Are You in the Top Ten?

Do you currently possess the skills that most employers seek in a firefighter?

Do you currently possess the skills that most employers seek when recruiting potential employees? The United States Fire Service has experienced a great deal of cultural change in the past decade or so and as a result, much more is required of its members. Where do you place in a skills assessment process? Are you operating with the same skill set that you did ten years ago? Have you been left behind in the advancement process at your department? Is a personal check of your interoperability skills needed? According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the following list represents the top ten desirable employee skills (ranked in order of importance):

Communication Skills

In his book Company Officer, author Clinton Smoke declares that "those who can communicate effectively get more out of life". Mr. Smoke continues, "those who cannot communicate effectively will not reach their full potential". In essence, you cannot prosper in the workplace with a limited ability to communicate. Effective communication is absolutely essential in the emergency services. Each of us can most likely cite a personal experience (emergency or otherwise) where non-existent or ineffective communications severely hampered departmental operations.


According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, honesty implies truthfulness, fairness, and refusal to engage in fraud or deceitful activities. Harmony simply cannot exist in the fire service where the core qualities of honesty and integrity do not exist. As a co-worker or supervisor, your words and actions should always reflect in a manner that will build up - not tear down your fellow employees. Remember, in the fire service what goes around, comes around. You cannot change the past, but you can change the future. Interpersonal change is always possible, but only if the change is truly sought by the individual.

Strong Work Ethic

"Our new recruits are just plain lazy". A common refrain often heard among many fire circles these days? In this day of remote controls, fast food and instant information, what do you expect? I would imagine that none of us works as hard as our parents did. In the fire service, where the number fires are declining, and every other type of call imaginable is increasing, the definition of a good work ethic is being redefined as we adapt to our changing environment. What about the demands of obtaining and maintaining the numerous certifications required doing our job? Are the new employees indeed lazier, or smarter? I agree with the old adage "work smarter - not harder". Work ethic (or a lack thereof) is usually instilled long before recruits apply for and ultimately enter the fire service. The bottom line - be prepared to do your part and then some - you will stand out.

Teamwork Skills

The ability to function as a team member is critical to the success of every fire department. Emergency and non-emergency situations alike require an employee with the attitude and ability to effectively function as a contributing member of a group. Drawing upon your own experience, what problems arise when a person chooses not to be a part of the team? The fire service cannot prosper without a committed team effort at the company level. Do not be the outsider, become a part of the team, you and the department will be better for it.

Analytical Skills

"We can't do anything here". I'm betting that you rarely, if ever, hear this statement uttered at the incident scene. A natural attribute instilled among most firefighters, they simply refuse to stand by and do nothing! On-the-fly innovation, enabled by knowledge gained from higher education, technical training, and plain old common sense will usually get the job done. Analytical skills are an absolute necessity in the modern workplace; the fire service epitomizes this statement. By constant attention and grooming of the aforementioned traits, our members will continue too innovate and rise to the task at hand.

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