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Out Sick: Addressing Long-Term Illness on a Resume

Human Resources

Out Sick: Addressing Long Term Illness on a Resume image out sick

Resumes are designed to illustrate the flow of your career—but when that flow is interrupted, it can feel like a major obstacle explaining employment gaps. While certain situations—such as parental leave and unforeseen unemployment—are often considered elements of the past, those who have struggled with long-term and chronic illness may be apprehensive to address gaps of unemployment.

Illness Not Stillness

Although many of us are conditioned to believe that working is the most important thing in life, it is perfectly acceptable to put health first. As such, individuals who are afraid of addressing employment gaps due to illness should not feel ashamed that they took time off to improve their wellness. In fact, taking time off to heal can show signs of:

  • Balance
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Problem-Solving
  • Adversity and Perseverance

Still, employers will always wonder why there is a gap on a chronological resume. Depending on the extent of an illness, it may be possible to fill these openings without having to cover the truth. If you were not employed full time during a long-term illness, there are many other activities that you may be able to highlight on a resume to show activity and skill development, such as:

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Going Functional to Address Illness

The chronological resume is typically a common option for individuals who are trying to lay out a progressive description of their career. However, if an individual was out for years due to an illness or disability, these gaps may just feel too glaring to both the job seeker and the employer. Fortunately, there is another option: the functional resume.

The functional resume will focus more on skills, experience, education and overall qualities rather than the progressive timeline of a career. Choosing the functional approach allows job seekers to fully concentrate on professional talents and keep the employer’s attention on what is most important—how the applicant qualifies for a position.

Moving Forward From an Illness

Many individuals who have recovered from a serious illness that kept them from working may fear that employers will question their ability to hold a job in the future. If this is a concern, it may be appropriate to address your capability not on the resume, but rather within a cover letter.

It is perfectly fine to keep the circumstances of an illness private, but job seekers who want to display confidence and drive may choose to focus on how the experience helped them grow. In a cover letter, a job seeker may briefly explain how poor health gave them the opportunity to develop and face challenges with strength. For example, one may say that he or she is ready to take on new career goals now that they have recovered from an illness and progressed as a person as a result of the experience.

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