job-searching in the wake of a natural disaster

A reader writes:

What if you’re looking for a job in another city and what if, in the meantime, your home and the city that you are currently living in is obliterated by a natural disaster?

For a normal relocation, I’d just say “relocating to [name of city]; current address:” at the top of the resume and add a brief mention of this in the cover letter, too.  But right now, a friend that I’m helping no longer has a mailing address, so I’m just going to suggest putting the email and cell at the top of the resume along with the mention of relocation, something like “Relocating from [city] to [city].”  What about the cover letter?  Should the natural disaster be mentioned at all?  It wasn’t the original reason for relocation, but it does add some urgency.  Would it be considered unprofessional or inappropriate to mention it?  (My feeling is that most people are going to see the location of the previous jobs and ask, anyway.)  Is the lack of an official mailing address concerning to potential employers?

Ugh, I’m so sorry.

I think it’s fine to put the email and cell phone with the “relocating from (city) to (city)” note, and skip the mailing address. And if your friend is filling out online applications that require a mailing address, can she borrow a friend’s, given the circumstances?

Regarding whether or not to mention the disaster in the cover letter, I think she could go either way on this, as long as she doesn’t focus on it too much since it’s not really relevant to her candidacy (although highly relevant to her life). Personally, I’d learn toward not mentioning it for that reason … but I could also see a brief mention, like “I’m in the process of relocating to New York (a process that was already in the works but has now been made more pressing by the recent disaster here).”

I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about mentioning it as long as it’s kept brief and doesn’t become a focus of the letter. And some people will respond compassionately and might be more likely to give the application another look, because lots of people look for ways to help others in these situations. (Of course, there are also probably a couple of recipients who will resent the mention, because they’ll misinterpret it as soliciting pity or special treatment, but there’s nothing you can do about those people.)

What other thoughts do people have?

{ 9 comments… read them below }

  1. Kerry*

    I agree completely, and I’d definitely be more likely to look closely at that resume and see if they might be a fit. You can’t help but want to help out someone who has been affected by something like this (well, unless you suck…but even a cynic like me would want to try to find a job for someone in that circumstance).

  2. Anonymous*

    First, I’m so sorry for your friend’s situation. I can’t even begin to imagine what they’re going through.

    That said, I’d err on the side of “less is more” here.

    There is no more of a turn off than someone coming across as desperate so I would keep the mention of the reasons behind the relocation to a minimum. In fact, I’d likely just mention that a move is already in the works and leave it at that. The focus of your friend’s cover letter should really be on his/her skills and why they’re a fantastic fit for the role. If selected for an interview, the question of why will likely pop up and at that point, I think it’s fair to offer a succinct explanation of the turn of events.

    1. J_Mo*

      I think this is the way I would go, too.

      I’m very sorry for the OP’s friend’s situation, though. I will keep my fingers crossed for an upturn in his/her luck!

  3. KellyK*

    I think a very succinct mention of the disaster helps to explain why you don’t have a permanent address. It keeps people from assuming that you didn’t plan or got thrown out by your significant other, or anything else that might make them see you as an irresponsible couch-surfer instead of an awesome candidate.

  4. shawn*

    a company typically won’t snail mail you anything, especially in the beginning of the process, so the address you use, permanent or not, doesn’t matter. put your last address or just city/state and call it a day.

    1. Joey*

      Ditto this. Although you can also use a friends mailing address. It’s completely irrelevant to your qualifications so leave it out. Although it’s a compelling scenario some employers might think you’ll need extra time to get your life back together. I’d only bring it up if it turns into an offer.

  5. Natalie*

    Maybe this is a stupid question, but what does the post office normally do in cases of a natural disaster? I guess I assumed they have a standard procedure.

    If that’s the case, I would just put your official mailing address down, and if you’re really concerned underscore that you prefer email or phone contact given recent events.

    1. Josh S*

      I hate to think of this either, but you’ve sent me down the road of hypothetical thinking.

      Most insurance companies want to mail you documents. If your permanent residence is destroyed (like a home fire), they can either mail it to your post office for you to pick up (General Delivery) or to a temporary address (like a hotel).

      But what happens if the disaster that destroys your home also destroys the post office? I’d have to believe that this would seriously disrupt the service for a great number of people.

      Sad. My prayers are with all those in Joplin, MO, and everywhere else in the Southeast where they are still recovering from the nasty April storms.

      1. Natalie*

        A fair point, but that’s one of the nice things about a national mail system with a universal service mandate – if the post office of Joplin, MO has been destroyed the other post offices nearby are still available. Not ideal, certainly, but better than nothing.

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