Meet 17-year-old Josie Heyman. Josie is entering her senior year at Rainer Beach High School. She enjoys school although she admits her grades are not the best, “I know I can do better” says Josie. After completing high school Josie hopes to go on to pursue a degree in nursing. She really wants to go to an HBCU and right now her heart is set on Howard University in D.C.
Josie has had a few jobs over the years. Her first job was at a grocery store. She got her job by applying online. She really liked her co-workers and worked between 16-20 hours a month. Josie had a hard time working with her managers who often asked her to work during school hours. They also did not know a lot about Sickle Cell and continued to expect Josie to work in very cold conditions. Josie worked at the store for 4 months but then decided it was not a good fit and so she left.
Josie soon picked up a new job at a movie theater. She got her job again by simply applying online and representing herself well during the interview process. Here she also loved her co-workers. Her managers were cool too and seemed to be willing to learn and make accommodations regarding her Sickle Cell. She even got to see movies for free, but she was working 20-25 hours and very rarely had the opportunity to watch movies anymore. After a few months Josie decided to leave her job hoping to find an even better fit.
Over the summer Josie got any opportunity working to clean a house that is used as an Airbnb in Seattle. Josie got this job through a connection at the Sickle Cell Task Force. The owners of the property have children with chronic illnesses and understand the difficulties trying to manage health conditions and work. They are very excited to be able to support Josie. Currently, Josie loves her new job. She likes that the house is small and doesn’t take too long to clean. She only works about 6-8 hours a week. Josie works with a team of people who are willing to cover her shifts anytime she is unable to work. Surprisingly, Josie has also come to really like working alone because as she put it “my people skills can be whack sometimes”. Oh, and did I forget to mention she really loves the pay.
Finding a job and keeping a job can be hard when you are also trying to manage a chronic illness. Many people with Sickle Cell find the balance too difficult. Some choose to not work because they simply physically cannot keep up with the demands, others give up in time because they get mentally and emotionally exhausted by the need to constantly advocate and educate about the condition. Working within a community who does not understand your limitations and your brilliance can really be tough but DON’T GIVE UP. Think about the box and continue to search for unique jobs opportunities and build a work community that will work for you.