It was a particularly bad time for a low blood sugar. I was sitting in the Manhattan office of one of the country’s top book editors, trying to explain why she should buy my proposal, when I felt my mind begin to slip. It was as if my thoughts were playing on a scratched record, the needle jumping precariously out of its groove in the middle of a sentence. My heart began to race, my palms got sweaty, and I realized, panicked, that I had no memory of what I’d said a moment before.
Preparing for a job interview is usually stressful, but I’ve found diabetes can add an additional level of anxiety. Putting aside the question of whether to reveal your diabetes to your potential employer, how do you make sure that an unexpected low or high blood sugar won’t derail your chances for the job?
In that particular case, I was lucky: since my type 1 diabetes was somewhat related to the project I was pitching, I was able to explain my predicament and pop a few glucose tablets without a problem. (And, thankfully, she bought the book.) But the experience taught me that, as is nearly always true with diabetes, preparation is key.
As I see it, the goal of that preparation is to minimize the variables that may throw your blood sugar for a loop. The day before (and morning of) your interview, try to follow a normal schedule and to eat foods you’re used to, in order to help avoid unexpected blood sugar fluctuations. I try to schedule an interview for a non-meal time, like mid-morning or mid-afternoon (or whatever time of day your blood sugar tends to be most stable). Also, keep in mind that intense exercise can cause blood sugar swings for hours after the exercise itself, so the day of your interview is most likely not the best time take up long-distance running.
In addition to food and exercise, the potential stress of a job interview may also affect blood sugar – stress hormones often increase blood glucose levels, but may also lower them in some circumstances and in some people. That’s one of the reasons it’s important to test your blood glucose shortly before you meet with your would-be boss; if you think it’s headed downward, you may want to have a few glucose tablets or eat a small, preemptive snack.
Make sure to arrive at the interview with some glucose tablets – or some other form of fast-acting carbohydrate – close at hand; that way, if you do feel a low coming, you can take action. (You can read more about the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, here.) If you get the job, you may at some point wish to alert your employer to your diabetes. But if you would prefer not to call attention to your diabetes during the interview itself, come up with a plan of what to do if you feel your glucose going low – like excusing yourself to get a drink of water, or referring to the glucose tablets as lozenges. (Read more about your legal rights in the workplace here.)
Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself after the interview. Check your blood glucose levels once you leave the office, and make any adjustments that might be required. Diabetes may add a challenge to the interview process, but with proper preparation, I’ve found it shouldn’t stand in the way of success!
Catherine Price is a freelance journalist and type 1 diabetic who has written for The New York Times, Slate, Popular Science, and O Magazine, among others. She blogs about diabetes at asweetlife.org and you can follow her on Twitter @Catherine_Price. Price is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience