Safety First: Career Tips for Handling Sandy and other Hurricanes

October 29th, 2012 No comments

We had planned a post on scary interview questions in honor of Halloween, but it feels more pressing to talk about how to approach your career in a Frankenstorm as Sandy bears down on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Back in 2005, I spent two weeks with Hurricane Katrina survivors in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was three months after the storm, and many people who had lost their homes did not feel ready to return to work or seek new employment opportunities yet. In Maslow’s needs hierarchy of what we need to survive, fixing the roof over our heads often takes higher priority than a job or a paycheck.

While we won’t know the full extent of the damage for weeks, here are a few things we do know:

  1. It’s not worth risking your life to get to work when the roads and public transit systems are closed.
  2. In the midst of a big storm, safety and security trump deadlines.
  3. There will be high demand for hiring in the insurance and construction industries for months to come. (But if you choose to move to an area before seeking work in these fields, you need to make sure you can secure housing first — otherwise, you will be contributing to the problem instead of the solution.)

If you can read this and are in the path of the storm, help yourself survive first and worry about your job search later. But if you have two minutes, here are five quick tips courtesy of relief workers and job seekers who’ve been there:

  1. If you are currently employed, know and follow your company’s emergency contact plan. Maintain a list of multiple phones and e-mail addresses of people that you can contact after the storm: if your employer is an independent or local business that runs off of local service providers for phone and internet, you can expect downtime after the storm.
  2. Store electronic copies of your documents. Online storage providers or web-based services such as Google Documents will enable you to access your resume, recommendations, and other career-related information from anywhere-should you have need of it.
  3. Keep important identification and financial records together-and take it with you in a waterproof document holder. You need more than a driver’s license alone to establish identity at a new job.  Make sure you have the identification necessary to complete the I-9 Eligibility form required by all U.S. employers.
  4. Develop your own personal business continuity plan: if your phone or e-mail service is provided by a local business, have a back-up plan. The U.S. Portability number rule will allow you to transfer your landline number to a cell phone number-or to keep your cell phone number even if you move to a new area. This guide will show you how:…. If you don’t have one already, sign-up for a free e-mail account through providers such as Gmail, Yahoo! , or AOL and forward copies of your e-mail to your remote account.
  5. If you evacuate and have room, pack at least one professional outfit that fits you well-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.

Follow these steps and you’ll be better prepared to preserve your career-even in the face of the strongest obstacles. If your housing and employment situation is disrupted by the storm, breathe. Be reassured: people will be attentive to your professional needs after the storm even if the worst happens.

Stay dry, safe, and know that we’re thinking of you.

The StartWire Team

Hurricane Sandy