Out there today there is triple the number of people who want the job than there are “on the job.” Over time many give up, they settle for a separate career, or they become consumed with resentment towards others who got the job. The Fire Service whether you volunteer, or career is the greatest job in the world, no matter if you either are paid or not it is a profession. That being said, there is a large population of citizens and volunteers out there who want this job. With the competition so large and the opportunities so small, it seems like a mathematical certainty that many will not be able to get “on the job.”
In this recent and fantastic opportunity, I had to be interviewed by Chris Baker & Chief Jacob McAfee, and I was able to discuss my journey and hear about theirs. The funny thing is though we work on different sides of the country and we have different types of Firefighting jobs, we were each able to relate to each other’s story. My hope is for the listener, and the reader take at least that away from this, you are not alone, we all have a story of our journey to success and our long road to get “on the job.”
My story started with me volunteering in the Iselin section of Woodbridge Township, NJ. Throughout three years we had a large young population of members that made up our Department, each of us took tests for the FDNY and local cities throughout New Jersey as well as traveled to cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charlotte & DC. With quite literally all of my brothers getting on the job in what seemed to be within a year of taking the test and me hearing nothing I grew envious of them, I started to say things like “why them?” “When is my turn?” I resented them for their success instead of being proud of them. This attitude developed into more of a pessimistic look on life, I became unmotivated and felt self-deserving of an opportunity just because I wanted it and not because I was willing to put in the work. Over time I burned bridges with peers, lost friendships and was becoming a person who was going to amount to nothing. Just when I was about to give up and working construction laying pavers for my brother, I was approached by a mentor and dear friend named Terry Kennedy, he said “Hey Pal I know you want the job but you need to work on your attitude, I want to help you because I know you love the job and I feel you deserve to get on the job, but I need you to work on yourself and focus on you; stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.” He then sat with me in my apartment and helped me create my profile and write my resume for the Federal Government because he was already on the job and at the time working for the Fort Monmouth Fire Department. Terry coached me on what specific details about our technical job needed to be captured and articulated in my resume, he taught me how to apply for jobs and then when my first interview came, and he coached me on how to stand out in the interview. In just six months of searching, I was offered a job by the former Naval Air Station Brunswick Maine Crash Fire Rescue Department. I took my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time), and we moved seven hours from our beloved state of New Jersey to chase my dream.
You see we all need a mentor, we all need someone else who is going to give us that kick in the rear, however, sets us on the right path. Those who refuse to work with others and think that they are going to gain success on their own are bonkers, they may end up having what I like to call “on paper success” which just means that somewhere it says that you have a title, but real success comes from your ability to work with others. Firefighters love helping people, but we also enjoy helping each other, network with these like-minded people because trust me they all have a story like yours. They’ve all been there before, driving from test to test, going on interview after interview and so on. The ones that made those sacrifices genuinely appreciate the job because they know of the hard road they traveled to get there.
Tapping into those who want the job, those who are on the job and building a network with these folks will create endless possibilities. By working with others, we learn more about ourselves and become more versatile in our abilities. The people you network with come from all different backgrounds and have skills in things that you may not, just as you will have skills in something they may not. By networking with each other you fill each other’s gaps, you end up rooting each other on and deliver guidance, feedback and give advice when it is needed. Things like that make us better prepared to face our challenges as we aspire to achieve greatness.
I have entirely reestablished my focus on my goals and how I will achieve them because of networking. Networking is a continuous process, not just to get on the job but once you are on the job, you may want to become a leader. By networking with other leaders, you will be able to gain the tools you need to become an effective leader. Networking specifically is contributed to things like this, being able to write for Fire Engineering, teach at FDIC and be interviewed on these podcasts; all of that comes from networking. Chief Bobby Halton says “if you attend a workshop, walk up to these instructors and authors afterward. Pick their brains, exchange contact info with them and network with them.” That advice is near and dear to me because I did exactly that with him, I have attended several of the Expos and workshops, got to get advice and guidance form people like Chief Lasky, Chief Salka, Chief Viscuso, and many others. The first time I saw Bobby Halton speak was when we developed our relationship we have today. I nervously approached him and told him I wanted to write for him and teach for him. We exchanged info, and four years later I have been contributing for Fire Engineering, teaching at FDIC and have lectured throughout the country. If it wasn’t for the opportunity to network with such essential role models like those Chiefs, I might have never been able to do what I am doing today.
As I close this, I will tell you one last story; I cannot talk about networking without giving a shout out to my brother LT Steve Hamilton. Steve helped me with my blogs, helped me with my FDIC application and introduced me to more people in the Fire Engineering business than I even knew existed. I network with Steve every day, we have taken our love for the job and our beliefs in networking to a higher level, and we are in the process of developing regulations for our branch of the Federal Government on training policies. We established a team of over 72 members who are directly attached to Fire Training throughout the world, and we communicate and share information, lesson plans and build a better Fire Service weekly. The point of that is the impact that Steve and I, as well as the others who have contributed to this, are huge. The future of how we do business and train as Firefighters is going to be a direct result of the willingness to network with each other. So, you see, as I always say, the possibilities are endless as long as you are willing to remove your ego and work with others…why? Because Networking is the Key to Success. And to quote LT Steve Hamilton “, it all starts with a handshake and a smile.” Walk up to those who you aspire to be and ask them to help you with your success, soon you will be networking for success.
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