(First time here, so I apologize if this is the wrong forum for posting this)
Let me go ahead and start this off by saying I've written alot here and it may seem a bit wordy to get to the questions I have, so an extra special thank you to everyone who replies.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a firefighter (I'm sure you have all heard this a thousand times). However, as the son of an electrician and an ER RN, I was encouraged to go to college and "check out other things". If after doing so I still wanted to become a firefighter, then it is probably what I should be doing as one can't deny what they truly feel in their heart what they should be doing.
Anyway, fast forward 7 - 8 years since I started college. I am now 26 and have spent the past four years in the corporate business/marketing/PR world. As I have worked in the tech industry, I have had to change jobs about every year due to reorganizations and downsizing, but the entire time I have realized that the corporate office life really just isn't a good fit for me (even with the money I was making, I realized there are more important things in life). So, I have decided to get myself back into school and training in hopes of one day becoming a firefighter. As cheesy as it sounds, I truly feel this is my "calling".
So now that you have heard my life story (and hopefully aren't bored out of your mind), I was hoping some of you could shed some light on some questions I have regarding just starting out, testing, and the hiring process. Thanks in advance for any and all replies and I appreciate your time and consideration!
Some other quick info about me: I'm in good physical condition (gym 3-4 times a week), have no major health problems aside from reflux, have never had any surgeries aside from wisdom teeth, and have a degree in Information Systems from San Diego State. Also having been in marketing/PR (as well as restaurant work), I have built excellent communication, organization, and overall "people" skills.
I begin my EMT certification in August. In January (2007) after I become certified, I plan to test for Volunteer in my local district (San Ramon Valley) as well as will try to get into the Academy at Chabot (I'll be doing my pre-reqs while earning my EMT). In the event I don't get into the Academy, I plan to head to Paramedic school and will re-apply for the Academy in the Fall.
Does this sound like a good plan? Does anyone have any other suggestions as to what I may want to check out?
BACKGROUND CHECKS & POLYGRAPH
Once all the certs are done and I am ready to apply, I know it can take years to get hired-on and that they whole process can be stressful and nerve-wracking. I'm very confident in my interview and "people" abilities having been through all sorts of interviews and worked with hundreds of different people and personalities (and all the politics, etc. that go with it). I also know that interviewing for a firefighter job isn't like other interviews, so I have been reading-up and have been getting a ton of help from a local Captain who runs the academy I hope to get into.
The biggest thing that is new to me with all of this is the background check, polygraph, etc. I've heard the polygraph in particular can ruin a perfectly good candidate's chances strictly through intimidation. Since I have a flawless criminal and driving record (was pulled over once in my life for not having a proper registration tag) and have never used drugs, do I really need to be worried? I have a friend who never used drugs (he always knew he would be a firefighter, so he stayed away from them), but his being nervous about just being asked the question sent his heart rate through the roof and the "interrogator" continued to drill him on had he used drugs, getting the same reading each time. He was DQ'd because of it and devastated, especially because he had read several books on how to pass, but when it came down to it, he couldn't control his body's reaction.
As for background checks, I have heard a rule of thumb is that "if it isn't documented, there is no reason to disclose it", even if you had made a stupid choice when you were young, such as trying pot once when you were in high school (I know what you are thinking, but I'm hoping to use the info here to share with other aspiring firefighters as well). However, if you have on your criminal record a conviction for possession of marijuana, then you better disclose that because trying to hide it and having it come up will get you DQ'd. I have also heard things such as the conviction mentioned above will give investigators a hole to dig deeper into regarding drug use, etc. during the background and polygraph.
So, with all that said, what kinds of things should I watch out for during the background check and polygraph given that I have a flawless criminal and driving record, several positive character references, and an unblemished employment record (aside from leaving jobs on my own accord)? Am I someone they are going to have an interest in grilling given that I don't have any "spotty areas" in my background?
Also, what exactly is the psych test? Is it to make sure they aren't hiring some nutjob or to measure your ability and tolerance for handling the some of the hazards of the job (gruesome car accidents, dangerous situations, etc.)?
I've seen it varies from department to department and I haven't gotten a chance to pick up the NFPA yet. When I have seen restrictions, it's generally 20/30 uncorrected/corrected with a max of 20/100 uncorrected. I know my vision is in about the 20/200 range uncorrected, but with soft lenses I am 20/10. I have been pondering lasik, but only as a last resort due to the cost.
Should I be worried, or just accept that it may take me some extra time to find a department that may not have uncorrected vision restrictions? Also, is there any type of appeals process that lets me show that my performance and ability is not hindered by poor uncorrected vision?
EMPLOYMENT IN OTHER STATES
As I am young and single, I am able to keep my options open and have looked to states outside of California to begin my career (mainly Nevada and Arizona). Do you have any advice on things to check out with this? Do I need to move to the state first in order to get that state's certifications before applying? Do other states view California certs as equivalents and let you apply using those?
ANY OTHER ADVICE?
Does anyone have any other advice or suggestions for someone just starting out?
Again, I can't thank you all enough for your help, advice, and guidance and taking the time to help me out.