How to Nail That Big Career Moment, Even If You Have a Flare-Up
Before she was hired as the HR manager at ProPrivacy, Sophie Summers was dealing with a severe psoriasis flare. “The flare on my scalp and in between my eyes, along with severe itching, was terrible enough to make me lose my confidence,” she says, noting that because psoriasis is a visible condition, it can impact those who have it both personally and professionally.
The anxiety Summers felt about her appearance, and the way her appearance may impact her ability to land the job, is not uncommon for people living with psoriasis. But as Summers went on to prove, a psoriasis flare doesn’t have to keep you from nailing the job interview or delivering a killer presentation at work.
The Hit to Your Confidence
Wendy Askew, M.D., is a functional and regenerative medicine physician in San Antonio, Texas, who has been dealing with severe psoriasis for more than 20 years. When her condition was at its worst, she says, the psoriasis covered more than 65 percent of her body and she had joint pain in her hips.
“A psoriasis flare, and living with significant psoriasis, in general, can and typically does have a very negative impact on a person's confidence,” Askew explains. “People, in general, are not very familiar with psoriasis—what it is, the fact that it isn’t contagious, etc.—and it is extremely common for people who don’t have psoriasis to stare, recoil, or express alarm toward people with visible psoriatic lesions.”
When faced with those kinds of reactions on a daily basis, it’s understandable that a current flare might impact your confidence levels. In fact, research has found people with psoriasis are more likely to suffer from negative self-image and self-esteem than those who don’t have psoriasis.
And, of course, that can impact a person’s confidence going into a job interview, or when facing other big career moments, like giving a presentation or delivering a speech.
Body Language Matters
“When people feel self-conscious for any reason, their body language changes,” Askew says. This can present in several ways, from changes in posture to avoiding eye contact and smiling. All of this, she says, can result in a job interviewer forming a less than complimentary opinion of the person being interviewed.
Summers agrees. “If you don’t appear confident during the interview, the employer or hiring manager might doubt your capabilities.” And, in the case of delivering a speech or having a business meeting, an obvious lack of confidence could mistakenly signal a lack of confidence in your message or abilities.
It’s Okay to Be Up-front
Askew says that one of the best ways to address a lack of confidence is to acknowledge the flare to the interviewer up front. “Perhaps when you shake hands,” she explains. “Just comment very nonchalantly, especially if the hiring manager looks at a visible lesion or it’s on your face.” She suggests saying something like, “I have a condition called psoriasis, and while it looks like a rash, it is actually an autoimmune condition and not contagious.”
By doing this right out the gate, Askew says you can help assuage any questions or concerns on the part of the person you’re meeting, and hopefully also reduce your own fears about what they may be thinking of your appearance.
Being up-front about your flare-up is a strategy also recommended by board-certified dermatologist Peterson Pierre, M.D., of Pierre Skin Care Institute in Westlake Village, California. “This way, you can answer any questions your interviewer may potentially have, thereby putting you both at ease,” he explains. “With that behind you, you can focus on letting your personality shine through and really wow the interviewer.”
To do that, Askew suggests working hard to demonstrate positive body language and confidence about your qualifications for the job. Smile when appropriate, make eye contact, and keep reminding yourself that your psoriasis does not have to define you or limit you in any way.
Prepping for the Big Moment
All of that applies to keeping your confidence up while you are in the job interview or making your speech. But there are also things you can do prior to your interview to not only reduce the appearance of a flare, but to also increase your own confidence before ever walking into the building.
“It’s important to see your board-certified dermatologist and start treatment as soon as possible,” says Pierre. “Taking a shower right before the interview and moisturizing right afterwards can reduce the number of flakes while minimizing the dryness and irritation, thereby making you more comfortable.”
Before her own job interview, Summers focused on reducing her anxiety.
“Stress and anxiety boost psoriasis flares, so I worked hard to lessen the condition before the scheduled interview,” she explains. “I tried relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, which helped me to stay confident during the interview.”
In the end, it worked—she got the job. And, Pierre says, you can, too.
“Psoriasis is nothing to be ashamed of,” he explains. “Get it treated as soon as possible, do your best to look your best, address any concerns head on, and convince your interviewer why the company should hire you.”
You are not defined by this condition, and any company interviewing or interested in doing business with you would be lucky to have you.
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