Disaster Planning

This past month has been dominated with the effect of Hurricane Katrina — to people, to business, to community, even to the world.  Disasters, they happen.   

I was fascinated with a story published in The New York Times on September 6, 2005 about Jim Judkins, one of the officials in charge of evacuating one of the regions of Newport News, VA.  He calls it the Magic Marker Strategy. 

Not only do officials have plans to use school buses, borrow other communities’ buses to move those without transportation, they keep an updated registry of those who need help.  There is no assumption of a Good Samaritan — these Virginians have their lists and go door-to-door. 

If anyone resists being moved, it’s Magic Marker time.  The resistor is given a Marker and asked to write his or her Social Security number on several parts of their body.  That way, identification is so much easier if they die or are found unconscious.  It may seem cold, but I bet it’s pretty effective. 

So, what is your Magic Marker?  What gets you moving and going when warning signs that career storms may be ahead?  Do you ignore them, burying your head in the sand?  Do you grumble and fret to anyone within hearing range, but keep doing the same old routine?  Do you brainstorm with others ways and strategies that might be put into play if the worse comes down?  Do you have a career play backup? 

If there is any lesson that surfaces from the Katrina fiasco is the need to be prepared and act.  

You have to captain it, knowing that rarely is anything a smooth course that just happens.  Even the most successful careers have peaks and valleys. 

The Magic Marker list you create should include the people to be contacted if you need help — be it medical, emotional, strategy planning, or referral based.  Some may be in each category; others in only one.  

Next up is your resume.  Last month, I wrote about that topic, review it.  Tweak yours every quarter…you never know when things should be added or dropped or when you need to get it back in circulation.  

What new skills are you adding to your base?  New ideas and concepts surface all the time in your career field — are you tapping into them, learning about them, figuring out how you can implement them within your workplace? 

Or, are you a “gonnadoit” person — someone who has the learning and implementation on his “to do someday” list.  Meanwhile, others are shoring their careers up with new ideas and skills and moving ahead. 

Being visible and connecting is always beneficial.  You never know who you are going to come across that may know someone that you need to know.  That person could be the agent to connect you with another that could lead to a new and exciting path. 

Get involved within your “career community” as well as in others in different areas.  If you work in accounting and always hang out with the numbers people, how would you know that your accounting skills just might be the ticket for a major overhaul in a healthcare unit that doesn’t get numbers? 

If a disaster strikes, be it from Mother Nature or you get the boot, backup is critical.  Imagine the thousands of homes and business that had all their data, their paperwork, their computers that either disappeared from wind or drenched in water when Katrina hit.   

Nothing, nothing is left.  No account numbers, no phone numbers, no invoicing, no resumes or records, no nothing.  Where do you start to reassemble it when you have nothing to left to start with?  Most likely, you don’t.  It’s gone. 

So today, start writing it all down. Back up everything.  And make it a habit to update every month, sending your info to a trusted individual or location that isn’t so close to you with instructions to replace the previous month’s.  If disaster happens, you can get back on track sooner than most. 

Don’t wait until the last minute; don’t assume that others will pick up the burden and bail you out; don’t resist support and help; don’t presume that all will revert to normal when the storm blows over; and don’t close the door and think it will go away.   

Your career path, and taking responsibility for it, is up to you.  Sure, mentors help, education helps, being in the right industry helps, skills help, but what really champions the path you take is you.   Disasters happen.