The Vine: October 17, 2012
I've got a situation that's the combination of good and super-crappy and would appreciate your advice.
Basically, I've been in my job long enough (four years) and am finally applying for new things and getting interviews. (Well, so far "interview," singular, but that's after not many applications.) Anyway, that's the good part.
The super-crappy part is that my mother's recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. It seems like they caught it early, it should only be a minor operation, no chemotherapy, just radiotherapy — all those good positive outcome cakes. But still, it's cancer. It's the opposite of pizza — even when it's good, it's bad. And as my mum's a widow (my dad died years ago, when I was 14; I'm 31 now), she's by herself with this. By herself in that she lives alone, I mean. Obviously my sisters and I are going to make sure to go down and be with her after surgery and after radiotherapy sessions and so on. Which requires time off work, and is what brings me to my question.
Do I mention all this at interviews? I'm wary of coming across as "My mum has cancer, please give me a job out of sympathy," but equally, even the most understanding employer would probably balk at a new employee in the first couple of weeks asking for lots of time off. Even for something that's so obviously a legitimate reason for doing so, they'll think, "You should have mentioned this upfront." And then the horrible cynical reptile part of my brain doesn't want to worsen my chances by making them think, "Oh, he'll hardly be around at the start, we'll go for someone safer."
My current boss is being very understanding, which I really appreciate, but that in itself just isn't enough reason to stay. I'm really not happy there — the people are great, but the actual work and the money are not. My initial solution of "wait six months 'til this is over, and then apply for things" would not be good for me. I need to move on, but currently either mentioning my mum's cancer or not mentioning it seem like awful ideas that will backfire.
What do you think I should do? Should I just gauge it interview by interview?
Thanks for your help,
I Wish It Was Just A Pre-Booked Holiday That I Had To Mention
I'm sorry about your mom's illness; fingers crossed for a full and speedy recovery.
Your letter reminds me a little bit of the one from a couple weeks back about whether the sender should by a larger bridesmaid's dress in anticipation of becoming pregnant before a wedding next year. Not the joyous occasion you're facing, of course, but in terms of not trying to guess, and then game, a schedule you have no control over, it strikes me as similar. It's great to try to prepare, and have the issue in the back of your mind, but in the end, you don't know if the interview will go anywhere, or whether/when a follow-up interview would happen, or how long it takes to bring new staff on board at the company, or if you even want to work there — what if you get a bad vibe from the meeting?
I would gauge it on a by-interview basis, but I would also just not mention it unless the interview is going extremely well and the interviewer asks you directly whether you have any conflicts with starting right away. I don't know your industry, but that doesn't seem like a question you'd face in an initial meeting — and if it is, I don't see why you can't just say that you have a pre-booked commitment, because you do. You don't have to lie or imply that it's a vacation, but if asked, you can say that you have a family matter you'll have to deal with, and leave it at that.
But try not to get too far ahead of yourself with it. It's tough — you'd like to have at least one aspect of this shitty situation that you can predict — and you'll probably obsess about it anyway, but I think you'll know when the time is right to bring it up, and I don't think you need to get into the particulars.
HR/hiring people can feel free to correct me, and if anyone else has found themselves in a similar situation, let us know your stories.
Tags: the fam workplace