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Im not sure if I am right on academia so please forward this topic to another page if necessary.

A friend of mine is writing her application for a job in research, e.g. studies about medications, diseases etc. Though she has lots of experience and a very good degree (diploma + master thesis) in public health it is not easy for her to find a job.

To increase her chance for an interview she thought about to mention her high engagement for mentally disordered people. She founded a self-help group at the university which is well established and has several dozen members. She does it almost by herself in her leisure time after university and sideline. She herself is not handicapped but has therapies running, but nothing which speaks against working regularly. On the one hand she could point out that she has a high level of soft skills and does a lot work voluntarily. But the problem then is how would an employer react about these facts? Wouldn't he think she has problems herself and therefore isn't a suitable candidate?

I think it isn't good either to mention only vague information about this. What should she do?

  • Application for what? Is she mentally handicapped or is she helping people who are mentally handicapped? – Dave Clarke Jun 13 '13 at 12:33
  • For an academic job like research, e.g. studies about mediactions and dieseases – fiscblog Jun 13 '13 at 12:36
  • Can you modify the question to reflect your answers to these questions, so that we can judge whether it is on topic and, if relevant, to answer the questions? – Dave Clarke Jun 13 '13 at 12:38
  • Well she is not handicapped but has therapies running, nothing which speaks against workung regularly – fiscblog Jun 13 '13 at 12:39
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    The very fact that she founded this group exemplifies leadership as well as concern for the community at large. These both seem like positive qualities for a research position. – Irwin Jun 13 '13 at 17:37
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Many medical research jobs require interfacing with patients, stakeholders, family members, potential study subjects, etc. Therefore, people-skills can be a great asset. Furthermore, it sounds like your friend started a support group on her own initiative and successfully ran this group for some period of time with a fairly large number of person. This speaks to being a 'self-starter', and to good organizational and time-management skills, since she was doing this will completing her degree. The volunteering aspect is not as important as the other aspects, in my opinion since volunteering usually provides evidence of being motivated/'self-starter' which creating the group already emphasizes.

My feeling would be that this is a good thing to mention as it highlights several desirable qualities. In my opinion, whether or not your friend has mental health issues is her own personal business and not that of potential employers, unless it requires special considerations, so I would advise her to describe this work without reference to her personal health situation, framing it in terms of interest rather than personal experience - i.e. her interest in mental health issues led her to create this group which she managed for a certain period of time with however many clients.

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