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How to Survive a Career Disaster
November 2012

For those of you who read my monthly Career Zone articles, you may know that I live in New York City. The images of the destruction that Sandy left in her wake are haunting. I was very fortunate in comparison to many people in the area who lost everything.

Many of my friends and family members jumped into action to see how they could donate much-needed items, their time and energy, or money to help those in need of assistance. The sense of community that developed out of this tragedy was astonishing to see. When I logged into Facebook and saw all of the posts on people looking to volunteer – or knowing of organizations that were in need of volunteers – and seeing how quickly people reacted, it warmed my heart.

So you may be wondering how Hurricane Sandy relates at all to your career. One of the first things you hear from safety experts is to always be prepared. That means you should have a "survival" kit on hand at home and at work of important items such as water, food, flashlights, blankets, matches, etc. to last you several days. Something that is portable and you can grab on the go.

You need to be prepared in your career to handle any kind of unexpected change, and if you don't have your evacuation plan and survival kit handy, you might find yourself sitting in the dark with no tools for your career to survive. A big client may cancel their contract, there might be unexpected leadership changes, or your company might be acquired by another organization. If any of these things happen to you, would you be prepared to survive through the storm? Or will you be left standing in long lines, frustrated at the grocery store after all the water, bread and batteries are long gone?

Your career survival kit has several items in it which include:

  • An updated résumé — You should update your résumé twice a year – if you have mid-year and end-of-year performance reviews, these are optimal times to do so. Keep a running list of your accomplishments and copies of your reviews, 360 feedback, or other documentation at home.

  • References — Who are your trusted advisers, managers, partners, clients and/or employees? You should know the people who would be willing to speak about your abilities and be sure to communicate with them regularly.

  • An updated LinkedIn profile — The importance of your LinkedIn profile should not be underestimated. Many companies and recruiters use LinkedIn as one of their main sources for finding passive candidates.

  • Knowledge of the external marketplace — You should always be aware of who the key players are in your industry or functional area of expertise and have a target list of companies that you stay on top of. This means setting up Google alerts, joining LinkedIn Groups and networking with people at those organizations. You can also go to sites like Glassdoor, Vault and CareerBliss to learn about those target organizations.

  • Ongoing networking — Too many times, when people are secure and comfortable in their careers, they let networking slack. It is important to constantly be connecting and re-connecting with influencers in your network. When career disaster strikes, it's a lot easier to reach out to someone you connected with six months ago as opposed to three years ago.

  • Be resourceful and ask for help when you need it — Don't be too proud to ask for assistance when career disaster strikes. You have a community of people and resources available at your fingertips – from the local library, your place of worship, Drexel's Alumni Relations and Career Services Offices, etc. People will help you with your career; all you need to do is ask.

Be prepared with your survival kit so that when career challenges come your way, you have the necessary tools and support systems to help you weather the storm without major disruptions.

And please continue to make efforts to help Sandy victims! Many of you may have employers who will match charitable donations. Check to see if your employer does, and what steps you need to take in order to take advantage of it. There are still many people and communities that need your help and assistance.


alumni@drexel.edu