The Best Predictor Of Future Behavior Is Past Behavior

The choices you have made in life may have a bearing on your firefighter career.


If you are planning on becoming a firefighter, remember the phrase "the best predictor of future behavior, is past behavior." If I remember correctly, I believe I first heard that phrase from retired California Highway Patrol Captain Gordon Graham, motivational speaker and lawyer extraordinaire. At first I was offended by it, because I truly believed people deserved a second chance. Well, as I get older in life, and have more experience under my belt, I truly see how the phrase is very accurate, the majority of the time.

You may be asking, why is this phrase - "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," important to me - the future firefighter? Let me explain how it is important, but also how you can best present yourself to a fire department when going through the "courtship phase" of the getting employment in the fire service. Face it, going through all of the hoops of a fire department hiring process (application completion, application screening, written examination, oral interview, physical ability test, medical examination, background investigation, etc.) is no different from a courtship, or the time you first started dating someone.

Think back to when you first starting dating someone. To use a baseball metaphor, you didn't start out with a grand slam the first time you were at bat. You may have experienced a number of strikeouts, a number of singles, a number of doubles or even triples, and maybe even a couple of home runs or grand slams, depending on how you measure the experience. Basically, before you got to home plate, you had to get around all of the bases.

Becoming a firefighter is really no different if you think about it. In most departments in today's world, you don't just walk into a fire station and say "hire me, because I want to become a firefighter." There is usually an application process that may or may not be on a continuous basis. For all you know, they may have just taken applications and you may have to wait a couple of years just to get a shot at even applying for a job. The entire hiring process to become a firefighter may take six months to one year, give or take, depending on the level of bureaucracy, the available budget, or a number of factors typically out of your control and maybe even the fire department's control.

During this courtship phase, and even more importantly, prior to the courtship phase, the choices you have made in life may have a bearing on your getting hired as a firefighter or your not getting hired as a firefighter. Yes, you read it here - one mistake, one wrong life choice or decision, can keep you from becoming a firefighter, regardless of how much time has passed since your poor choice.

I am focusing on this phrase because I think it is so important for all future firefighters to be aware of. I also think it is important for all current firefighters aspiring to promote or change departments to be aware of. Yes - your past and your present may come back at some point in the future and haunt you, and keep you from a job or a promotion.

I have seen more future or current firefighters than I care to mention, make mistakes, poor choices or decisions while they are in the hiring or the promotional process for a fire department, which virtually causes them the job or the promotion. If you want to become a firefighter, and you have an arrest record, including but not limited to such offenses such as stealing, alcohol use/abuse/possession, drug use/abuse/possession, disturbing the peace, domestic violence, assault and/or battery, excessive traffic violations, etc., I hate to sound negative or unoptimistic, but your chances of getting hired are going to be slim to none. I'm not saying it's impossible to get hired with any of the above mentioned offenses on your record, but it isn't going to be easy.

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