a time. So let’s try and take the long view.