How to Document Experience
When You Own the Business

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By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission

Small business owners and consultants perform a wide range of emergency management activities. Yet these candidates often claim difficulty in documenting those activities for their CEM certification application because of the requirement for independently produced documentation. They want to know how they can document their experience and their job description in a way that satisfies the CEM certification requirements without having a boss or supervisor.

Experience Documentation

The easiest way to document actual emergency management experience is with the completed and current contracts. Each contract should have a Scope of Work or a list of deliverables for the work product being provided to the client. Each contract should also have a timeline associated with the deliverables. Using this business intelligence, the candidate can meet the requirement for independently produced documentation as well as document the activities performed in various phases of emergency management.

Some candidates indicate they work through verbal agreements or that their contract specifications are confidential. That is OK. The CEM Commissioners do not need the entire contract with a price list. They only need the portion that shows the candidate’s experience – Scope of Work or deliverables list – along with a timeline or description of the time devoted to the project.

A second way to independently document experience without a contract is to obtain a letter from various clients who briefly explain the work activities performed and approximately how long it took to complete the contract. It is best if the client provides these details on company letterhead with contact information. If that isn’t possible, or maybe the point of contact no longer works at that company, then obtain an e-mail from the client. Ask the client to provide the required information, state that the client no longer works at the company, and include his or her contact information in the response. A copy of the entire discussion thread should suffice for the application.

Job Description

To satisfy the job description requirement, the CEM Commission wants to know what you do in relation to comprehensive emergency management. That is, you should explain what duties you perform in preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. These could be in bullet format, a narrative, or a formal job description.

The CEM Commissioners know that many small business owners and consultants do not have official job descriptions. Their business just isn’t organized that way. However, they do know what services their business provides to clients. They also know what knowledge, skills and abilities they offer to their clients. This forms the basis for the job description.

Another place to go for details for the job description is the active and completed contracts. Their scopes of work will describe exactly the activities performed. Use that business intelligence to write the job description.

The CEM Commissioners know a small business owner has many business functions to perform too. These functions include financial management, administration, marketing and research, response to requests for proposals, and meetings, just to name a few. They may list these functions, but it isn’t really necessary unless these functions directly support one or more of the four phases of emergency management.

Just like with all documentation, ensure the job description is clear. If the CEM Commissioners cannot understand the job duties and what activities are performed in the four phases of emergency management, they cannot award appropriate credit.

Finally, provide a statement that the candidate is a small business owner. Explain that the job description accurately represents the duties performed in emergency management. If this is not a full-time position, explain how much time is spent on emergency management activities. The candidate does not have to account for every hour. Simply state the percentage of time or months spent on emergency management activities.

Documentation Is Key

The CEM Commissioners base their certification recommendations strictly on the documentation a candidate provides in his or her application packet. Small business owners and consultants should record their experience narrative and job description on company letterhead and sign the document. Include copies of scopes of work, list of deliverables and e-mails as backup materials. Doing so will help ensure the CEM Commissioners understand how your experience satisfies the requirements for certification and can award the appropriate credit.

IAEM Bulletin, April 2012

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