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Between Alarms – October 2013

Although achieving the dream of becoming a firefighter may seem like it involves some luck, there is actually very little luck involved in winning the fire-service lottery

September 27, 2013
By Arjuna George


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Although achieving the dream of becoming a firefighter may seem like it involves some luck, there is actually very little luck involved in winning the fire-service lottery; it comes down to preparation, dedication and a lot of hard work.

Fire fighting is more than a profession; it is a calling, a way of life. Let’s look at a few areas on which you can focus on while you are searching for that ultimate firefighter position.

You may hear this comment around your fire hall: “Every day is an interview.” You should be working toward your dream every day and every time you set foot in the hall. Here are 10 ideas to help you advance your dreams:

  1. Be a firefighter between alarms: Your actions are being scrutinized on calls, at the station and when you are off duty. Display your pride in your department, display your talents, your drive, your dedication and your passion. If you have passion, all the other traits and attributes will fall into place.
  2. Brand yourself: What you post online is connected to you for life. It is a virtual photographic resumé that you may not be proud of in years to come. Recruiting departments search your social media background just as they call your references. Use social media to promote yourself, not tank your future.
  3. Use social media: The vast amount of information that is available to up-and-coming members of the fire service is unlike anything we have seen before. The networking opportunities available on social media can aid in your path to success. You can learn from other firefighters and fire service gurus online – without spending any money.
  4. Read, live and breathe fire: If you desire a career in this diverse profession, you must be on your game and know every corner of it. Read magazines, like this one, read books on the science of fire fighting, read web blogs, and peruse social media. Stay connected to what is happening in this great profession. If you are able to volunteer with your local fire department, take the opportunity to learn, grow and hone your skills.
  5. Apply. . . apply. . . apply. . . The only way to win the lottery is to try, try, and try again. Each time you try – that is, apply for a job – you become more valuable and more of a competitive threat to other candidates. The best way to gain experience and confidence is to apply for positions. Look at the application process as an investment in your life: the money and time you spend seeking a firefighter position is worth much more in the long run.
  6. Seek help: Seek guidance in resumé writing, physical fitness and interview skills. If your resumé is not perfect, it is an easy shred. Make it clear, concise and clean. There is an enormous amount of information out there on resumé writing, so take the time and the extra effort to create the perfect application and resumé. Consider hiring a personal fitness trainer to prepare you for the extremely competitive physical exams. Finally, invest in an interview coach. Good interview skills come only with practice and these skills require polishing.
  7. Be physically and mentally sharp: The challenge that lies ahead will be trying. Have mentors in the fire service who can steer you in the right direction when you start to veer off. Find ways to re-energize yourself and balance  your life.
  8. Develop an online portfolio: Create an online presence to promote yourself; an online resumé can make a great difference between you and the next candidate. You can create your own website or use the social media site LinkedIn. LinkedIn can connect you with fire-service mentors worldwide and provide you with a portal to display your talents and achievements. Self-promotion is the secret to survival in today’s business world and it’s no different in the fire service.
  9. Ask yourself, “what is at stake?” If you want to achieve your dream, add a stake to it. Stakes are not rewards, but risky bets that you work hard to not have to pay. This new year, don’t make a resolution, make a fire-service career goal with a stake. 
  10. Don’t give up! This process will be gruelling, and may tax you to the brink of giving up. If you have the passion and follow these steps to landing your dream job, you can increase your odds of winning the fire-service lottery.

In major metropolitan areas, you can expect to be up against hundreds, if not thousands, of highly qualified die-hard candidates who have the same dream that you have; you must be the cream of the crop to be the successful one.

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Recent studies have shown that with the baby boomers retiring, there may be more openings in the Canadian fire service than there are firefighters to fill them. Working In Canada reported in April 2011 that police officer and firefighter jobs will outnumber the available bodies to fill them by 2018.

I hope this provides you with some ideas and provokes some thought in developing your game plan and road map to becoming a firefighter. You are in control of your future; you are the only one who can see the winning numbers and be that lucky person who can say they are living the dream. 


Arjuna George is a 15-year veteran and the deputy fire chief of Operations on Salt Spring Island, B.C. E-mail him at ageorge@saltspringfire.com and follow him on Twitter at @AJGeorgefire


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