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How To Return To Work When You Have Health Issues

Dear J.T. & Dale: My issue is that I am oxygen-dependent due to an illness, which only recently became manageable enough to allow me to return to work. When I appear for an interview, I bring a ready-made excuse for an employer to pass on me: an oxygen tank and cannula. I'm a paralegal, and have kept up on my continuing legal education credits, but attorneys are so risk-averse that they won't take a chance on me. - Kate J.T.: I see four options:

1. "Lily-pad" your way into the job you want, meaning that you may have to take a job below the one you aspire to - say, an administrative position - as a way back into the field. From there, you can soon move up.

2. Reach out to temp agencies in your area and see if they can get you an assignment. This is a chance to demonstrate your capabilities.

3. Do freelance work. Sites like Elance.com offer you ways to bid on projects of all types, and this would allow you to add new contacts and recent experience.

4. Consider starting your own consulting business.

DALE: What those solutions have in common is minimizing risk for the employer. In fact, in three out of the four, you wouldn't be an employee of the law firm - eliminating the worry about long-term health issues. Once you are inside, you can demonstrate your skills while your co-workers get comfortable with seeing the medical equipment, all of which will make hiring you an easy decision. That's always the goal: Be the one who's easiest to hire. However, even as you pursue some or all of J.T.'s options, I wouldn't give up on the idea of straight-out landing a full-time position. Yes, employers will be nervous about committing to you, and who can blame them - the worst outcome when hiring is to take on new-employee problems. This means you'll need someone to take a chance on you, someone to be a hero in your career story. Don't be afraid to ask for a hero, then minimize the risk by agreeing to an extended probation. Give someone a chance to take a chance on you. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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