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6 Tips for Navigating the Job Search with Chronic Illness

Living Well

March 13, 2024

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Photography by Dima Berlin/Getty Images

Photography by Dima Berlin/Getty Images

by Kathy Reagan Young


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


by Kathy Reagan Young


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


With careful planning and thoughtful strategies, you can find fulfilling employment opportunities that accommodate your unique needs.

Searching for a job is a job in itself. Add chronic illness to that mix, and the process becomes even more complex. The unpredictable nature of chronic conditions makes it important to have a plan for dealing with what can be unique hurdles during the job search.

I’ve been there, done that. That’s why I’m offering my practical tips and insights to help you navigate the job search successfully.

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1. Set realistic goals

Before diving into the job search, it’s essential to assess your limitations, strengths, and preferences. Consider the impact of your condition on your daily life and energy levels.

Do you tend to “fade” as the day goes on? Setting hours to reflect and embrace this truth will be helpful. Are you unable to lift, walk long distances, or hold a phone? Do your hands get tired easily? Only you can know yourself.

Self-awareness will guide you to set realistic goals and find positions that align with your abilities. And it will set you up for success in the long run.

“Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.”

— Martina Navratilova

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2. Research potential employers

Identify industries and roles that accommodate flexible schedules, remote work options, and supportive work environments. Look for companies with a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, as they may offer more accommodations for people living with chronic illness.

So, how do you find this information?

Research. I like to check out companies on LinkedIn. It’s a great place to learn about a company’s culture and the people who work there. You can also learn a lot from anonymous postings of current and former employees on Glass Door.

3. Weigh the decision to disclose your condition

The decision to disclose your chronic illness is a personal one. It may depend on the nature of your condition and the specific job requirements. Legally, employers cannot discriminate against people living with disabilities.

But let’s be honest: Discrimination is real. Doing what we can to control the narrative is a smart decision.

I used to advocate for everyone to be forthcoming — loud and proud, so to speak. “Share the real you,” I’d say. “Having to keep a secret is exhausting and stressful. Be authentically who you are.”

Then, multiple people shared with me their stories of discrimination and ableism. So, I no longer suggest that.

Now, I recommend securing the job first and disclosing your condition strategically if you decide to do so. Share only the most job-relevant information and nothing more. Focus on your skills and qualifications first, then discuss any necessary accommodations that will allow you to perform at your highest level.

And document, document, document. If you feel you’re being discriminated against at any point in the hiring stage or beyond, you’ll need documentation to substantiate your claims.

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4. Utilize job search platforms and networks

Explore online job search platforms and networks that cater to individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Many websites feature job listings from companies actively seeking to hire people with diverse abilities, providing a supportive environment for job seekers with chronic illnesses.

Leverage your personal and professional networks. Tell friends, family, and colleagues about your job search and ask for recommendations or introductions.

Maybe you post on your favorite social network (Facebook, Instagram, etc) or email several friends and family members to inform them of your job search and ask for any advice. Networking opens doors to opportunities that may not be advertised through traditional channels.

5. Emphasize transferable skills

Craft a compelling resume and cover letter that emphasize your transferable skills and accomplishments. Focus on experiences that showcase your ability to overcome challenges and achieve results.

Maybe a team member at a former job of yours resigned unexpectedly in the middle of a big project with a deadline looming. Instead of panicking, you assessed the skills of other team members to see how this deficit could be filled by existing talent, and you hired temporary outside help to fill in the remaining gaps to complete the project well and on time.

Sharing how you’ve overcome challenges in the past can help potential employers see the value you bring to the table, regardless of any limitations posed by your chronic illness.

Consider creating a skills-based resume that emphasizes your abilities and achievements rather than focusing on a chronological work history. This format allows you to showcase your skills prominently, capturing the attention of employers and demonstrating your suitability for the position.

Just search “skills-based resume” to see formatting examples.

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6. Prepare for interviews

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, and sometimes we can face additional stressors. Take proactive steps to prepare for interviews by researching common interview questions and writing down your responses.

Consider practicing with a friend or family member to build confidence and refine your answers.

Develop a strategy for addressing potential gaps in your employment history due to health-related reasons, focusing on how you’ve maintained or improved your skills during such periods. For example:

During (specific timeframe), I was dealing with health challenges that taught me valuable lessons in resilience and adaptability. I remained active in professional networking groups, participated in online discussions, and did self-directed learning. This not only kept me informed about industry developments but also allowed me to exchange ideas with professionals in the field.

Navigating a job search with a chronic illness can be challenging, but with careful planning and thoughtful strategies, you can find fulfilling opportunities that accommodate your unique needs.

Online job search platforms

Online resources

  • Disability:IN: A global organization that promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Their website offers resources, webinars, and job listings from inclusive employers.
  • Work Without Limits: A resource center that provides tools and information to support individuals with disabilities in finding employment, including job fairs, networking events, and career development resources.
  • My Plus: Focuses on supporting students and professionals with disabilities, offering a range of resources, including a job board, webinars, and advice for navigating the job market.
  • DisabledPerson: An inclusive job board connecting individuals with disabilities to employers actively seeking to diversify their workforce.
  • CareerOneStop: Workers with disabilities: A comprehensive resource by the U.S. Department of Labor providing information on job accommodations, career planning, and employment services for individuals with disabilities.
  • Understood: A platform offering resources and support for individuals with learning and attention issues. Their employment section provides guidance on job searching and workplace accommodations.

Book recommendations

Do you have a question or concern about work and your chronic illness? Please reach out to me at and I’ll select questions to answer in this column.

Kathy Reagan, creator of the FUMS website and podcast, founded Patients Getting Paid in 2021. Her mission is to help people with chronic illness find and create work that accommodates their health and generates income. In this Patients Getting Paid column, she shares advice, resources, and stories to help others navigate the world of work while living with a chronic illness.

Fact checked on March 13, 2024

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About the author

Kathy Reagan Young

Kathy Reagan Young is a prominent patient advocate and the founder of two innovative organizations, and She has become a leading voice in patient advocacy, driven by her personal experience with multiple sclerosis and having founded the Patients Getting Paid membership community to help people with chronic illness find and create work that both accommodates their health and generates an income. You can also find her on Facebook.

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