In December 2007, a big-city fire department on the west coast was accepting 1,000 applications for the position of entry-level firefighter, over a one-day period, after having given out well over 1,000 applications earlier in the week. The job announcement stated only 1,000 applications would be...
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Could the process have been smoother and user-friendlier? Of course it could have been. However, we can Monday morning quarterback it forever and it still won't change what happened. I even heard of frustrated candidates making phone calls or sending e-mails to the fire chief, city staff, and others, expressing how mad they were, and how disappointed they were in the process. I realize a squeaky wheel usually gets the grease, but in this case, do you really want to be the one who is sticking out - in an annoying way? Don't get me wrong, I think we should stick up for what we feel is right. However, there is a right way and an appropriate way to do so, and it is also important to learn how to pick your battles.
The bright side is for those candidates who do still want to work there, and have some experience and qualifications they typically look for, you will have your opportunity at some point in the future. The positive thing about big city fire departments is that they typically test for firefighter pretty regularly. I truly think things are done for a reason, good or bad. If you didn't make the cut this time, it wasn't meant to be. However, that doesn't mean you won't have your chance in the future, and it may be the near future. I took the test for the department I work for twice over a couple of years, and I even took another big city test a few times over a couple of years, so it is not uncommon to get a second chance within a year or two to take the test for that same department, before getting hired as a firefighter.
What I ask of you if you were a part of this process, heard about this process, or ever has such a process occur to you - either in your pursuit of becoming a firefighter or after getting hired, you really need to think whether it is worth getting emotionally charged and attached to what has transpired. More times than not, we act based on emotion as opposed to rationality, and that can get us into trouble, making us say or do things we will regret later on.
I have nothing but respect for the fire department in question and their personnel; I personally know and respect many members of various ranks. What occurred was unfortunate, and the damage is probably done. But if nothing else, it is hopefully a learning experience for all of us - whether we work there or aspire to work there or anywhere as a firefighter for that matter.
Lastly, I hate to be blunt, but we need to remember that it is not a right that we are hired by a fire department - it is a privilege. Unfortunately some folks think they are entitled to do certain things in life, such as submitting applications. There is a fire department out there for everyone, as long as you don't give up and keep on testing. Maybe this fire department was not for you, as difficult as that may be to swallow. Or, maybe it was. If you truly think it is the department for you, you'll take their test again and try to not get caught up in the current emotions, as it will make you look very negatively. Would you like to hire someone who is negative, especially about the department they are applying for?
STEVE PRZIBOROWSKI, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a battalion chief for the Santa Clara County, CA, Fire Department and an instructor for the Chabot College, CA, Fire Technology Program. Steve is a 16-year veteran of the fire service. He holds a master's degree in emergency services administration, has authored numerous fire service articles featured in the leading fire service publications and is a regular speaker and presenter at fire service events. He has also mentored and coached numerous entry-level and promotional level candidates. You can find valuable fire service entry level and promotional preparation information and his contact information on his website: www.chabotfire.com. 3