10 Ways to Tend to Your Firefighter Career During the Coronavirus Pandemic — Part One


First responders are essential, pandemic or not. But as the impact of the novel coronavirus continues to hit, more and more first responders are facing quarantines. If you’re home and waiting for the all-clear to get back to work, use your time wisely. Here are 10 ways to tend to your firefighter career during the coronavirus pandemic. Quick note — this is a long post, so we’re breaking it up to make things easier.

1.  Start with a Vision

Find a quiet place to sit with pen and paper, and spend a few minutes with your eyes closed, visualizing what you want said about you at your retirement party way down the road — twenty, fifteen, ten years from now. What accomplishments would make you proudest? Is there a certain rank you want to reach, or a major program you hope to implement at your department? In a few sentences, write down the vision you have — think of it as a sort of mission statement for your career. Just remember to be clear on the reasons driving your vision.

2.  Then Break Down Your Goals

Now that you have your vision, you need steps to make it happen. If your vision is the end goal, what do you need to do to make it happen? Where do you need to be in ten years? Five years? Next year? Working backwards from where you want to be, write down specific steps that will take you there. Check out requirements for promotions to different ranks in your department, look into degree programs, investigate national designations like the NFA EFO — whatever you need to move you toward your vision. You should have a bullet point list with timelines — this is your strategy for turning your dream vision into reality.

3.  Make a Career Plan

This is a sizable task and will take some time, but it will serve as a playbook for the rest of your career. Include your vision statement and your goal breakdown, and start filling in the blanks — the nitty gritty details you need to actually make these goals happen. This is a living document that will serve as a rudder keeping you on the right course. Revisit it at least annually — life throws curveballs, things change, and you’ll likely need to be able to pivot to stay on track. Personally, I like to check in on mine at the end of December, when I’m reflecting on the prior year and planning for the next.

4.  Start Studying for the Next Promotion

If moving up the ladder is a goal, start preparing for that next promotion. Make sure you meet any requirements, or take steps to qualify. And don’t waste time — start the study process now. Some departments have a short turnaround between announcement and test dates — as little as 60 to 90 days. Give yourself the time you need to fully learn the material, and don’t waste time with study strategies that don’t work. You know what does work? Practice tests. Get started for free now.

5.  Start Planning for Retirement

Are you saving for retirement yet? I mean in addition to your pension you’re praying will cover you in retirement. Do you have a Roth IRA or deferred comp plan, like a 457(b)? If you aren’t yet contributing to either or even both of these every year, it’s time to start. Spend all of this sudden free time setting up an account with automatic contributions from your paycheck. Don’t overthink it — just start saving today, right now, and figure out the rest later with some help. You can start small if you need to, but make it a goal to ratchet up your savings as fast as possible. In thirty years, you’ll be so happy you were thinking ahead.

Get started with steps one through five, and check back in soon — steps six through ten are just as important for managing your firefighter career.