I am sitting here watching Wheel Of Fortune, if you wonder how I came up with this title. The subject of this article has nothing to do with a TV show, but everything to do with what you are doing to position yourself for that job that you are seeking. I ran into a friend today, who was telling me about a job that he is doing for the fire department and the journey that it took for him to get there. Fire department jobs, from entry level to top-level positions, are few in number and sought by many. The question is what are you doing to ensure that you land one of those positions?
Other than professional student, I have held three main jobs in my life. I served in the U.S. Coast Guard; I retired as a firefighter with Chesterfield Fire & EMS; and I presently serve as pastor of Bermuda Baptist Church. Starting with four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, the journey had a lot to do with past experience. During boot camp, I was a part of the Coast Guard Band in Cape May, New Jersey. I had no idea that this would happen, but because I had played a trumpet at Chester Intermediate School, Carver Junior High and Thomas Dale High, I auditioned, within an hour of arriving at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, and became part of this band. My first assignment, out of boot camp, was a firefighter at the CG Training Center Fire Station in Cape May. The reason for this opportunity was because I had been a volunteer firefighter in Chester from 1976 to 1981. From Cape May, I went to CG Training Center Yorktown, Va. It was here that I had the biggest opportunity to control my destiny, as to my next assignment. The reason was that I graduated at the top of my machinery technician class. Though I did not get my first two choices of assignments, I received my third choice, which was Station Hatteras Inlet, Hatteras N.C.
I was discharged from the Coast Guard in 1985 and I took the test to be a Chesterfield firefighter. Again, past experience with Chesterfield Fire and the fact that I had served in the Coast Guard, helped me land this job. Don’t get me wrong; I had to be physically able to complete the physical agility test. We also had to do well enough on a written exam to qualify for an interview with the fire chief. Entry-level firefighter positions are sought by as many as 700 to 1,200 people for 15 to 50 positions, in today’s fire service. I know that my numbers represent a wide range, but applicant numbers and position vacancies vary, depending on the organization hiring. Passing the physical and written tests are givens, but that is a long way from the goal of landing the job. In today’s fire service, preparation for an entry-level job begins while a man or woman is still in school. A military background and a college degree have become niceties for these few positions. Another thing that looks really good on an entry-level firefighter’s resume is an Emergency Medical Technician certification. The higher the certification: A-Ambulance, D-Defibrillator, I-Intermediate or P-Paramedic, the better a person’s chance of landing the job.
You must do whatever it takes to make yourself marketable. The more that you bring to the table, the greater the chance that you will land that job. It has become necessary to rise to the top of the applicant process from the very beginning. The old statement, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again,” must be your mindset. You must go at this with the determination to land that job. If you fail the first time, figure out what went wrong, make the necessary improvements and try again. If you don’t land a firefighter job in the jurisdiction that you want to work in, go to another jurisdiction. Again, you need to make yourself a marketable commodity. Interviewers usually ask you where you hope to be in five years. Giving an answer of another organization is not going to fare well. Though I did not talk about this in detail, your past will help or hurt you. Honesty during the background check, psychological assessment and interview is key to this process. Every person that tries to come clean, after the fact, has never fared well in the process. Making yourself marketable actually begins when you are in middle school and continues throughout high school, and your college and/or your work experience. Get your act together and keep it together. Last, but not least, dream big!
The position that I feel the least worthy to hold is that of pastor, but I have sensed God calling me to this, since I was in the Coast Guard. It is amazing to think about the people that God places in your life, during the journey. I hold a master’s degree that took me until I was 50 years old to complete. The position that I presently hold had more to do with God’s leading and other people’s recommendations than anything that I could say or do. I am thankful for grace because I sure have made my share of mistakes in this position. I have always seen God’s hand in my journey, even when I was in a place that I did not want to be. In June, I will have been the pastor of Bermuda Baptist for 11 years. Whatever the position is that you seek, your past and present have a lot to do with you getting it. If you are a believer, I encourage you to see the journey, in light of His leading.