How do I start making progress again?
August 1, 2013 11:42 AM   Subscribe

At the beginning of the year I finished a Master's program in emergency management (and have a BA in English). I thought I would be able to get an entry-level spot somewhere but months later I haven't even gotten an interview. I'm getting a bit sick of seeing those "eligible but not referred" emails from USAJobs.

I'm working on volunteering with a local rescue unit as an administrator but the folks I've been talking to are not great about answering emails. Hopefully I'll hear back on the followup I sent today.

My current job has been through various ups and downs (mostly downs) over the past year or so and I'm ready to move on. For a while I was applying for a couple of positions every day but the accumulation of nos has gotten to me. Right now I feel stuck because after years of temping I finally got a position that wasn't secretarial and now it's dead-ended. I work in customer service with some billing functions and I feel like people see that and make assumptions about my abilities. Other people in the company have noticed how difficult it is to get out of our customer service department once you start working here.

I'd love some advice on how to cope with the situation or effective ways to change it. Should I give up on finding a degree-related job at this point and just look for something admin that will get me to a new place with some growth opportunities? Suck it up and hope the volunteering pans out so I can get some experience that way? Learn how to juggle and run away to the circus? My life outside of work is pretty great, but each day it gets harder to drag myself out of bed when I know I have to go be stressed and bored for the next 8.5 hours.
posted by brilliantine to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I work in emergency management in Canada, for a large not-for-profit. Don't give up, don't despair! We are posting jobs all the time lately, as the disasters are coming hard and fast and outpacing our staffing availability. One thing that we definitely look for though is experience. I don't know anyone in my field with an actual degree in emergency management, but every person in my department was a volunteer before they became staff. Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Mennonite Social Services, Samaritan's Purse (the first two are secular, the last two religious) are just some options for volunteering. Volunteering as an administrator is ok, but not ideal. Call your local Red Cross and see how you can join their local Disaster Management team - you'll get real, on-the-ground experience working disasters, and tons of contacts in the field.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:49 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might also consider the corporate route - Larger companies often have a emergency management specialist on their facilities team, for business continuity planning purposes. I don't know if that's something that interests you, but it could be worth a shot.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:03 PM on August 1, 2013

I did some Emergency Management work for BellSouth, I did a bunch of stuff after Katrina hit the gulf coast.

Check state and local entities, especially in places that are likely to suffer servere damage should an event take place. Very large corporations may have openings as well. I know I gave presentations all over the US to customers who were wrestling with the topic of business continutity.

Hospitals, financial institutions and insurance companies will also have these types of positions.

Here are some listings from Emergency Management Magazine.

Keep looking and keep applying. USAJobs isn't the only game in town.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:12 PM on August 1, 2013

Federal jobs are TOUGH to get right now because of vets and budget cuts. Seconding looking elsewhere.
posted by ropeladder at 3:57 PM on August 1, 2013

If you are young, try looking into one of the AmeriCorps positions tied to FEMA. They travel around the region in teams doing emergency management/disaster relief stuff. They pay a small stipend, and housing and food, and if you complete your year with them, they pay part of your student loans for you. But mostly you would be doing the work in your field, and meeting a ton of people who can help you out. Also, looking at your profile, I guarantee there is no place in the entire world that has better opportunities in emergency management than Washington DC. If you are really stuck, memail me.
posted by seasparrow at 6:03 PM on August 1, 2013

any interest in working as a dispatcher in a PSAP? I work in emergency management and notice a lot of folks started their career as dispatchers, firefighters or police - boots on the ground. don't despair over usajobs. keeeeep applying!! you are not alone and I have seen success after much perserverence. good luck :)

ps. one thing i did was have my resume professionally done by a resume service - google Kathryn Troutman. Thats when I started getting interviews and offers.
posted by dmbfan93 at 8:05 PM on August 1, 2013

You don't say where you're applying beyond mentioning USAjobs. And ropeladder has it right. Between budget cuts and sequesters and all those Iraq and Afghanistan vets with priority, looking for a federal job (right now anyway) is about on par with pressing your claim to the Norwegian throne as a long-term career success strategy.

Your profile says you're in Fairfax. You're smack in the middle of Federal Contractor Land, and that's where you should be looking. Many contracts have Disaster Recovery or COOP Plan requirements and someone with a masters in emergency management would be a good thing to put in the proposal.

What are you doing beyond filling in those godforsaken applications on USAjobs? Are you working LinkedIn? Building your network of people in your field? It's good that you're trying to volunteer with this rescue unit - keep after that - because right now your resume doesn't have a lot of relevant experience. But it's not nearly as hopeless as you might think if you've been chasing direct federal jobs without a military background.
posted by Naberius at 6:47 AM on August 2, 2013

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