It can take time to find the right career for you, especially when you live with an invisible condition. Max’s current job at the medical devices conglomerate Smith & Nephew is a world away from his degree in fashion journalism, but his turbulent journey with Crohn’s Disease helped him discover a new passion: helping people just like him.

“It’s been a long road to get to where I am today. Since my diagnosis at the age of 16, I’ve been through countless medications, had multiple emergency surgeries and even a three-month stay in the ICU. Since my last operation in 2017, I’ve been taking a biologic drug which has worked really well for me, and I’m feeling great! As a Regulatory Affairs Specialist at my company, I work to bring safe and effective medical devices to the market – to give patients like me confidence and peace of mind going into surgery.

I was incredibly nervous to mention my Crohn’s when I joined Smith & Nephew. My confidence had been knocked from a previous bad experience, so I didn’t tell them about it during the hiring process. I had nothing to worry about – my manager was so sympathetic and understanding. They assured me they would help however they could. They understand that my condition is unpredictable and that I will always need regular hospital appointments. We both know that my role can be stressful and demanding sometimes. With open and honest communication, my manager can help me to mitigate the impact this has on my mental and physical health with regular breaks, support with workload and resources for stress management. He encourages me to stop and rest or take the day off if I need to when I’m not feeling my best. There is no pressure on me, and I feel incredibly lucky.”

Max’s manager Sam tells us why accommodating employees with invisible conditions benefits everyone: “Max’s Crohn’s experience has given him a number of critical skills that are impossible to teach: strength, resilience, optimism, perspective & calmness in stressful situations. By understanding, accepting and working together with Max, we have minimised the difficulties caused by Crohn’s and unlocked the massive potential that comes with it. He brings a great sense of enthusiasm and perspective to our team, having used our products as part of his own recovery.”

Being classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, Max has been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic, but it hasn’t stopped him from reaching his potential. “My relationship with my employer has only improved. They have been very proactive in ensuring that we keep connecting with each other and have provided resources to help us manage our mental health. I’m confident through communications from our company leaders that we will enjoy a lot more flexibility in the future and remote working will become the norm.”

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