I focused myself on my other key priority: that of planning
the future direction of my career. My thinking began as follows: The hardest
thing to come to terms with when dealing with Crohn’s would be that it does not
go away. Hence, my life was most likely going to be a series of ups and downs
where, in the down periods, I would be juggling the options of drug regimes,
surgery, putting up with feeling ill, or sometimes all three simultaneously. It
would clearly be a mistake to add to this burden by over-stretching myself in
had a few weeks to think about things, and bearing in mind both the prognosis
on the probable future course of my health together with the advice from my
anonymous advisor in Ward 8, I came to the conclusion that I would be foolish
to continue my immediate career path as a brand manager in the marketing
that depended for their success on lots of doing – and brand management was a
good example – would just be setting me up for a fall. Stress makes illnesses
worse and being a brand manager was close to being one of the most stressful
jobs in a company like Cadbury. You initiate things and have to follow them
through to execution, usually multiple projects at once – plenty of
ball-juggling. Also, the advertising agencies were in London, so that meant every week there would
be one or two long days’ travelling together with heavy-duty lunches. If, in
the future, I was to feel as ill as I had done on the sales force, then these
responsibilities and punishing schedules would just pour fuel on the fire.
feeling ill, I would feel compelled to struggle into work if my absence would
mean things grinding to a halt or going wrong. I did not want to do this as it
would, I was now convinced, ultimately shorten my life. Conversely, if I took
the time off when I was under the weather, I would ultimately fail in the job.
question that was top of my mind was: given that Crohn’s Disease was for life
and had already shown the level of disruption it could bring into the
workplace, was there an alternative career path where I would be better able to
shield the company from the new limitations I was now probably going to face?
In other words, assuming the worst health-wise, how could I prevent my illness
from making my employment a problem for the company and consequently for
myself? But if not marketing, then what? I had been pondering these questions
almost since the day I had left the hospital, but the direction I needed to
take was increasingly clear.
Tip #47: You Need
to be Able to Work When Feeling Ill
Look for a job that you can comfortably do when you are
feeling well and get by in when you are feeling ill. Do not get into jobs where
you are fully stretched when you are feeling well as you will surely fail when
your health is poor. It is better to over-achieve in a role you are comfortable
in rather than fail in a too demanding role.
best kind of role for me was one that depended primarily on the quality of my
thinking rather than the energy of my doing. No matter how bad I was feeling,
and whether I was in the office or tucked up in bed, I could still think. This
inevitably led me back to the area where I had started my career, which was
much more of a thinking role. In the market analysis department, the key areas
of added value were gleaning insights into reasons behind past sales
performance that could be applied by colleagues in the marketing department to
positively influence the future. I felt confident that I could definitely do
well in that role whatever the state of my health. Plus, going back into an
area I was familiar with would enable me to ease myself back into the workplace
once my sick leave had run its course. So I called the personnel department and
set up a meeting to discuss options for my return.
bottom line was that I was prepared to take a step back in my career in the
short term to have more control over its direction, no matter what the illness
would throw at me. I was only 25 years old; I needed a long-term plan that
would enable me to build a career for the next 35 years while avoiding having
to choose between health and career.
Tip #48: Be the
Tortoise, Not the Hare With Crohn’s, you have to plan much further ahead than you
did in the past and than do others. I have met countless people for whom
Crohn’s has effectively taken control of their future out of their hands,
simply because they carried on as before they were ill and hoped for the best.
Plan for the worst and treat anything better than that as a bonus. Stay in
control of your destiny.