Fire Fighting in Canada

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StopBad: Be ambitious

November 25, 2022  By Gord Schreiner


Too often members of the fire service are not prepared for the next promotion or hiring. They seem surprised, when reading a job posting, to find they do not meet the minimum requirements. In many of these cases, the minimum qualifications have been known for a long time. Some think that one day in the future they will take more courses or try a little harder to be prepared. When an opportunity arises, they are not ready and want to blame the system, others, or anyone but themselves. 

Many will start to hustle to try to get what they need to meet the minimum only after the opportunity has been presented. This is often too little too late. Others are already out in front of you as your competition has been preparing for a while. It can be very hard to catch up on short notice. Your competition often not only meets the posted minimum requirements but often exceeds them. 

The unprepared candidate may hope that their years of service will carry them, only to find out that this is unlikely. They are frustrated that their years of service and previous commitment doesn’t often carry more weight in the selection process. Employers want to hire and promote the very best candidates. Employers want people who have looked forward and planned their future. Employers want to see your progression of training, your commitment level. Not taking a new course in the past few years is often a bad sign. 

This is true at all levels, whether looking at a promotional opportunity to a lieutenant or a chief officer position.

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Even if you have the minimum qualifications, don’t stop there. Keep building yourself to be prepared for the next opportunity as life is full of opportunities, you just need to recognize them and be ready for them. You will not regret learning more and being better prepared for your future. 

Of course, being prepared for advancement requires a lot of effort and sacrifices. Successful candidates must make tough choices and significant commitments to prepare themselves in advance. As we all have very busy lives and limited time, candidates must make some tough choices on how they can make a stronger commitment to be more successful. The skill of time management is very important. I have strived to prioritize family, followed by my job. The time I need to prepare to further myself in my career comes from my spare time. 

Preparing means using this time to take additional courses and perhaps making a stronger commitment to the organization you are hoping to be more successful with. 

Sacrifices need to be made to be successful. Just look at successful people around you. There are lots of great examples. Ask successful people what they did to get to where they are. What sacrifices did they make? I can guarantee you they will have lots to share with you and they have likely made lots of sacrifice on their journey to success. 

Luck has very little or nothing to do with it. I have had many people tell me how lucky I am to be the chief of a great department. I agree but also know of the years of hard work I put in to get here and the continued efforts I make every day to prove that I deserve this position. 

You need to constantly demonstrate your desire and commitment. Organizations want to hire and promote ambitious, dedicated, and committed individuals. 

Employers are also looking for innovative people who embrace change.

Do you have the skills and desire to bring new ideas to the organization or are you happy to maintain the status quo and maintain what others have worked to build?

I strongly recommend that you look forward now and keep improving yourself. You may not know where your next opprotunity is coming from, but it is coming. Prepare yourself now so you don’t miss out. 

Successful people have worked hard to achieve what they have, and they continue to work hard to maintain what they have and set themselves up for success when the next opportunity knocks. Take charge and control your own destiny. 


Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is a full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C., where he also manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. He has delivered countless presentations in fire stations all over Canada and is available to assist your department in many areas. Contact Gord at firehall@comox.ca. 


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