The past few weeks have been quite interesting for me. I have been working on some personal/professional development through independent study, attending a national conference, and have been training brand new people in a first responder course that have virtually no previous experience on the topic.
What I have found when I reflect on the past few weeks is that I have done more to recharge my own batteries in these recent weeks than I had in many months. And that got me thinking, “why haven’t I done this sooner and how many other people are in a similar rut about personal development?”
Many of you in the emergency services profession remember how it felt when you successfully completed your FF I & II Certification, earned your EMT license, or other major milestones in your career. The fulfillment that you felt, the confidence that you had as you performed your duties, and the pure enjoyment of using your newly acquired skills for the good of the citizens you were there to protect.
Somewhere along the line, life happens. Marriage, Kids, Job, all begin to take priority and before long you find yourself getting up for work, doing your job, going home, getting up for work, doing your job, going home….you get the idea. We’ve all been there! At some point, you realize that the love of your job isn’t so strong and that fire you used to have for your profession is not burning nearly as brightly.
So what happened? How did you get there? Can I ever get it back? These are all very good questions. Fortunately, there are all very positive answers! Most importantly, you can get that fire, desire, and drive back that you once had. What does it take, just simply a desire to make a change and get you back on track. Positive, Motivated, and ready to be that top shelf, professional you always want to be in the first place.
Some people will tell you that growth usually means upward movement in your career. “with more rank comes more responsibility” has been said many times and it is absolutely true. However, planning own success will do a lot to make sure the effort you put forth into personal growth will benefit both you, and the organization you currently work for. Or at least it will help you and assist you in making a change to something new and possibly better.
So what does that plan look like? What kinds of things should be in my plan? What do I do if it doesn’t work?
All great questions to be sure. It requires some thought, identifying what’s important, and then laying out how the plan is supposed to work. Similar to strategic planning that many businesses and corporations use to map out the path of that organization, you too need to map out what you want to do and then set benchmarks on how to accomplish your goals.
As with developing any plan, be sure your steps along the way are reasonable, realistic, and most importantly ACHIEVABLE! If you don’t do so, most likely you and your plan with both fail early and then it’s game over. Back to the same old rut. Be sure to set short term, medium term, and long term goals. Try to identify an end game for your plan. Your ultimate goal. That way you know when you have truly accomplished something.
Things to incorporate into your plan:
Personal development: College classes, online independent study, conferences, and training, training, training
Professional Goals: Certifications, Licenses, Degrees, and other achievements that not only look good on paper but are truly a benefit to your career.
Seek Opportunities to give back: Get out and teach! Instruct others on what you have learned. Give back to your profession and watch others grow. It’s one of the greatest achievements you can have in life.
BALANCE: Don’t allow yourself to burn out. Work at it using a pace that you can maintain. Most people who work hard for a short period of time and then walk away for a long time usually do not finish what they started. Keep a steady pace and keep moving forward.
As I mention all of these things, in my own personal reflection I find that in recent years, I have done little or none of any of these. I am taking my own advice. How do I think I can write these things and why do they work? Because not only have they worked for me previously, I have many colleagues in this line of work who have continued to grow professionally and have surpassed me professionally even though some have been in the fire service nearly half the time I have invested so far!
So, the phrase of the day comes from a quote in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming”. Forward progress is the name of the game. Hopefully many of you have a plan for your own personal development. Maybe you wish to become an officer, a Technical Rescue Specialist, a Master Instructor, or whatever drives you to grow and excel. Map out how you are going to get there, what classes and training you need, how long you think it may take, and don’t forget, HOW MUCH IT WILL COST! That cost should be calculated personally, professionally, and yes, financially too.
Life is always a journey. You should be in it to win it! Keep Training, Keep Sharing, and Keep Mentoring those newer than you. Need your batteries recharged? Give back and help those around you. You will be amazed at what that does to you and your ability to love your job!