Make Your Career Map

Good afternoon from the Jumpseat. It takes a certain type of person to become a firefighter and the endless hours of training, preparing, and learning can be overwhelming to say the least. Since the podcast on The Leaders Toolbox about the mentoring success that I have shared with Dr. Richard Gasaway over the past 20 years, the following question keeps coming up: "Ryan, what does your map look like?"

Everyone must plan out their future in the fire service, whether volunteer or career. We all need some direction. My path may vary from yours, with many points  being the same. With that in mind let’s take a look at the map laid out for me from the Doc.

  • Write this down: Ryan Pennington Fire-Medic  ______ Fire Department

Twenty years ago I may have not believed that this could happen if it wasn’t for the positive thoughts from my mentor. In many areas, EMS goes hand in hand with the fire service. Being a paramedic takes you to the top of the provider list and also aids in your recruitment by many departments. 

  • Find departments that you are interested in joining and learn their entrance requirements

This was a huge requirement as I began. You should do your homework on how various departments operate, their call volume, and find out what their requirements are.  Do they have a written test? Do you have to live within specific boundries? How about education requirements, and/or a physical agility test?  How can you follow through with your goals if you don’t know what to prepare for?

  • Be flexible when planning

Don’t have your choices limited to just one outcome.  Many departments have hiring freezes when their rosters become full. If you narrow a search down to just this one department you may miss out on other good selections.  Worldwide, fire departments each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Make a list of your favorites in an order of importance and give the best one the top the number (one) and so on. This will allow you to have a general idea of a department if a joining opportunity comes around.

I hope these points help and serve as a good beginning guide for those firefighters looking to join a mew or different department, paid or volunteer. Grab your laptop and make a map! Your map may have hills, turns, or detours in it but if you stay determined to become a firefighter you will adjust it to make sure you arrive at your destination. I was lucky enough to find a mentor who understood this.  The way I repay him is by “paying it forward” to the next generation looking toward our great profession! 

Be safe and thanks for the visit to the Jumpseat! 

Blogger Ryan Pennington recently published his first ebook, A Collection of Views From the Jumpseat-riding Firefighter. Learn more about it here.