A bit different to my normal topics, but it’s Migraine Awareness Week, and as someone who lives with chronic migraine, I wanted to look at how marketing can be a good career path for others with the condition.
If you don’t know much about migraine, it’s a complex neurological disease (not just a bad headache), and like any other condition, it affects different people differently and to varying extents. If you want to know more about it, the National Migraine Centre has some great information.
I know a lot of people struggle to find a career that’s suitable for their migraines. I’m part of a forum where this question gets asked at least once a week, normally followed by “definitely not [insert job of the person replying]”. It got me thinking about how marketing can actually be suitable for people with chronic conditions.
First of all, you do actually need to have a genuine interest in marketing for it to work, but if you do, there’s a few reasons why the two can work better than you might expect:
Flexibility – many jobs require you to be at a certain place at a certain time, but funnily enough migraines don’t always adhere to a traditional 9-5 schedule. Fortunately marketing can offer a bit more flexibility. I’m lucky enough that if I need to start a bit late because of a migraine attack, I can catch up later in the evening when I’m feeling slightly better. Of course, it’s still a client facing job, which needs to be prioritised, but on a bad day I often count my blessings I don’t have to teach a class of teenagers, or drive an ambulance, or repair roofs or something else equally stressful.*
Working from home – because so many aspects of marketing can be done from home it can be a gamechanger for people with migraine. If you’ve got a laptop and ways to communicate with your colleagues, you can draft blogs, manage PPC campaigns or call journalists wherever you are. I couldn’t physically have a job where I have to be in the office every day. For me, my migraines often wake me up at 3 or 4am, and by 9am I’ve moulded myself into something resembling a fairly normal human being thanks to some pretty strong medication, but getting up and on an early train every day would be impossible. For others, the anxiety of having an attack at work is enough to trigger one. For a lot of people, lights and smells are huge triggers, so being able to control their own environment is the difference between a great day’s work and heaving over a toilet bowl holding an ice pack to the forehead.**
Variety of work – with marketing, to a certain extent you have control over what you do when. If I’ve got a bad head, I might focus on admin, reporting or researching rather than writing something creative. Obviously you’ve still got deadlines to meet, but if you’re organised, it’s possible to arrange your work accordingly.
A good balance of human interaction – migraine can be a very isolating condition, but working in marketing forces you to have regular communication with your colleagues and clients and for me personally that has a positive impact (it helps that I have lovely clients and colleagues). It works to have those interactions alongside solitary work, compared to say the pressure of constant small talk with strangers at a supermarket checkout for example, and a simple “hope you feel better soon” makes the world of difference.
As I mentioned, everyone’s affected differently and has different triggers. A lot of people find that staring at a screen is really bad for their migraines. If that’s the case for you, then you might want to think carefully, but if it doesn’t, marketing could be worth looking into.
I also actually think having chronic migraine can at times be a strength.***
Make the most of your time – when you live with a chronic pain condition, you live the entirety of your life in say half, or two thirds of the amount of time as someone else, which means you get good at managing your time. I front-load my week to stay on top of my workload with this in mind, and if I’m feeling well I tackle all my difficult, big or creative tasks, there and then. You learn to be decisive and not procrastinate.
Learn to prioritise – similarly, whereas it can be easy to pick off the smaller and easier tasks while you build up to the important stuff, when you live with chronic migraine, you never assume you’re going to be well, so you work with what’s most likely to have the biggest impact first.
Plan ahead – you learn to be organised because you have to. I don’t like to leave anything important to the deadline, partly because of my cautious nature anyway, but it’s good because you’re usually on the front foot.
I’m not saying it’s perfect. Living with chronic migraine is life changing and that’s going to have an impact on any job you do, but for me marketing works (until I realise my real calling as an ambulance driving, roof repairing teacher of course).
If you know of anyone struggling with migraine career-wise, why not mention marketing to them. If you’re in this position yourself, the National Migraine Centre and the Migraine Trust are great organisations that do fantastic work to support people living with migraine.
* And also equally unlikely based on my skills, fears and overall personality
** TMI, sorry
*** If you’re reading, Migraine Gods, I’m only joking, would love my old life back ta