Returning to Work: Explaining the Resume Cancer Gap


By Abby Henry, Oncology Content Manager, PearlPoint Cancer Support

If you had to stop working because of cancer treatment, you may want or need to return to work once treatment ends. Your doctor has cleared you to work, you are ready to being the job search, but what about the gap in your resume?

Wouldn’t it be great if cancer survivors could list “cancer patient” on their resumes? Just imagine…

Midtown General Hospital (2015-2016)

Cancer Patient:

  • Managed side effects of chemotherapy
  • Tied headscarves
  • Scheduled appointments
  • Navigated health insurance

Personally, I would be very impressed to see that on a job application, but for now, here are some tips for handling resume gaps due to cancer treatment.

  • Remember your diagnosis is confidential and you do NOT have to disclose your cancer survivor status in an application or in an interview.
  • On your resume, list your skills first with details. At the bottom of your resume, briefly list the companies you’ve worked for, your job titles, and the total number of years you worked in the position.
  • Include volunteer and community work. Translate this work into relevant job skills like the ability to multitask, plan events, and organize.
  • In an interview, keep your answer short and emphasize your ability to do the job. Your employer only needs to know that you are capable of performing the duties in the job description. Anticipate the question about the gap in employment and prepare your answer ahead of time.
  • Update (or create) a LinkedIn profile. Focus on your summary to explain your experience, skills, and interests.
  • Try freelance and part-time work while searching for a more permanent position, and include the skills and experience you gain on your resume.
  • Have your resume reviewed by a professional. Cancer and Careers provides free resume review services for cancer survivors. Colleges and universities also usually offer career services to alumni.

Finally, any job search takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged. Good luck on your search!

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