Cancer is not on my CV

March 29, 2013

Cleary I have never made any effort to conceal the fact that I have had cancer! When I was in treatment, I did wonder whether my openness would have any negative effect on my professional life in the future, since many in my professional network were following my progress (and being extremely supportive) both through this blog and more directly. It didn’t turn out to have any influence though – at least not in any negative sense.

Nonetheless, I don’t actively publicise the fact that I am a cancer survivor, or a runner (or hopefully future Ironman) in my professional life. If I’m honest, I quite like having work assignments where my clients and other partners don’t know my cancer story.  Even though it’s more than 2 years on, cancer is still something that preoccupies me, but having an assignment where no-one but me knows about it allows me to step out of that “cancer survivor” role for a while.

I’m in Indonesia at the moment, working on an assignment for a very large public sector organisation.  I was recommended for the assignment through my network, but I was fairly sure that no-one here knew about the cancer, or the running for that matter. I was taken aback therefore when the other day, at a meeting with one of the Senior Managers, he started off the conversation by asking me if I was getting any running done while I was here in Jakarta. I had been discussing running with some of my other colleagues so I assumed someone had mentioned it to him. Then he followed up by asking my how my cancer was now which really shocked me because I knew I hadn’t mentioned that to anyone. Then he told me that he had Googled my name and found and watched my TEDx talk. It turns out that if you Google my name the TEDx Talk is the first thing that comes up – before my website or any of the other professional type references.

That wasn’t a consequence I had considered when I agreed to do TEDx! It’s every day practice to Google professional contacts (I do it myself) so suddenly I’ve had to adjust my thinking to the fact that when people want to check me out professionally they are almost certainly going to find out that I am a running, cancer survivor.

This time it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. This Manager was apparently very positively disposed to me as a result of seeing my talk. And starting off our meeting on that pretty intimate note resulted in a level of trust that normally takes much longer to achieve as a consultant (if ever). He has also told other of his colleagues about my story with the same result. In retrospect, I’m not sure it would have had the same impact if I had shared the information directly with them compared to them finding and seeing the TEDx Talk.

I’m still not planning on putting “cancer survivor” or “marathon runner” on my CV.  But I’m coming to terms with the fact that I can no longer assume that professional contacts do not know about that part of my life and that it’s is OK!

If you’ve had cancer or are a runner do you mention that on your CV?