Recovered from a breakdown: Declare or not in job search?

by | Feb 10, 2012

Dear Dorothy - I saw a tweet that went out from 3Plus and also from you about Katrina Alcorn and how she took time off work because she had suffered a breakdown. She was very open about it.  Her story resonated with me because I have been in a similar situation and don’t know how to deal with presenting this in terms of my future career now I am recovered. Should I do the same, or should I follow the standard process and reposition this difficult period of my life in a more positive light.  Where do your thoughts lie?  Mary Lynne, New Jersey


Hi Mary Lynne  - thanks for your question.  I'm sorry you had a difficult time.  This is indeed a challenging question. I remember absolutely the blog and my thoughts when I re-tweeted. But remember, because I RT’d it,  or it came from the 3Plus account,  it doesn’t necessarily mean I, or we, endorse every word – just that it’s a point of view worth considering.

As with many situations that occur in career transition - it depends.  I’m based in Europe where as Katrina points out parental leave conditions tend to be more generous than in the US. So these thoughts are always related to the  conditions of the country in which the woman lives. Sick pay schemes I would say, are the norm in Europe rather than the exception,  unlike many other regions.

Katrina took a bold step in taking her issues public.  I don't know the detail of her motivation. In doing so,  she perhaps took measured decisions regarding her long term professional and personal  goals, as well as her life values. Or maybe it was part of an unconscious therapeutic process to help her move forward. Her stance also became a campaign for better conditions for working mothers.

Katrina also points out the need to be authentic which is important,  because  there will still be a gap in your resumé that needs explaining.  If you try to cover up too deeply, then a seasoned interviewer will know something is amiss.

Future stability

The hiring process is expensive and time consuming.  Organisations want an indication of future stability from new hires. That is understandable and normal.  Only you can tell when the right time is to declare or re-position a health issue if you are choosing to return to corporate life.  There is nothing wrong in telling someone that you made a decision to spend time at home with your child or take a career break. That is becoming increasingly common.   What you have to exhibit that that you can be relied on in the future.  Any information about medication and pre-existing  conditions will be requested in a medical examination if one is required.  The  type of medication, dosage and length of time you took it, will indicate to any good doctor the severity of your condition and its implications.  I would definitely not lie or camouflage.

However a breakdown or any type of mental illness is a red flag that something in our lives is out of alignment. So before  considering a return to corporate life some deep refection is vital.  If the trigger was work related -  perhaps it is simply not for you. Sometimes the triggers are external factors, stresses such as divorce, a bereavement and accident or other issues which might suggest a different outcome.

In general, I am super cautious about sharing deeply personal experiences on the internet. It works for some as part of a moving forward process, but once posted, any detail is there forever,  so an action which should be considered carefully. If you want to campaign for a cause or use a public forum for catharsis, that's fine. If not,  in 10 years time you may not want the minutiae of an experience you have put behind you lingering in cyberspace.

Hope this helps and good luck.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.
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