Navigating the career transition with invisible disability
Transitioning into the professional world can be both exciting and daunting for anyone. For a young professional managing an invisible disability like sickle cell disease, this phase can bring unique challenges. The journey toward building a fulfilling career while coping with the complexities of a chronic condition requires resilience, self-advocacy, and a supportive network. In this article, we will explore some essential strategies to help young people with sickle cell disease navigate their career transitions successfully.
Understanding sickle cell disease
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic blood disorder that is present at birth. It affects the shape and function of red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are round and flexible, which lets them travel through small blood vessels to deliver oxygen to all parts of the body.
SCD causes red blood cells to form into a crescent shape, like a sickle. Individuals with SCD may experience pain crises, fatigue, infections, and organ damage. Importantly, this condition often goes unnoticed by others due to its invisible nature, making it challenging for young people to explain their limitations to colleagues and employers.
Disclosing your condition
One of the most significant dilemmas faced during the career transition is whether or not to disclose your disability. While disclosure is a personal choice, it is crucial to evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks. Disclosing your condition to your employer or human resources department can lead to accommodations that support your work-life balance. Additionally, it may encourage open communication about your needs and foster a more inclusive work environment.
On the other hand, it may lead to covert bullying, resulting in mental issues. In research conducted a few years ago, the question was posed, if the double-tick was ticked in an application form. Most said they don’t disclose any information until they get the job. Some said they would only disclose to occupational health and said to their direct manager.
Building a support network
Facing career challenges with an invisible disability can be isolating. Remember that you are not alone. Building a support network of friends, family, colleagues, and mentors can provide valuable emotional support and practical advice. Joining support groups or online communities specific to SCD can also be beneficial. You can connect with others who share similar experiences and gain insights into managing your condition while pursuing a career.
Time management and self-care
Balancing a career with sickle cell disease necessitates effective time management and self-care practices. Prioritise your physical and emotional well-being, ensuring that you get adequate rest and manage stress. Learn to say no when necessary and avoid over-committing to tasks that may exacerbate your symptoms. Embracing a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, drinking a lot of water, and a balanced diet can also play a significant role in maintaining your overall health.
In the workplace, seeking reasonable accommodations can help level the playing field and ensure that you can perform your duties effectively. Speak with your employer or human resources department about potential accommodations such as flexible work hours, remote work options during pain crises, or adjustments to your workspace to improve comfort. Being proactive in seeking accommodations can demonstrate your commitment to your profession while managing your condition responsibly.
Continuing education and professional growth
As you embark on your career journey, remember that learning is a lifelong process. Invest in continuing education opportunities to enhance your knowledge and skills in your chosen profession. Pursue professional development and training to remain current with industry trends and advancements. By staying informed, you can adapt to changes in your field and progress in your career despite the challenges posed by your invisible disability.
Transitioning through the early stages of a career with an invisible disability like sickle cell disease can be demanding. It is not insurmountable. As a young professional, embrace your uniqueness and advocate for your needs. Disclose your condition if it feels right for you, and build a robust support network to lean on during challenging times. Remember, your career path is a journey, and with determination, self-care, and a willingness to seek accommodations, you can overcome obstacles and flourish in your profession while managing your invisible disability with grace.