Caring for Sick Mother Cost Her the Dream Job...Now What?

What to do after a major career setback with your employer

Photo by ShuttersockWelcome to the "AOL Career Luck Project." Inspired by you, our readers, this new weekly series offers practical advice by showcasing real-life examples of career makeovers. Learn to create your own career luck using the tips and techniques given to project participants. Every Thursday.

Meet Gayle, Lost her Dream Job While Caring for Her Sick Mother

Gayle worked for years to earn a coveted position at her employer. Soon after, her mother became seriously ill and Gayle found herself as the primary caretaker. After a big effort to juggle both, the time-sensitive nature of her role proved too much and her employer offered to move her to a less taxing job. Still, the commitment to her mom was so great, Gayle needed to take a leave of absence so she could get her mother settled with some full-time care.

Gayle returned to work and was told she could hopefully get her old job back in the near future. But then, Gayle's mom took a turn for the worse. So, at the encouragement of her employer, she took a second leave of absence so she could be there in the final days.

Did Gayle Make a Huge Career Mistake?

By the time Gayle returned to work, a total of six months had passed. She now finds herself in a job she doesn't love, and fearful the last six months has cost her the chance to get back to her dream job.

Hear Gayle tell her story and see J.T.'s advice in the video below:

Caring For Sick Mother Cost Her The Dream Job

First, Gayle should know that some employers would not have been so accommodating. As an at-will employee, the company would have been within their rights to let her go because of her extended absence. But instead, they made accommodations for her so she could stay employed with them. While they couldn't hold her dream job for her, they still found a way to keep her on the payroll and welcomed her back - two times!

Gayle Needs to Put Herself in the Employer's Shoes

Just because Gayle is back, doesn't mean her employer thinks she is 100% and ready to return to her time-sensitive position. They know she is still grieving. Which means, they need to see she is through all five stages of the grieving process and ready to move on. Once she hits the fifth stage, "Acceptance," only then will they be sure she is ready to handle more work and responsibility.

Time to Communicate She's Ready to Return the Favor

To get her dream job back, Gayle needs to show her employer she understands the importance of partnering with them. She should start by recognizing she is a business-of-one who sells her services to her employer. They were a very understanding client during the six months when she couldn't deliver her services consistently. It's understandable they would be nervous about trusting her again. She'll need to communicate and commit to working to earn their trust back.

Gayle should start by setting a meeting with management where she can say the following:

Thank you for the support you provided me while I attended to my mother. Now that she is resting in peace, I am grateful to be back working here. I want you to know my dream is to get my old job back. I know that can't be done at the moment, but I was hoping you could map out with me what I need to do to earn the position back? What milestones can I achieve? How can I exceed your expectations as a way to show you my appreciation for what you did for me and get back to the job I love so much?

After that meeting, Gayle will know exactly where she stands with her employer and will be able to focus herself so she can feel better about her situation. Better still, her employer will be thrilled to know of her commitment and willingness to help them get to a place where they are certain she can do her dream job effectively.

Takeaway: Setbacks Can Always Be Turned Into Course Corrections, But Only If You Are Willing to Seek Help

Gayle's willingness to seek help with respect to her situation (both with her mom, and then with her career) is what will ultimately help her get back on track professionally. She'll get her dream job back eventually because she was open to getting advice. Many professionals feel they must "suffer in silence" and "go it alone" in their careers. Yet, when you are willing to accept your situation and reach out to get some fresh perspective, it's amazing how much easier the journey can be!

Want to be considered for a makeover in the AOL Career Luck Project? Send an email with your story, resume and LinkedIn profile to Use the words "AOL Career Luck" in the subject line.

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This topic is apropos but some caregivers left work permanently to become caregivers. It is common in the case of families that live great distances apart. What guidance can you offer for this group of former caregivers seeking brand new opportunities.

October 13 2015 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Really J.T.? I am disappointed with your post. I can't decide whether you're naive or you simply believe your readers are going to think it's as simple as you outline here. I've been though a parent care situation myself and do agree with you that some employers will have little tolerance for accommodating this need due to pressures on productivity and profitability. You make no mention of expanding your options outside your current employment situation to seek other avenues for moving forward once the care commitment and grieving is complete. I just think you took a very complex topic and tried to oversimplify it. I also have a pet peeve with illustration of numbered stages of. if they always appear in that order and we simply move from one to the next. I know that you are not the original developer of this illustration. it just rubs me the wrong way when I see it this way. I am sorry to be so reactive with you on this topic as it is just a sensitive subject for me.

January 21 2014 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nice spelling of "depression" ... not.

January 16 2014 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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January 16 2014 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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