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Self Improvement for the Modern Day Firefighter

Self Improvement for the Modern Day Firefighter
Assistant Chief Nicholas Christensen, CFO, FO



In today’s ever-changing fire service, it is important more than ever before to stay engaged in progressive changes and career development. Today’s modern day firefighter needs to have a hunger for additional job knowledge and to never stop improving themselves. My professional opinion is that everyone should attend an educational course or complete a fire service certification of some kind each year at a minimum, regardless of position or time in service. Even if you don’t have plans to promote and are happy in your current position, I would pose the question; why not continue to grow as a fire service professional and continue your self-improvement?

I am often asked the question, whether it be after a promotional process or in general as the Training Officer, what can I do to improve? Here are a few responses I share:

1. Certifications: Meeting the minimum certification requirements for a position is simply that, meeting the minimum. But how are you going above and beyond the minimum? Are you getting in the books to make yourself better and master your craft? Completing courses and certifications above and beyond your position to set yourself up for success? It is imperative to constantly strive to make yourself better and never too late to start. Ultimately, everyone has the same opportunities for personal improvement and career growth, it is up to you what you choose to do with it. Applying your time and efforts into a course and completing additional certifications will only make you better.

2. Experience: It goes without saying that experience is a critical component of our job and goes back to the old argument of “Certified” versus “Qualified”. Someone can be the most certified person in the world on paper, but without solid experience to back that up, it doesn’t go too far. On the opposite end, decades of experience but having the mindset that you’ve been doing this job for so many years and don’t need to take courses or complete certifications to learn new and modern ways of doing the job will lead to complacency and doing things the same way they have always been done. A mixture of certified and qualified has to exist together, and that is done with experience through training and real-world responses as well as consistent professional development.

3. Education: Taking the time to accomplish a degree speaks volumes. I highly encourage our personnel to accomplish a degree of some sort, especially one related to our career field. This once again only makes you better and more knowledgeable, both in and out of the fire house.

4. Professional Credentialing: If you look at job announcements in today’s fire service, especially at the leadership level, you will find that not only is a college degree a requirement for certain positions, but candidates are being sought out that also hold professional credentials. Professional credentialing not only highlights your professional growth, but demonstrates your commitment to life-long learning, job related skills development, and your dedication to continue to be a professional that is proficient in your craft. Much like the Accreditation model seeks to improve a department, Credentialing seeks to improve you as an individual. Opportunities exist at the Company Officer level and above through the Center for Public Safety Excellence, at https://cpse.org/credentialing/.

Overall as leaders we want to see our personnel be successful in accomplishing their goals. The use of Individual Development Plans (IDP’s) are an excellent way for managers to track and assist their personnel with accomplishing what they are setting their sights on. At the end of the day, you will never know what you don’t know until you attend that next class or go out for that next training exercise. In doing this, you will not only improve yourself, but in-turn will improve the services you provide to your community.

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