All too often I hear candidates say they only want to work for a particular department or in a certain area. Even if they took a test outside their area of interest, they would never work there if they were offered a job.
Volunteers hang their hopes on one day being a paid member of their department. They hang on so long at these coastal or central valley departments they miss great opportunities. Before they realize it, they are too old, don’t have the exposure or education, and their department never would have hired them in the first place. “Time is what happens to you if you’re too busy to make plans.”
I believe you should take as many tests as you can fly, drive, beg, borrow, and grovel to get to. Because the more tests you take, the better you get at taking tests. When the department you really want to work for tests, you are ahead of the curve. Then, along with our Entry Level Program, the magic begins to happen. Often, quicker than you think.
Troy was a medic for a rural northern California ambulance service and a volunteer. He loved his job. He always wanted to be a firefighter. Troy could never figure out why he couldn’t get hired. So here is was at age 31 in a low paying position. It was time for his wife to complete her education.
Last April Troy found our web site. He was making another attempt to become a firefighter. Troy was applying for a position as EMS coordinator for a small rural paid department with a lot of volunteers. His name was written all over this job description. He ended up number 2. They were giving the job to a member of the department with far less qualifications. He called me in May bummed out.
I tried to encourage Troy to come out of the mountains and test for larger departments. He wasn’t interested. He didn’t like the big city. I told him Sac City was testing. Troy said he didn’t even have enough money to go down and rent a motel to take the test. I couldn’t encourage him enough to take the plunge.
Scene two. I get a call from Troy that indeed he had gone to Sac and passed the written. I knew Troy was a good candidate. I told him to stay in touch with me and keep his hands in feet in side the ride at all times; because things were going to start going real fast. They did. He passed the oral. Bam, Bam came the conditional job offer. He received our psych report rush, e-mail. Off to the psych and medical. Guess where Troy works?
Then this from Troy:
Hello, Capt Bob-
Well, it finally seems real. All the hoopla has died down, and it is
packing time. I received my formal invitation to the Academy yesterday.I also submitted my written resignation.
Although this is a dream come true, it is still a bit scary, leaving my comfort zone. Through hard work, my wife’s support, and the Good Lord, the next 20 years will be great.
Your generosity and spirit saved my career. Thank you.
Future badge #1971, Troy
I get emotional just reading this again.
Here’s another situation:
I encouraged Dave to test anywhere he could, so when the department he really wanted to work for tested, he would be up to speed. He went to Colorado to take a test. He said it was just for experience. He wouldn’t take the job if he passed. This was just for the experience. He passed the written. Then the oral. Only for the experience mind you. Then the background packed arrived. Might as well fill it out and keep a copy for future reference.
Dates were set to meet with the background investigator, psych test and poly. Dave was all of a sudden a frequent flyer to Colorado. All for the experience remember. Then the call came one day from the chief of the department. A call he had been waiting for a long time. He was offered a real BADGE!
Now, let me ask you. If you were offered a badge, could you turn it down? Another flight to Colorado. This time with his wife to see if it she would be happy there. Guess where Dave works? Aurora (sp) Colorado.
Oh, by the way, the year after Dave was hired, they sent him to medic school. He can’t imagine working or living anywhere else. He just took the test for the experience.
A response to the above from Matt:
I can really relate with the last post you made on the community board dealing with testing. I was very similar to the guy named Dave. I took every test I could in California. I was a paid on call fire fighter, a seasonal for CDF in the summer and a student at CSU Chico trying to get a Bachelors degree. All of the sudden this last year my life changed forever. I took a test for a department just thinking I was doing it for experience. A few months later I got a letter stating I passed and that my oral interview was soon. I took the oral, got a letter a few months later stating that I passed. I was thinking to myself cool!! But I did not hear anything for a while (nearly six months). Then all of the sudden I had a chiefs interview, wow!! Then a physical, psych, background. Nearly a year after the test I had a full time job. This was a test I almost did not take, but I took it any ways for the experience. I am so grateful that I had a great girlfriend that convinced me to take the test. I am half way through probation and looking very good. I am so happy that all of my dreams for my career have started. I tell all of my buddies that want the badge as you say, test, test, test. Some get the idea and have gotten jobs. Some have not. I just thought I would share this story with you. Matt
My son Rob and I are real fortunate. We get to be part of the changes in so many lives.
“The secret of life is feeling you are on top of the world, whether you are or not” From the book Eat Stress For Breakfast by Fire “Captain Bob”
Just a note to reinforce what Captain Bob has already said: Don’t let what you can not do, affect what you can do. John Wooden (Retired Coach UCLA with the best win/loss record in college basketball) Nice and simple here folks………Test…..Test….Test and test some more where ever and when ever you can!
And just for a little tap on your Frontal cortex……..Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Best wishes
Wow…Capt. Bob is so 100% correct. Too many times I have seen guys become volunteers or PCF with a department, then just ASSUME now that the gravy train is coming to their door.
It doesnt always work like that… T-Bone
I can really relate with the last post you made on the community board dealing with testing. I was very similar to the guy named Dave. I took every test I could in California. I was a paid on call fire fighter, a seasonal for CDF in the summer and a student at CSU Chico trying to get a Bachelors degree. All of the sudden this last year my life changed forever.
I took a test for a department just thinking I was doing it for experience. A few months later I got a letter stating I passed and that my oral interview was soon. I took the oral, got a letter a few months later stating that I passed. I was thinking to myself cool!! But I did not hear anything for a while (nearly six months). Then all of the sudden I had a chiefs interview, wow!!
Then a physical, psych, background. Nearly a year after the test I had a full time job. This was a test I almost did not take, but I took it any ways for the experience. I am so grateful that I had a great girlfriend that convinced me to take the test.
I am half way through probation and looking very good. I am so happy that all of my dreams for my career have started. I tell all of my buddies that want the badge as you say, test, test, test. Some get the idea and have gotten jobs. Some have not. I just thought I would share this story with you.
So here I was 23 years old and working for the fire dept. being the new guy it was my job to do the “reserve night” weekly training for our reserve program. I was surprised to see guys coming in much older than myself, and I assumed they just enjoyed being reserves.
No, they were only going to work for that dept. and no other. I felt a little hostility directed at myself, as they probably thought I took the job that should have been theirs. I asked them how many tests they had taken and they all said, “all of them” but only for my dept. one guy had taken six tests over 20 years, he was 40 and was still just going to hang drywall until the dept picked him up.
That was 12 years ago. He doesn’t work here. He was under the impression he was paying his dues, only the guys who do the hiring didn’t know or care.
We hire people after giving them a physical agility, written test , an oral exam, a chiefs interview, and a psyc, put them through four and a half months in training. When they come into the engine companies we still don’t know if they can go into a burning building, or see someone bleed.
GETTING THIS JOB HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW GREAT A FIREFIGHTER YOU ARE, OR COULD BE, ONLY HOW WELL YOU TAKE THE TESTS.
Is that right? is it fair? It doesn’t matter, what matters is that this is how we do it. It’s not a secret, and the people who figure it out get a job, may be your job. Start learning to play the game every chance you get, so next time instead of not being sure of the rules, you’ll be able to show them THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB, OR WOMAN
It’s time to get in position. With large department like CoCo County getting 3% @ 50 retirement, large numbers will be taking advantage of this retirement. Even those who say they are not going to retire yet change their minds when they put a calculator to the numbers. Once recent firefighter/Engineer said he wouldn’t go yet until he was shown he would be working for $35.00 a month. He immediately said, get me those retirement papers.
So, it’s up to you to be in position to take the upcoming tests. Get to any test you can. You never know what is going to happen.
Since the written and physical ability are pass/fail, 100% of the score to get a badge is in the oral board. This is where you go for all the marbles. After being on over 100 oral boards, I have seen candidates with great credentials. Yet, they couldn’t present the package. And, if you can’t present the package, you will never, never, ever see a badge! Our candidates are improving their interview scores up to 15 points and nailing that Badge.
Skeptical? Sure. This just in on just how fast it can turn around:
I used your Audio/Visual Pack. With the advice you provided, I just passed my first ever oral board. I am psyched! I’m off to the chiefs interview next week.
I have several buddies who have been testing for years and have never made it this far. Boy are they going to be surprised. I will let them use the tapes only after I get my badge. George
Well Captain, you’re right. I tested and tested and tested. I’m a Long Beach guy who has been working on the Memphis Fire Department as a Firefighter/Paramedic for the last 6 years. The funny thing is I just came here for ‘practice’. I came with some friends who were coming to take the test. Some of those other guys wanted only their favorite department; guess what, they still don’t have a badge. I was really just coming because I’d never been to Beale Street or Memphis and I was just along for the ride. Well, that ‘practice test’ turned into 6 years of fantastic experience. I now have the fire and EMS experience that a lot of the departments have expressed interest in (for most of my time here, I’ve been assigned to the 7th busiest Truck Company and one of the top ten busiest ALS Ambulances in the US). That experience and those practice tests have enabled me to opt to take or not to take several different jobs with several great departments; the difference, I got to choose who I wanted to work for. I’ve still been taking ‘practice tests’ to keep my doors open. I also maintain my National Registry which makes it easier to achieve reciprocity for my Paramedic license.
Thanks to all of that practice, I’m now faced with the most difficult choice of my life. Here it is: I’m in the right spot on the promotional lists for both Driver and Lieutenant (on the Company) here at MFD. I love the job, I’ll love the job even more following my upcoming two promotions, but don’t care too much for this city. The problem, if you can call it that, is that I’ve scored 100% on the LAFD oral and have been invited out to continue in the process. I already know that there is no reason that I won’t be successful on the rest of the process. Now it’s just going to be difficult to decide if I want to start fresh in a city in which I’d prefer to live. It’s closer to my Mom, Dad, Grandma and old friends, but very far from my two brothers (with whom I’m very close), one of which now lives with me in Memphis, the other now in Little Rock (only 2 hours away).
Southern California and The West has the activities that I’m interested in participating in, the mountains, the ocean, open minds, ethnic diversity, etc. Here, I have space, I live in a ‘small town, or country’ type setting, minutes away from the ‘big city’, I never have to lock my doors or my car; I have a 3 bedroom, 3 bath house on a ½ acre. There, I’d be lucky to have a small place with a small yard right next to a zillion other people, more realistically, an apartment. I’m sure I’ll like the job just as much, but I’ll have to sell the house and move in an instant, and start fresh as an expendable rookie. But here, for the last several years I’ve been a field training person, critiquing and training students of all types from local colleges and universities, and probie Firefighter/Paramedics. I have built an excellent reputation among my peers and the public. I like that and it really does make a difference. I’m used to making decisions and having my opinion valued and frequently asked for by all ranks, that too is an important intangible. Also, here in Memphis, as a Firefighter Paramedic I am in charge of any scene which involves a medical aspect. This has also been great experience and good for my reputation; it will be difficult to be a rookie after working in that capacity for so long. I fear that I may accidentally share my opinion when I’m not in a capacity to do so and jeopardize my new reputation, or worse yet, job stability.
I am having a hard time finding out what it’s like on the inside at LAFD, I have many important yet unanswered questions. What will the promotional opportunities be like during the time that I’m eligible, how is morale, are the FF/Ps assigned to units, apparatus, or do they swap, are the FFs and FFPs one cohesive team that has mutual respect, or is there tension or unspoken (or spoken) disrespect, can team members sub and swap days, if so when can they begin, etc? Ya know, I have so many questions that I need to have answers to so I can make an educated decision, I need to know these answers because I am selecting them as much (if not more than) they are selecting me. I just can’t find anyone who would like to visit who is on the inside.
Oh yeah, and then to throw another monkey wrench into the mix, the department I really, really want is Seattle. The thing is that LA is nearly a bird in the hand; Seattle is one in the bush. If I take LA, I may not be able to get the time off to participate in the Seattle process. If I don’t take LA, I could wind up stuck in Memphis in the event that I don’t do well enough on Seattle. I was all set for Seattle last year; the only problem was that I ran out of money. Now, in hind sight, I know that I should’ve taken out a loan, had I done that, I wouldn’t be in this predicament now. I’d be a bit more sure about Seattle if I knew that they were going to have the same type of test this next time as they had last time, I’m nervous though because the previous test was awful, simply cryptic!
Do you have any advice for that? I’ve seen a lot of your posts and you have some great advice and wisdom, please, impart some upon me. I’m really in a quandary. Aside from their website, do you have any idea of how or where to meet someone on the ‘inside’ to help me make an educated decision? I know I’d be happy with LAFD, even if SFD didn’t come through, and really, I’m quite happy with MFD, I just know that I’d be happier back in the West.
Sorry this note is so long winded, I am just overwhelmed.
Thanks so much for your time and attention.
I often get e-mails like yours.
Here’s what I would suggest. Take a piece of paper and put a line down the center. On the left list all the pros. On the right all the negatives of the LAFD. Do the same for your department. It might help make it clearer.
As far as someone in LAFD, I have e-mailed you a contact.
I would continue in the hiring process. More will be revealed. If you are offered the job, then make the decision. A lot to be said for the economic shock that will occur coming back. There will also be a different wind ****ing. It’s never the same.
You will always questions yourself if you don’t go. If you decide to go, try and get a leave of absence from your current department. If they offer you a job LAFD and you’re still not sure, ask to pass on this round of hiring. Some departments will do that.
If you go to LAFD and still had your sights set on Seattle, you would find a way to get the time to test there.
How many academies do you have left in you?
Expect the same test from Seattle. They have a tough psych interview. We have a psych report that has helped many.
What a match:
My story is a little different. I got hired by my little coastal town planning to get hired by a larger department. I tested endlessly without success. I became a medic, captain, head of the reserves and training officer for my department. Couldn’t figure it out. Reserves from our department and new hires tested and were hired by other departments.
Eleven years later, I had limited my testing to departments I felt would not hold my age against me.
After one of our reserves was hired by us, then another department, he gave me your audio/video program. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I realized I had been stuck in the oral board process for all those years and didn’t have a clue.
I became immediately focused on a new approach. I backed it up with a coaching session with your son Rob. The very next test I took, I was invited to the chiefs oral. It was like the questions were written for just me. It was my day. This time I was speaking their language.
Captain Bob, it was just like you said could happen. The dust hadn’t even settled and a call came that I had been waiting for more than eleven years. The chief telling me I was everything they were looking for and asking me if I wanted to work for his department. I was stunned. Could my wife and me meet the staff for an informal get together with the other candidates?
This wasn’t just another department. My pay almost doubled and we had to take in a wheelbarrow to haul away the benefits. My wife could finally stay at home if she wanted.
The message here is like you, I had what it took inside me. I just didn’t know I was stuck and how to present it in the best light. I would still be in that coastal town, never reaching my full potential; if it hadn’t been for your program. I’m forever fraternally grateful, Steve
Believe it when you hear, “Nothing counts until you have the badge . . . Nothing.”