I’m one of those people that tend to separate my personal life from my business dealings. When I’m with family I rarely talk about business. When at work I rarely talk about my personal life. (Other than relating applicable past experiences to a given scenario perhaps.) There is no wrong or right when it comes to mixing business with personal life. And I realize it depends on the type of employment a person is involved in as well. Some people simply cannot separate the two.
While speaking with a candidate the other day, we were discussing their job history as I do with everyone I speak with. They left their most recent employer in 2014 voluntarily. They explained that they resigned their position to care for a terminal family member. And they almost sounded apologetic for doing so. They then asked me how to handle that in an interview.
My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2014. Those that know about this type of cancer know that depending on how advanced it is, the survival rate can be quite low. Unfortunately my mom’s is quite advanced and inoperable. She has undergone chemo treatments and while that stopped the growth there was no hope for recovery. In fact they had to stop the chemo treatments a couple weeks ago as she is too weak to endure additional chemo.
I was visiting her Saturday and commented to her how good she looked. The fact is, you never know when you visit if she is going to even be aware you are there, but this day was different. She looked really good. When I shared that with her, she responded, “Thank you. I remember how good my mom looked when she was in her coffin. Her face was so relaxed. She looked better than she had in months.” Wow! Honestly I was, for the first time in my life, speechless. I had no idea how to even respond to what she had just said to me.
The scenario I described with the candidate above is not the first time I've had that conversation with candidates. At least a half a dozen times a year I speak to insurance professionals that left employment for a period of time to care for a terminal family member. My point is simply this, never hesitate in an interview to explain a scenario such as this to the interviewer. If they question why you would do something like that, you don’t want to work for that person anyway. That is in all honesty. Good leaders have empathy and understanding. Tyrants do not. Which leader would you rather work for?