Your Reputation Starts on Day One

The key is that you need to learn from the good and not so good of other firefighters.

You have spent the last few years doing everything in your power to become a firefighter. You have taken countless firefighter examinations with numerous fire departments, and have probably even taken an examination with the same department more than once. It has not been easy, but you have obtained the job of your dreams, a career in the fire service!

However, the work does not stop here. You will probably have to go through a rigorous recruit academy, and participate in a probationary process where you may be terminated for not meeting the terms of your probation (any reason, whatsoever). Even when you finish probation, the work does not stop there. You will be participating in training (on-the-job, in the classroom, on the drill ground, etc.) virtually every day you are on duty, until you retire. Sounds easy, doesn't it? If it were easy being a firefighter, everyone would be doing it.

Successfully completing probation and getting along well with your co-workers depends on a number of factors, including your reputation (good or bad) and how well you live up to it. You can be proficient skill wise, but if you have a have a bad reputation, you may not find yourself completing the recruit academy or probationary period. Or you may pass probation, but you are stuck with a specific reputation (good or bad) for the rest of your career, and long after you have retired.

Talk with firefighters at every fire department nationwide, and ask them about some of reputations people have been labeled with (good and bad), and you will hear some very similar comments:

  • He/she is a hard worker.
  • He/she is a slacker.
  • He/she is lazy.
  • He/she is dependable.
  • He/she is not dependable.
  • He/she doesn't get along well with others.
  • He/she is a nice person.
  • He/she talks too much.
  • He/she is quiet.
  • He/she is a party animal (off duty of course).
  • He/she is dialed in.
  • He/she is a great firefighter.
  • He/she is worthless.
  • He/she is cheap.
  • He/she is someone I want on my crew.
  • He/she is someone I do not want on my crew.
  • He/she is a jerk.
  • He/she is self-centered.
  • He/she is not a good person to trade with.
  • He/she is a great person to trade with.
  • He/she has great mechanical ability.
  • He/she is very smart.
  • He/she is mature.
  • He/she is immature.
  • He/she is an expert at _____________.
  • He/she is a neat freak.
  • He/she is a slob.
  • He/she does not live up to their word.
  • He/she follows through on their word.
  • He/she talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk.
  • He/she is born leader.
  • He/she is a follower.

The key is that you need to learn from the good and not so good of others. Realize that most reputations do not get created after someone has been on the job for ten years. Your reputation starts on day one, and personally I do not think day one means the first day of the recruit academy. I think day one is before you have even filled out the job application to apply for the position. Day one should be when you first made contact with someone on that fire department you aspire to work at.

Before you even submit an application to participate in the testing process, I hope you have taken the time to visit the fire stations to talk with the firefighters to see what makes their department different from the others, why they like working at their department, what they think their department is looking for in candidates, and what they think a successful candidate will be doing to land a position at their department.

When you participate in the hiring process, including visiting fire stations, I hope you realize you are being evaluated, whether you think you are or not. When you are visiting fire stations, you never know who is testing you, who will be on your oral board (or some other phase of the hiring process), or who is taking notes on the candidates that stop by. What does this mean for you, the future firefighter? Realizing your reputation starts at day one, I would encourage you to do the following:

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