During my career search anything with the words emergency or disaster in the title caught my attention like flashing lights (no pun intended). I read through a wide range of books on flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, etc. I took classes on weather, natural disasters and even China because of the magnitude of disasters there. Also I read about international disaster relief and humanitarian aide with the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse and World Relief. I was all over the map and needed to decide what would be the best direction for me.
In a previous post, I mentioned using What Color is Your Parachute to begin fine tuning my direction and later on I also used LifeKeys as another resource. After I realized my main interests was geography and natural disasters, I began reading articles by Thomas Drabek and Gilbert F. White. However a career in disaster research or teaching at an university didn’t seem to be the right fit for myself. I felt I wanted to be hands on involved in response and recovery. I have respected colleagues who do prefer research and are able study in length regarding specific disasters, their impact, and solutions for resiliency. This is the reason I believe we need to know why we want to work in emergency management, so we can choose the right path.
Another question I considered, did I want a career dealing with emergencies/disasters or volunteer with Red Cross or Amateur Radio Emergency Services and pursue a different career? I had so many possibilities (international disaster relief, Red Cross, disaster research, meteorology, volunteer, emergency manager, etc.) I needed to narrow down and confirm my direction instead of trying to pursue all of my interests at one time.
Eventually with all of my searching for answers I read a book discussing crisis and emergency management in Europe which led to talking with Hank, and eventually to a career as an Emergency Manager. Being an Emergency Manager connected with my love of weather and geography as a child. Also I had a fascination with storms and tornadoes resulting from the numerous times taking shelter when growing up. Seeing the debris in the fields made me wonder how a storm could carry housing material so far away. And what do you do after a storm?
Until I had that “aha” moment, I couldn’t even move forward with a direction, I just spinned my wheels in the mud wondering which way to go. While pursuing interests is important and helpful, none of us can want to stay in this rut forever. Eventually we need to move ahead. On a side note, we all can come back to this same point as interests change and we search for a more challenging job. Possibly your situation is a little different, you know which direction to go but it is fear preventing you from making the jump to a new job or career.
The Parking Lot
A good word picture is viewing the emergency management career field as a parking lot. When you first enter the parking lot you may know exactly where you are going to park while others are not sure which parking spot is the best. For some of us we will actually have many different parking spots in our careers as our knowledge, expertise and passions change. Personal experiences also may cause us to switch parking spots for a new job.
Currently I am developing a self-guided questionnaire to help you pinpoint your direction within the emergency management field. Until that time here are a couple of questions to get you started. First, often our childhood and past have a major impact on our career choices.
Looking At Our Past
Think back to the first time you remember hearing about a disaster or large scale emergency. Write down the event and the details you remember. Why do you think this is the first disaster/emergency event that comes to your mind? What about this event resonates or sticks out to you?
Now reflect personally on disasters and emergencies impacting yourself, family or a close friend that has remained with you. What was the event and how did it impact you? If you were able to, what did you do to help? If you were unable, what do you wish you could have done?
What other disasters do you remember from your growing up years? List what specifically about the event that has stuck with you. Looking back, was their a specific action you wanted to take to assist?
I hope these questions can help you begin to answer the “why” your are interested in emergency management so you can figure out “what” to do.
Question for you:
Are there any disasters or emergencies from your past that is causing
your interest in emergency management? Please share!