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Life Happens: Don’t Let an Emergency Define You


It doesn’t take incredible super powers to deal with an emergency, but it does take maturity, composure and mental clarity. While this may seem like an obvious statement, brimming with common sense, there’s one truth that I have learned in this business: there’s nothing common about common sense.

A candidate recently bailed on an interview. She didn’t appear at the appointed time and place, didn’t call, didn’t send a text… nothing. She just completely disappeared, leaving the client waiting and us completely dumbfounded, with a little egg on our faces.

This is a candidate who had previously been on the ball. Every request, every message had been met with an almost instant response. It seemed out of character, so I called her repeatedly, sent several text messages and emailed to try and get ahold of this candidate, but to no avail.  Five hours later, I received an email apologizing for missing the interview: a family emergency had occurred, and she had forgotten her phone and so on, and so on…

Now both the client, her partners, my partner and I all felt that yes, emergencies happen. We all experience them and we can all be relatively open to dealing with them when they come up for our staff or candidates. But how a person deals with an emergency defines who she is, professionally speaking, and how others perceive her.

This candidate’s inability to take even the briefest moment to phone one of us, or to have someone else do it, seemed sloppy and unfocused. It left all of us with concerns about her ability to handle ‘crisis’ on the job front. Was she going to leave everyone high and dry at a moment’s notice? Was she going to be up to the task of dealing with sizeable real estate transactions and the emotions that go along with them? We weren’t at all sure.

Here are some tips on how to deal with an emergency, so as not to be ill-defined by one:

  1. Communicate—if someone else depends on your presence, whether it is an employer, a spouse or a child, you cannot just disappear to deal with the emergency. You must communicate immediately that you are dealing with an emergency.


  1. Resourcefulness—if you forgot your phone, lost your phone, or the internet is down, be resourceful! Find a way to call from someone else’s phone, a pay phone or find a public computer to deliver the message of your absence.


  1. Ownership—own your responsibilities and commitments. If you are in a committed relationship, whether as an employer, or a teacher, or an employee, or a spouse, you must own up to your share of responsibilities. Life and business don’t stop because you need to stop, albeit temporarily. You need to be sure that you can carry your work load or assign it to be delegated to someone else.

From an employer’s point of view, it’s a good idea to define what is considered to be an ‘emergency’ and what is expected of an employee in the event of one: who should they call, email or text? How should they ensure that their work is available for someone else to pick up and run with?

Ultimately, the best way to handle a personal emergency is to be honest. Keeping your employer, or your recruiter, in the loop on how things are progressing and when you expect to be able to resume your duties / interviews, is a good approach. While in the face of an actual emergency, these people and roles may not seem important, they will be important again at some point in the future and it’s this fact that a candidate or employee needs to keep in mind so that they are not defined by their emergency, but rather by the way they handled it.

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