Designing Your Career As A Young Person Living With Sickle Cell Disorder
Tayo had dreamt of being a pilot from the age of seven when he realised that the huge metallic birds he admired so much were steered by human beings.
He wanted nothing more than to grow up and drive huge aeroplanes around the world. He dreamed of waking up in Berlin and sleeping in Turkey, and his dad’s electronic world map was his companion.
Aisha loved to cook up a storm and after her first degree, she decided to pursue a career in catering. In her first week at culinary school, she crumbled in pain while putting the finishing touches to the three-course meal she had been preparing.
Both Tayo and Aisha live with sickle cell disorder and they both found out that the path to their dream careers would not be so easy. After several hospitalisations in the pursuit of their dreams, it was time to go back to the drawing board.
As we have established in the past, sickle cell disease is not a death sentence and you can live a fulfilling life while living with the condition. However, you will have to decide early what fulfilment means to you and design your life to reflect that.
As a young ambitious person hoping to make a great impact in the world, self-awareness is essential. And with self-awareness comes awareness of your limitations.
Even if you are not an ambitious person, the mere cost implications of living with sickle cell disorder should spur you to desire a life of financial buoyancy and stability, at the very least. Otherwise, you could become a statistic living on the generosity of others who may not be inclined to help you.
Tayo, for instance, had to alter his dreams of becoming a pilot because of recurrent anaemia and ensuing fatigue. His PCV remained at 20 per cent, and no aviation school was willing to take a chance on him. He had to find a career that would enable him to incorporate his love for aeroplanes and his physical limitations.
So, how do you design a career that allows you to thrive despite the perils of sickle cell?
Do an objective personal SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Be very objective in your analysis, and engage the help of your medical caregivers, family and friends in eradicating your blind spots.
Make a list of your passions, skills and career proclivities. Passion doesn’t guarantee profit, but with passion, it will be easier to get out of bed when every cell in your body screams fatigue. So, go ahead and make a long list of everything you are passionate about, the skills you possess and the career options you are drawn to.
Design your options. Using the list you have drawn up as well as your SWOT analyses, make a list of career options you can explore. The truth is that no matter what complications you may already suffer owing to SCD, you can have a productive career. But you must be willing to think outside the box, plan for the long term and make sacrifices in the short term.
Big money, little effort. By now you already know from experience that you do not have the stamina of a regular person. Guess what? It may not get better with time. Thus, your career should allow you to make more money while doing less work. Sickle cell care is expensive so you will need a lot of money to maintain your health; money is non-negotiable.
Embrace flexibility. In addition to choosing a career that allows you to make more money, you need to choose one that gives you the freedom to take months off work. The reason is simple: you don’t want to lose your job because you fell ill and had to be hospitalised for months. Entrepreneurship is a good idea for anyone living with sickle cell disease. In addition, understand that trends change and be willing to adapt to them.
Skill up ferociously. Now that you have a short list of career paths you can explore, do the work necessary to become the best in that field. Acquire the hard skills you need to become excellent in that career. Learn all you can as quickly and as efficiently as you can. And acquire soft skills while at it. Learn how to run businesses. Learn how to build relationships. Learn how to do long-term planning. Learn how to communicate. Learn how to become financially independent. Be a ferocious learner — and doer.
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