Here is a copy of an article that I wrote for the California State Firefighter Assn. magazine. I thought it might hit home to some of my fellow firefighters.
Impacting the New Generation
I generally reserve this column for advice geared toward entry-level candidates. This one I am going to address toward career firefighters as a reminder of how we influence the new generation.
I have a close friend who has been trying for seven years to get hired in the fire service. He has done all of the usual things that aspiring firefighters do to make himself a marketable candidate, including graduating from a basic fire academy, working as a reserve firefighter, earning a firefighter 1 certificate and his Associate’s degree.
For employment he worked for the past seven years as a waiter at a major restaurant chain. What really impressed me about this candidate is that for the past seven years, while working a job that solely paid the bills, he never was late and he never called in sick. I know that as a firefighter I cannot make the same claim. Imagine the type of employee he would be if he got a job he truly aspired to do for the rest of his adult life.
Once he tightened up his interview skills, the inevitable happened. He got a job offer as a firefighter. As a matter of fact, he got two. He was excited to join a fire department that was adding stations at an impressive rate. As a part of his employment he was going to be sent to paramedic school, something he had only dreamed of. Now he was not only to become a firefighter, but the department was going to pay him to go to paramedic school. It just couldn’t get any better.
He packed all of his worldly possessions and drove to his new city. He found an apartment and signed a long-term lease. He completed a very rigorous academy and scored near the top. He was excited to get his station assignment. He brought pies to his shift and was assigned a locker. His heart skipped a beat as he saw “his” shiny new engine for the first time. He was excited to be a member of a growing department. He had reached his goal.
He was amazed at the affordability of housing prices.. His dream of being a firefighter and owning a home was now within his grasp.
When he returned to work, one of the firefighters on the other shift asked him a question that struck him as a little odd. He asked how long he planned on staying with the department. The rookie was perplexed and stated that he planned on spending his entire career with the department. The firefighter looked at the newbie and stated, “I bet that will change.” The old head firefighter went on to say that the firefighters believed they were underpaid and underappreciated. The firefighters were at odds with management and were unhappy with their pay and working conditions.
Each shift the talk around the kitchen table centered on how the job had deteriorated and how the firefighters were getting the short end of the stick. The rookie was told on several occasions by senior members of the department that he should get his paramedic license and move on to another department before he got “locked in to this place.”
The firefighter called me the other day to tell me about his new job. He was pleased that his first two probationary evaluations were extremely favorable. He also was confused and was very disappointed. He had worked so hard for a job, only to hear people he looked up to, the senior firefighters, speak poorly of the department.
I hung up the phone and sat in silence for a moment. I was reminded of how impressionable a new firefighter was and how quickly his or her attitudes can be influenced at the kitchen table. The attitudes can be shaped in a positive fashion, or as in this case, in a negative fashion.
This young firefighter had reached his dream of getting hired. He was excited to be a member of a growing department and the opportunity to be a paramedic in the very near future. The city’s master plan included adding numerous new fire stations in the next ten years, which meant a great opportunity for promotion. All of the equipment was new and state of the art.
One thing that didn’t appear on the job description flyer or in the Chamber of Commerce pamphlet was the negative attitude of the firefighters. The rookie has decided that the group may right. This may not be the place for him. He still has a dream of buying a house and being a productive member of the fire department, but for the first time I hear reservations in his voice. He has decided to complete paramedic school, as it will make him more marketable IF he chooses to look elsewhere.
As the senior firefighters we have a huge impact on the new generation’s attitudes and how they value their new job and our profession as a whole. Many of us have had differences with the people who pay our salary. It is incumbent upon us to keep a positive attitude with our new employees. I still remember the day when I got the phone call telling me that I had gotten hired. I remember the first day of the academy and the excitement of seeing my name tag on the desk. Yes, it was true! I remember the excitement of my first station assignment. I remember my first call, my first fire, and delivering my first baby. Now that I am one of the “older” guys I have an opportunity to see the fire department from a different perspective. This experience reinforces to me how important it is to keep a positive attitude. As a group I want to encourage everyone to make an effort to promote the new generation’s enthusiasm rather than crush it.
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Thread: Impacting the new generation
03-18-2007, 12:44 AM #1
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Impacting the new generation
03-18-2007, 09:51 PM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2003
- Missouri and Colorado but from the East Coast!
You are right again Chief!There is Life outside the Firehouse!
03-18-2007, 10:45 PM #3
wow, thats a great read.
I come from a dept that kind of fits that mold. with me being a new guy last year, i too was asked," so is this place just a stepping stone for you?" Here i was just bright eyed and bushy tailed to be working, and these guys are telling me this isnt the place to be. yes, it is fact that in the metro area, we are one of the slowest and underpaided depts. but you know, i knew that taking the job offer. Just with like any other rookie, i too looked at all of the older wiser guys for "the xyz way." it makes it really hard to be excited about showing up every day when everyone is bitching about something.Your a daisy if you do.
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