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Thread: How I got hired... a novel

  1. #1
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    Aug 2011

    Default How I got hired... a novel

    I gleamed a lot of information from this forum and feel the need to contribute back. I will start my career fire/medic position next week with a 3 station department in Colorado, decent pay, 48/96 schedule, awesome benefits. This is not me bragging at all, just me providing my path that worked out for me.

    About me, 34 yr old white male, 31 when I started getting serious about the fire service. Work experience includes a little construction and electrical work, but primarily restaurant work for my whole life. Pretty clean driving record except for a DUI in 2002, plead no contest, 2 years probation, dismissed. Married, 1 kid, active lifestyle. Education is a high school diploma and some trade school.

    4 years ago I was pretty lost. I had taken a career change from the service industry (fine dining) to commercial investment real estate. I was miserable. Put on 15 pounds riding a desk, super angry all the time and it was the most miserable time of my life. I knew this wasn't my path but what was I going to do? Be a waiter for the rest of my life? I quit my job and went back into fine dining as I had an awsome resume for it and 17 years of experience.

    3.5 years ago a guy bought the house next to mine and moved in. He liked working out and so did I, so we started working out together. He was a firefighter for a bigger metro department, so I asked him a little about it and got interested. He had me come down for some rides to check it out and about that time we moved to the mountains.

    So about 3 years ago I was very interested in the career path of the fire service and decided to make the move. The path I laid out for myself was one that I felt put me in a great position to be hired by a department, but if I never got on, left me well educated for a career in emergency medicine and a move to emergency nursing if needed. I picked the things that made me the most attractive for the types of departments I wanted to work for and went after them. My path was set up as follows and would have been modified if I got on at any point.
    NIMS series
    FF1/HazMat Ops
    Paramedic school
    squad boss

    I picked this route of things to knock out as it would allow me to work in emergency medicine while I knocked out the rest of the fire certs, keep me in the industry with my finger on the pulse of who's hiring, and provide me experience for paramedic school. I picked EMT/IV/Paramedic programs that provided me with college credit.

    I was extremely fortunate in that the town we moved to had a very well funded, solid volunteer department and I signed up. They required nothing more than a (relatively) clean background and desire. I started in Jan of 2011, the academy was 9 months long, provided me with all my fire certs, NIMS, wildland work and provided me with great experience. We actually get good fire up here and the response is structured where you can go on anything.

    So I started testing for giggles, not really serious about it at all in the summer of 2010. When I was getting interested, my neighbor told me to check out 2 processes coming up in a month. I barely made the cutoff and tested. Band B for a big metro department and an acceptable score for the DRCOG, but nothing that was going to get me hired.

    I started an accelerated EMT-B program in November of 2010. Even though I could have waited and had the volunteer department I had just signed up for pay for it after a year, I didn't feel there was time to waste. I came out an EMT-B in Feb 2011.

    About this time, no one was hiring, running processes, or having any movement at all. I took only one test in 2011, band B'd and got no calls for processing. Finished up my academy and kept waiting tables. I used the department to get EMS experience that qualified me for paramedic school. I ran as many calls as I could, used the medics on shift as a teaching resource and soaked up as much as I could. Toward the middle of 2012 people started running processes and I started testing. But I didn't sit around and hope for 1 to work out. I launched myself right into P school after getting my prerequisites in order at a local community college, and picked the one with the reputation of being hard, but putting out good medics. I worked my ***** off in p school and came out solid. I still have a lot to learn, but dont we all. I structured my life to set me up for success in school. I moved my little sister in to care for my daughter. I set very real expectations for my life (or lack thereof). Everything was designed for me to come out with a great education, not just a cert. I could have gotten that anywhere.

    During school I went in for chiefs interview with the department I eventually got hired at. It was halfway through my program and for an open FF spot. When asked what I wanted to do about school vs coming on, I told them I didn't want to turn down the position and I didn't want to quit p school. They decided to leave me in p school and go with someone else for the time being. I was told recently that if I was not in p school I would have been hired 8 months prior.

    I finished up p school in June 2013, had all my certs completed by mid July 2013 and took a month off from thinking. My path to this point had put me in a position where I was able to test for positions every week from the beginning of Sept 2013 to mid Oct. (that was something in a process, test, PAT, interview) I tested with only ALS transporting Fire Departments in Colorado. I was offered a position in early Oct that I turned down due to a relocation time line being very quick, but it was an awesome department. I chiefs interviewed for my current position halloween day and had an conditional offer that afternoon.

    What I did....
    I never stopped thinking "what next". I continually sought out opportunities to better myself as a responder and student.
    I was relentless with my preparation for tests and interviews (my wife is very glad to not be party to my flash card interview sessions anymore).
    I set myself up in a path that made me attractive to departments (Colorado loves to hire medics) that I could easily find work in while I plugged away.
    I had a spread sheet of every single paid/combo department in CO that I would check their employment section weekly.
    Everywhere I went, I made sure to leave a good impression and I found out it is shocking how small the FD/EMS world is. Usually that rep will precede you.
    I revamped my fitness regime to become for "occupational athlete" friendly, more functional fitness based. Any test I took, if my PAT time wasn't the fastest, it wasn't far behind.
    I suited up for EVERY SINGLE TEST, no matter how big the room.

    Resources I used...
    I own every book written about testing and getting hired. If there is only one paragraph in a book that might help you, its worth owning, borrowing, checking out from the library.
    I talked to every FF I met and grilled them about how they got hired. What they did, how long it took, what they would have done different, any advice they had.
    Flashcards for interview prep are key, tape recorders for self review are a great tool. Make sure your answers are your own and you believe in them, as it comes through in the interview.
    Every opportunity on the drill ground is an opportunity to tighten up.
    I set up mock interviews with fellow FF's once a month. I suited up for these as well, its like putting on a samurai outfit when preparing for battle, get's you in the mind set. I used chiefs, captains and lt's from my volunteer department, and they were in command roles on career metro departments.

    These are all resources available to anyone, you just have to seek them out.

    At the end of the day, would I have changed anything? The only thing I would have done different is I would have sought this path 10 years ago. I took a total of 7 tests for 6 separate departments over a 3 year period, got 2 job offers, and just told 4 departments I was invited to test with I wont be coming.

    Everything you have done in your past has prepared you for this position, you just have to figure out how. How did 17 years of being a waiter prepare me for the fire service? I've proven I can work with a vast array of people on my team and manage all of them differently and I can interact and serve a wide variety of people in a service capacity. How did being a waiter prepare me for a career in EMS? I can slow down the play and prioritize my actions second to none. How did being a waiter make me the person they need to hire? I have built a career on being the front of the house face of companies and I will do no different for XYZFD. If you know in your heart that this is what you were born to do, you do everything in your power to put you in a position to be the guy they say "how can we not hire him" about. Arguably, anything else is just an excuse. Suck it up, deal with the crap and go get your badge, because in my opinion they are literally sitting there waiting for candidates with the desire and drive.

    It's long winded and a long read, but if your in the game of getting hired by a FD, you have to be a student of the game. Hopefully you gained something by taking the time to read this. All I know is I start my dream job with my dream department in 4 days and I couldn't be any happier. I want you to feel the same one day.
    yjbrody, Longshot, FF14 and 2 others like this.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2009


    Fantastic enjoy

    Just have to have some drive and get it out your head someone owes you a job

  3. #3
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    Mar 2012


    Congratulations, man.
    You've earned it. Enjoy it.
    And thanks for giving the guys that haven't got the offer yet some advice.
    FF14 likes this.

  4. #4
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    yjbrody's Avatar
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    May 2009


    Congrats! Thanks for taking the time to put thought to paper for some inspiration to those of us still in our marathon.

    Edit: I thought your user name looked familiar. I tested with DFD too, but still waiting on that process as most are. Congrats on the badge with another agency that you can actually use your P schooling with! Stay safe.
    Last edited by yjbrody; 11-15-2013 at 02:12 PM.
    Nothing is as unimpressive as someone who is unwilling to learn.

  5. #5
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    Aug 2011


    Quote Originally Posted by yjbrody View Post
    Congrats! Thanks for taking the time to put thought to paper for some inspiration to those of us still in our marathon.

    Edit: I thought your user name looked familiar. I tested with DFD too, but still waiting on that process as most are. Congrats on the badge with another agency that you can actually use your P schooling with! Stay safe.
    Thanks! Where did we run into each other?

  6. #6
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    Join Date
    May 2013


    Thank you for the inspiration. I am also trying to become a firefighter with many years in the food and beverage industry.

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