Career 911: What You Can Do to Prepare for Irene (And After-Effects)

As Irene rapidly approaches, here are quick tips to prepare your career for a Hurricane.

The focus is on winds and water now, but we could be talking about unemployment and job loss caused by the storm in a few weeks. I volunteered to help with relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, helping survivors apply for jobs and search for work months after the storm.

After Katrina, I learned that re-booting your career after a natural disaster can take months depending on your situation. Here are a few critical steps that can exponentially decrease your down-time.

  • Keep all of your forms of original identification with you—and make copies. If you have to evacuate, take your passport and birth certificate with you. You need more than a driver’s license alone to establish identity with the Federal government; at a minimum, make sure you will be able to complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility form required by all U.S. employers.
  • If you use a local email provider, back up your email to a national account (think Yahoo!, Gmail, etc.)

  • If employed, know your company’s emergency contact plan and procedures. Don’t rely on local phone service or e-mail; have a back-up plan for communication so that your employer doesn't think you are a "lost cause."
  • Keep electronic copies of your resume, recommendations, and any job search efforts using secure on-line storage providers. (Again, e-mail accounts that are cloud-based, or with big providers are a safe back-up.)

    You can also use StartWire, a free service for job seekers, to keep records on any of the jobs that you have applied to. You can use StartWire to store a copy of your resume – and track the status of any jobs you have applied to. (StartWire actually sends updates on job applications submitted to over 4,100 companies.)

  • If you evacuate and have room, pack at least one professional outfit—even if you don’t need it for interviewing, you will be glad you have it later if your personal belongings are affected by the storm.

This advance work will speed up the process if you need to file claims or apply for new jobs after the storm.

If you need career assistance in preparing your resume and applying for new jobs, keep an eye out for free services and resources. After Katrina, a group called Volunteers for Careers was formed by a network of career professionals and associations to provide free services to hurricane survivors. The organization is dormant for now, but will be reactivated "should critical needs arise." Stay tuned, and I will keep you updated.

Good luck,

P.S. Even if this storm passes you by, these tips can help you in case you are affected later. Two little known facts:

1. According to the Census Bureau, 53% of the U.S. population lives in a county within 50 miles of the coast.

2. Less than 7% of households are ‘Red Cross Ready’ for a disaster or an emergency (Source: Red Cross and Harris Interactive poll, 2007).

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