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Specialization Makes Our Life Harder

We need to better define who we are and what we do.

I had a significant “aha moment” yesterday while casually discussing career paths with a woman.

I was talking to an accomplished pediatric anesthesiologist at a family social get together. The topic of my previous career in the U.S. Army came up and I shared that I had been an infantryman. She had no idea who or what an infantryman was or did. It is perhaps the most basic building block of the military forces, yet she was clueless as to what that term meant.

It has made me re-evaluate how I might communicate in the future about what it is I do as an emergency manager.

One way I describe it is that I say, “I try to get people and organizations to work together.” This being a bit more at the director level, but in truth it is something every emergency manager needs to be about.

Since our profession is relatively new, not everyone will be familiar with what it is we do — especially before a disaster. The disaster response is better understood.

We have so much career specialization today, there isn’t much room for a generalist in many professions. Even emergency management is having more specialization. I dare someone to be an expert in mitigation and then also to be an expert in disaster operations. Yes, the one-man, one-woman emergency management shops are being challenged to do this — and it is a challenge.

Lets face it, life is more complicated these days and it is going to be even more complicated in the future.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.