I've got prospects.

I'm not officially employed by anyone at the moment.

Eagle Eyed Cherry:
"Save Tonight"

Red Kool-Aid.

I *really* want to be a professional firefighter.

10 June 2001
No entry.

10 June 2000
Those wacky baby boomers.


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Quote du jour:
"Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure." (George E. Woodberry)

I've got a stack of materials that I've used in The Great Job Hunt to prepare for interviews and such. One of the standard questions on the literature has been "what is your biggest weakness?". My stock answer (that I've only had to use once) is that I get too focused on the task at hand and tend to neglect personal projects that aren't as high of a priority. This journal is a fine example.

The last month or so hasn't been the most tumultuous of my life, but it's certainly been the period of time filled with the most uncertainty. The events and feelings of this year have been great fodder for journal entries... Journals entries that I didn't write because I was so focused on the events and feelings of the year.

That ends here as I tell you the story of The Great Job Hunt.

For future reference, you'll need to know of three jobs:

(1) The major national organization (MNO). These guys want me to do some lower-level management stuff and some sales. The work schedule was going to be irregular -- but that was a perk as much as it was a drawback. I'm tired of working long and crazy hours, but they would have been flexible enough for me not to complain. They would have paid me well and given me great benefits in addition to letting me work from home (health, dental and vision all paid for). There would have been a great deal of regional travel involved. I would have been able to stay on at the Smallville Fire Department, but MNO said that I wouldn't have time for it.

(2) Pineville Fire Department. A department 20 miles down the road from Smallville in a town of about only 6,000 people. The FD is mostly volunteer, but they hire career guys to drive and operate their trucks. The chance to make an impact was pretty good, but the pay and the location were major drawbacks. Because of insufficient staffing, my chance to take time off was going to be limited. In addition, they wanted me to live in the city so they could call me in while I was off duty. The salary (with compensation for vacation and uniform allowance included) was less than $20k.

(3) Lakeland Fire Department. A department in a bedroom suburb of The Big City. The FD also has a strong volunteer force, but usually has more than one guy on duty at a time. Additionally, they are starting to expand their department and are looking at adding more people next year. The potential for growth is exciting. The LFD will allow me to live anywhere and is close to a larger city, eliminating the chance of severe boredom. The pay, after one year, is $8k more than Pineville. All of the firefighters are trained as EMTs and respond to medical calls in addition to fires and rescues, but when they are off duty... they remain off duty (unless there is a large fire). They also pay for an individual's health and dental insurance.

The job search began much earlier than expected when I got an e-mail from Jessie one afternoon in February. Through an on-campus e-mail, she learned that MNO was conducting interviews for a position to be based in Smallville. The pay seemed solid (60% more than what the Smallville FD started at) and the benefits lucrative. I had visions of being able to build savings while staying Smallville and fighting fire on the side. I called them and sent in my resume as requested.

I scored an interview with the big boss quickly and felt very good about my chances. The feeling of impending success grew when the guy just under the big boss called to meet with me, too. I felt very much like these guys were readying me for the job. By the end of March, I'd been named one of two finalists from an initial pool of more than a dozen serious applicants. A second interview was scheduled for April Fool's Day.

I spent a couple of hours with the big boss during the second interview. We chatted, ate lunch and then chatted some more. The big boss was quite experienced in the hiring process and there was little (if anything) he didn't cover without me having to ask. Yet, he kept probing me for questions.

"Don't you have any questions?"

"What more do you want to know about us?"

"What kind of questions do you have for me?"

In the beginning, I did have questions... But he answered them... All. And so I was left in an odd position. I wanted to show my interest in the job, but I knew everything I thought I needed to know. What was I supposed to do? I resorted to telling him how thorough he'd been and how good a job he did at covering all of the bases. He replied with, "so you can tell I've done this before?"

During the second interview, I wanted to find a way to set myself apart from the mysterious other candidate. When the interview was over, I didn't think that happened. I received confirmation of that fact two days later when I got the call.

"Fletch, I've got good news and I've got bad news," he said. "Which do you want to hear first?" I was indifferent to the matter and so the bad news came first. Of course, it was the news that I had not been picked for the position. The consolation prize, I was told, was that similar positions existed within the organization elsewhere in the country. I told them I was interested and the big boss said that he'd be in touch.

Feeling confident that I had a back-up job in place, I put the job hunt on hold and returned my focus to school. (Well, I was as focused on school as much as could be expected from me.)

Like the first, my second opportunity came to me through my e-mail inbox. In what would seem like a fluke, my mom sat down with her paper on April 15 and happened to notice an ad announcing the Lakeland Fire Department civil service test. The deadline for applying to take the test was less than 48 hours away.

I spent the next day or so trying to reach a personnel director who was -- unbeknownst to me -- not in town. The poor guy probably felt like he knew me just from my many voice mails. I had finally decided to make the four-hour drive from school in Oakdale to Lakeland to pick up an application when the director returned to work and returned my calls. He agreed to fax the packet to me. With only a few hours to spare, I faxed everything back and was on the list to take the test.

This was my first chance at a fire department job and I was quite excited. I picked up a couple of test preparation books and did my best to prepare for the May 4th test while still studying for my classes and working for the paper.

When the day came, I was a tad nervous because I didn't know what to expect. Every department's test is a bit different. Some focus on general knowledge. Some apply it to the fire service. Some want you to come into the test knowing a thing or two. This one, has luck would have it, focused on general knowledge in the form of fire-related questions. In other words, the questions dealt with firefighting, but you didn't have to be a firefighter to answer them.

I did well. I thank the grace of God and the fact that I've spent the last few years in school for this. By looking around the room, you could tell that this was the first test some of the guys had taken in a while. For me, it was the second firefighting test in less than 24 hours (I'd taken a practice test on the trip up the night before) and maybe the sixth or seventh test overall in the last two or three weeks. Darkening little circles with letters in them was old hat.

The test results were certified and I was notified that I'd made a 97% on the test. I was told the folks with the top three grades would be interviewed to fill the department's one vacancy. I went about the business of wrapping up the semester and graduating while wondering if I was one of the lucky three. A few days after graduation, the chief at Lakeland called.

"Fletch, can I make your day?" he said. I decided to let him.

I met the chief face-to-face when I interviewed May 29th. From our early moments together, I knew that I wanted to work for this man. Yet the interview turned into one that I won't soon forget.

When we sat down in his office, the chief made it clear that when we finished he wanted me to know everything there was to know about Lakeland and that he wanted to know everything there was to know about me. I expected to be raked over the coals. Instead, he spoke about the city and the department for a few minutes. In his little speech, he answered all of my primary questions. It was almost like I was back at the MNO interview all over again. When he asked for questions and I told him that he'd done a find job answering them, he even repeated MNO's big boss by saying, "so you can tell I've done this before?"

The chief asked me only two questions -- inquiring about my interest in firefighting and what I had done to prepare for a career in the fire service. With those out of the way, the department was summoned by a neighboring community to help with a working structure fire. We made our way to the apparatus bay for a quick look at the rigs before they left on their run. That was the first interview I've ever had where only two questions were asked of me before being ended by a fire. On his way out the door, he promised an answer by the end of the week... which lay only two days away.

To be continued...

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