Two Reasons and Three Signs It’s Time to Promote in the Fire Service


Every firehouse is full of opinions about promoting, but they remain just that — opinions. Before I dive into reasons and signs you should promote at your department, let me just say this: the only place you’ll find the right answer is in yourself. It’s a challenging pursuit and it will take some introspection, but it’s worth doing what you can to try to silence all the exterior noise to find where you are at in your fire service career right now — and where you want to be down the road. These two reasons and three signs that it’s time to promote may help.

1. Reason: Promoting will Bring You in Line with Your Purpose

The question about your specific purpose in life is a big one, and probably a topic for another post (or an entire book). So let’s narrow the focus somewhat — what is your purpose in your career? There’s no right or wrong answer here, so think back to what motivated you to become a firefighter in the first place. What got you started on this path? And when you drill down to the simple purpose that keeps you going, day in and day out, ask yourself whether promoting will bring you more in line with your purpose. If so, it’s time to start planning your promotion strategy.

2. Sign: You Desire More Responsibility

At some point, you may grow tired of scrubbing toilets or being the “kitchen man” every time you’re at the firehouse. Maybe you’re ready to embrace more meaningful tasks. If this is increasingly on your mind, take it for what it is — a sign that you should start seriously considering promoting. There’s a saying that goes something like this: “He’s twenty going on fifty.” It’s a reference to someone who acts more mature and responsible than conventional for their age. I was one of those people, and the idea of more responsibility appealed to me. If the same applies to you, it’s a sign that you’re ready to promote.

3. Reason: You enjoy mentoring and/or teaching other firefighters

I truly believe that anyone in the fire service can be a leader, and that rank doesn’t matter when you embrace that mindset. Fire departments need leadership coming from every level. Still, the further up the career ladder you move, the more opportunity you’ll have to influence a greater number of firefighters. Some formal leadership does come with every increase in rank. You will start giving evaluations instead of just receiving them. You will be assigned “new kids” or probationary firefighters to train. You could have more opportunity for special projects where you can serve in a leadership role. It’s a great opportunity if the idea of mentoring and teaching others appeals to you.

4. Sign: You Want to Share and Grow Your Vision

Do you have a vision for the perfect crew, division or department? Do you want to make that a reality? Promoting gives you the opportunity to bring more people on board and to take steps to turn that vision into a reality. Say you can envision being part of the best truck company in your department — step one is promoting to a captain or lieutenant of a truck company. Are you thinking bigger, something about implementing a specific new program or division? Battalion chief should be in your future.

5. Sign: You’re Ready to Move Out of Your Comfort Zone

Fitness, relationships, life in general, careers — growth happens when things change. The fact that you’re perfectly comfortable where you are or that you aren’t feeling challenged anymore is a sign in itself that you should start weighing the benefits of promoting. It’s good to be a little uncomfortable and to feel like you still have more to learn. It means you’re pushing yourself to become better. Do an honest evaluation of your current situation to make sure you aren’t inadvertently avoiding areas of weakness. Be straight with yourself — have you really mastered a position, or are you just avoiding something that makes you nervous? The desire to push yourself out of your comfort zone and become a better person is a great reason to promote.

The Takeaway 

There can be many other valid reasons to promote to a higher rank. The most important thing is that you feel like you are at the place you need to be or in the process of working toward it. If that means a promotion, pursue it with all your energy and focus until you get it.