5 Tips for overcoming Career Challenges

A career in disaster services is very rewarding but the search for a job can be difficult and frustrating.  Whether you are just entering the profession or have already had a long term career, seeking a new position can be challenging.  Regardless of where you are in your career though, there are methods to make the process of looking for a new job easier.  

As a job seeker new to the disaster services field, you may find it difficult to get the position you truly desire.  There may be additional requirements you have not achieved yet or it may be considered a leadership position that requires an internal promotion. Additionally the position may be in high demand  because of the organization reputation or in your community there may be only a few places that you can apply. 

These issues can be addressed by adjusting expectations slightly.  There is no reason to change your ultimate goal of having that particular position but the method of achieving it and the timeline may need to be adjusted. 

If the position desired cannot be achieved immediately, it is important to understand why.  Once you understand why, you can take steps to address those reasons and increase your chance of getting that position.  

1. Take a different position with the company you like to be at if available

Is there a different position in another department or entry level position that you can apply for to get your foot in the door?

All organizations prefer hiring internally because employees are already known to the organization. It also takes less time training the employee because they may have already done similar job duties and know the technology programs used at the company.

Advantages for the employee to try this approach is seeing  if the company is a good fit for their career goals. Another advantage is seeing if the organization has a good work environment that encourages and challenges employees to continue to learn and grow within the company . If you find out that there is a lot of turn over at the company this may be a sign that the organization has a toxic work environment.

2. Volunteer to help with other projects outside of your current work duties

Volunteering for other projects and duties will help you to learn new skills you may already not know. It will also help you work with other employees that you may not of before and broaden your internal network within the company.

To your direct manager and the organization it shows you are a team player that can be counted on to help when needed. A person who goes the extra step additionally shows a commitment to the organization and wanting to grow their career internally with the organization.

3. Find a mentor either at your organization or similar career background

Pick someone who is at a higher career level than you are currently. This way you can learn from their own experience and they may have career contacts that they can put you in touch with to achieve your career goals.

Look for a mentor that is encouraging and supportive to your goals. Most important they should give you open and honest feedback and also challenge you to reach the goals you have set for yourself. At times they should also encourage you to do things outside of your comfort zone so you can grow professionally and personally. 

  • You can meet with mentors multiple ways:
  • Email weekly or monthly to check in giving updates on goals you have set. 
  •  Skype so you can chat face to face
  • Monthly coffee or lunch meeting 
  • Phone chat

Set up expectations on both sides of what is expected from the mentor relationship. This should be how often you meet and what type of communication. How long are you commited to mentor relationship? Will it be short term for a college semster or long term. What goals will you be asking the mentor to help you with?

4. Network with others

Networking is something everyone can do and sometimes we don’t even know we are doing it. Every time you share a reccomendation with someone you are networking.

Networking can greatly help us in our careers. Not every job gets posted in the newspaper, Indeed or Linkedin. Some positions are only posted internally either through a employee or a reccomendation from someone connected to the organization.

5. Get more education or training

One of the best training courses everyone can start with is on public speaking. Alot of managerial and leadership positions can require you to give presentations either internally to the rest of the management staff or externally to community groups talking about what your organization does. Check your local community to see if they have a toastmasters group or something similar where you meet weekly or monthly to practice giving speeches.

If you want something professional you could take a course at your local university on public speaking. Check with your employer if they would reimburse you for the cost of the course and some will even pay for your time in class. 

Another option is practice in front of family, friends or your pets giving a mini speech about a topic you are passionate about. Topic can be anything you like. It could be a tv show, movie you love or a book you just read. Topic doesn’t matter. The goal is to feel comfortable and confident talking in front of others.

Last tip on public speaking is record yourself giving a speech on your cell phone. As hard as it can be to watch yourself this is an important step so you can see what you look like from the viewer perspective.

When you watch yourself you should look for any nervous habits, stuttering or words you use repeatedly when you get stuck or lose concentration. How is the volume of your voice? Are you too loud, quiet or high pitched? Do you look at the camera when you talk or do you look at your notes? 

Other suggested courses to advance your disaster career

  • Grant writing
  • Marketing
  • Learn a second language
  • Social media training
  • Update your computer skills in learning computer programs
  • Disaster specific training through The American Red Cross and Fema


Beginning a career in disaster services can be challenging.  Those challenges can be overcome and the rewards are worth the effort.  Do not become discouraged. Instead, work to understand why you are having difficulties and look for ways to address them.  You will be successful if you work to understand why you are experiencing challenges and take steps to overcome them.

Related Articles:

Why is Networking Important

3 Things to Consider if you are interested in a disaster career

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