EP 03Preparing For Your Career

Preparing For Your Career

Preparing For Your Career

EP 02 Transcripts

Episode one for the preparedness section. So, preparing for your career, that’s what we’re talking about in preparedness. So, if you’re in college and you’re hoping to get an internship to get a foot in the door of the field of emergency management, you’re not alone. The competition for such slots is bound to be intense, and the good news is there are certain things you can do to enhance your chances of landing a position that will provide you with the skills and experience necessary to succeed in a variety of emergency management-related fields. There are various different fields that we can go into for emergency management, so don’t get stuck and thinking about your FEMA or your large-scale local government. There are other areas too, such as private industry, that you can look at.

Since in the field of emergency management, we use checklists all the time, let’s talk about a checklist, and let’s check these things off your list before going for that internship. After all, if you know what career path you want to do, why not get started as quickly as possible? So, let’s double check your resume. First things first, you need to have a really solid, clean, resume. Proofread your resume for any spelling errors. Don’t just trust your computer’s spellcheck program. And if possible, I am having something else (inaudible) too. I had to recommend that, there are some programs out there that can help your resume, and services that you can hire too, to help write your resume. Because if there’s any spelling or grammar mistakes, make sure they’re corrected. I’m a huge fan of Grammarly, I use it a lot. And the best part, the basic plan is free. So, on that college budget, it’s gonna really come in handy.

Also, search your resume for any inaccuracies or situations where you have stretched the truth. Like, you know, say you’re cash management, but the job was really working as a cashier at McDonald’s. Or the job shows that you’re holding a position in the entertainment industry, but actually, you’re (inaudible) at the movie theatre and cleaning popcorn at the end. It’s important to make these corrections, because if your cover discovers a lie at a resume, or at an application, or during the interview process, you’re going to be discarded from the list, or if you’ve already landed the job, there’s a high probability that you can be outright fired.

So, in addition to making sure your resume and application are error-free, the intern should make sure they are including the information that the employers frequently want to know about, preferably towards the top of the document or in some other prominent place on the document. Mainly, you should be describing all the relevant experience that you have in the industry, as well as any special knowledge that you may have required in the field thus far.

So, experience comes in many forms. It should be emphasized, and if possible, insert at a highly visible place of your resume that you’ve had this experience. Such things as like, even part of the IEM Student Chapter, or you’ve taken additional FEMA classes, or state-level training that are above and beyond what you’ve learned in school. Things like volunteer in the CERT program, or volunteer at the fire department, or Team Rubicon, or the American Red Cross. Those are things you want to highlight on your resume as well.

And for practical job experience or participation in volunteer disaster response organizations, you might consider either attempting to garner that experience or emphasizing in things that make remarkable skills, such as your writing ability. Writing experience is proven ability for communications. Writing experience and proven ability to communicate in an effective manner. Both qualities that are desirable in emergency management, where communication skills are critical. So, don’t leave yourself short on things like that. As a matter of fact, I think a Communications degree, or at least a bunch of classes in that level, is a really great degree to move into emergency management. But that’s just me speaking.

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So, when do you do your internships? We always think about summer internships, but they’re not just for summer anymore. Often, internship candidates don’t give much thought to internships they’re trying to land throughout the year. They often think they only happen in the summer during vacations, or whatever. But some universities and organizations offer co-op positions throughout the year, which opens up to the amount of time that the student can be applying for landing an internship position. Some schools even offer job– work placements specifically in volunteer organizations, such as the Red Cross or Team Rubicon.

Students should give these positions a great deal of thought and attention before submitting their applications, because an internship could potentially lead to a positive letter of reference, or a much more impressive reference, and perhaps, even a future job offer. With all that in mind, students must consider taking time out of their schedule to visit their school’s guidance counselor and learn about many different opportunities that are out there, as well as how many slots they have available for internships.

While a school’s guidance office may offer a great source of information, perspective students may also want to pursue the websites or larger organizations, that sometimes carry listings that colleges won’t. There are also more general websites out there that you can find that talk about internships that might be considered as well. So, that’s a tip for internship-seeking individuals, they should also try to determine what organizations might interest them the most, (inaudible) as a tip, internship-seeking individuals should try to determine which organizations might interest them the most, or which might be most consistent with their planned career field.

For example, if your goal is to work for the federal government, a position in Washington, D.C., or for one of the organizations that are federal organizations would make sense to you. If you’re ultimately hoping to work at local government, try to find internships at the local level or county level as well. You know, it doesn’t make sense for you to grab an internship at the airport emergency management unless you want to head in that direction, because you may be wasting your time by losing valuable experience in the field and the area that you want to work in.

Also, get your applications in on time. It should go without saying, but you should find out when the deadline to submit your application is, and then make sure that you get it on time. What’s more, you should be fiducial in your efforts to complete the application. The writing should be neat and easy to read. Remember that employers often receive dozens upon dozens of applications for most of their internship positions and making a great first impression is the utmost important.

Bring your A game to the interview. It should go without saying that you should be presentable. Generally, this means, conservatively dressed. I remember taking an applicant one time in an interview, and well, let’s just say they weren’t really wearing business attire. It looked like they were getting ready to go to the gym instead of going to a job interview. You should also consider asking questions. Ask questions such as, “What is the direction that this organization is going?” “What opportunities are there for you in the future?” Ask, “How many people who have interned there in the past have received full-time employment afterwards?”

It’s not just about the organization when you go to be an intern, it’s also what can they do for you? You don’t want to be put into a position to where you’re just working and not getting anything out of it, but you also don’t want them to think that the only reason why you’re there is just to use them. It has to be an equitable relationship. And they’re going to ask you questions as well. So, some of the most popular opening questions you’re going to receive is, “What do you want to do with your life? Where do you see yourself in five years? Why did you choose that major you did? What interested you in this profession? What do you bring to the table in terms of skills, etc.? And what makes you different or special from the other applicants out there?”

Get prepared to answer that question. One time, during an interview, I asked– the question that we asked is, “What makes you the right candidate for this job?” The applicant answered the question this way, “I might not be the right applicant for this job, however, (inaudible).” She did not go on to the next level of interviews.

Emphasize your flexibility. Interns have set job duties, and their task might be doing things like, entering data in the spreadsheets all day, or taking notes in the meeting, or plotting on a white board. However, many times, interns do things as “gofers.” Such as, go for this, or go for that. It’s not necessarily that you’re making coffee for the boss, but you might be going to the Starbucks run for sure. You’re given tasks that nobody else in the office wants as well, such as, you’re assigned a task frequently and not be known by the employer. A task that– you might be doing tasks that nobody else in your office wants. You’re assigned a task very frequently, and the employer might not even know what (inaudible) of your interview.

For this reason, interns should consider making it clear that you’re willing to do (inaudible) work, and that you can be flexible, based upon your organization’s needs. There’s a thing that we call the NOR job descriptions, it’s ODAS. Other duties as assigned. You’re going to be the other duties as assigned. So, at the end, you want to make sure you’re asking about full-time positions. There is usually no guarantee that an internship will lead to a permanent placement in the organization. However, in some cases, it may not hurt to ask, either during the interview or once you land the position.

In fact, it might be good to ask because, not only this conveys your interest in joining the organization on a permanent basis, but it also gives the division some time to consider the probability of hiring you full-time or creating a new position for you. Don’t forget that emergency management is a small world and we talk. And for sure, if you’re doing a great job for me, I’m going to make sure that I spread the word to all my other colleagues that are looking for employees. So, the bottom line is that an internship doesn’t have to be an over stressful experience. These tips can help a student not only obtain the position they want, but also the experience could help land a career.

I’d like to go a little bit further though, just on this internship idea. Because internships aren’t just for the “college” kids any longer. A good number of my students in the community college where I teach are re-tooling, or they’re re-entering the work field, because they lost their jobs for very, very different reasons, whether through the great recession, they’ve been laid off, or their jobs are no longer needed, or they’ve been outsourced. One of my students was a Navy veteran, a father of two. And he lost his job during the Great Recession. His skills are specialized, so the only experience he had to offer was in that field, and they weren’t hiring at all. As a matter of fact, people are still losing their job in that field at alarming rate.

Without many options, Scott applied to an internship in FEMA, where he learned to work in the recovery section. Since this lay-off left him with very few options, he decided to use his time to explore other career opportunities. This is a growing trend. Scott is not alone. Many job seekers are frustrated because jobs in their field are all but dried up and vanished and are revisiting college routes and taking on internships. FEMA offers middle-career internships, as well as entry-level reserve opportunities. And the amount of internships available to those in the middle of their working years is quickly rising.

Unfortunately, this may be a new normal, and jobs are getting harder to find. At times, jobs in the field of emergency management are hard to find. So, making yourself stand out from those that are applying is going to be key in taking this position. I had a gentleman reach out to me and talk about what can he do to become an emergency manager. And I gave him some of the same tips I’ve taught you today. And at first, he was kind of really resistant to it. But then, he realized, yes, this is what he has to do. He has to spend some time giving back to the community, if you will, or giving the community in general, I suppose, because he doesn’t really have a career in emergency management, as much as what he has done in the past.

So he’s now switching jobs. He’s now taking some volunteer positions, and it has really helped him land interviews. So get the most out of it. Before his internship, Scott has gained close to 20 years of experience in his field and had a really good salary. And after losing his job, he’s taking an internship, re-starting at the bottom again, of the career ladder. Without a lot of money coming in, it was both a shock for himself and his self-esteem. But this is really looked at as an investment in his new future. Life is more complicated than the glory days if you will. And life is much more complicated than the glory days of college. Now he has a family to support, bills to pay, retirement plans to make. It’s a gamble when you’re working full-time for not a lot of pay or no pay, in some cases, with the hopes of landing that new job.

So, you need to take and optimize your chances to make this investment pay off. Scott is currently working in local government as a community outreach specialist in the field of emergency management. This is an entry-level job for him. Yeah, he’s still kind of disappointed that he’s not working as a full emergency manager, but however, he’s learning valuable experience. So, success for the mid-life internship. First, make sure you know exactly what you’re doing before you accept the position. You’re giving up substantial amount of money-making time, so make sure that your job is something that you really want to do to gain this experience. If you’re looking to be an executive, doing internships that’s based on data entry on the corner office probably isn’t the wisest investment of your time.

Next, build up your professional contacts. And I tell this all the time. Next, build up your professional contacts. I talk about this all the time. Build connections in places like LinkedIn. Or join your local emergency management organization. You know, through IEM, for example, for those of you that are students, it’s really inexpensive for you to join IEM and make those connections over there, right? Look for other ideas, go to networking events, take that time, just think about that as being an investment in your time to be able to get to the next level. Gain some quantifiable resume-worthy results. If you’re an intern at a community outreach, keep track of the programs and the outcomes. Every department has a quantifiable metric. Find out what those are, and then aim to impress with those numbers.

Finally, on your resume, list it as a role that you’ve performed, rather than an unpaid internship. Of course, you shouldn’t lie about it, but don’t highlight the fact that it was an unpaid role. Remember, what you did was a job with many of the same responsibilities as the paid co-workers. So, don’t downplay or diminish your accomplishments. The bottom line is, it’s tough out there. Jobs are hard to come by if you’ve been laid off. Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow in the new career field that you really want to be in. It may feel like a step back to embark at an unpaid internship, but remember, regardless of our age, when we enter a new field, we’re going to be in the bottom.

However, with the drive, and determination, and the know-how to get the most out of your internship, in no time, you’ll be working in the career that you’ve always dreamt of. Keep your head up, keep the dream alive, and remember, this is planning. Plan for your next job. So, we’ll see you at the next EM Student podcast.

Thank you so much for listening, and we’ll see you in the next installment of EM Student.


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About Todd De Voe 81 Articles
Involved in Emergency Response, Emergency Management, Education and Volunteer Management for over 25 years.Served as a Corpsman assigned to the Fleet Marine Force of the United States Navy. I now teach Emergency Management at Coastline Community College, I am also the Host of EM Weekly.

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