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Looking for some advice from those on the job

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  • Looking for some advice from those on the job

    I am not a career firefighter, but my question seemed best directed to those of you already on the job. I apologize in advance for being long-winded.

    I currently work as a mechanical engineer for a small construction-industry company and have been with this company for several years after getting my Bachelor's degree. I joined my local volunteer department a few years ago and really enjoyed the training and learning and work of it all. At the time, I was feeling like my career direction wasn't where I wanted it and started looking for a new job within engineering, and then I realized that perhaps working as a full-time firefighter was my answer. So I started the whole test-around routine, and now I'm sitting in a position on the certified hiring list for a small city likely to be called the next time they hire a new class next year. Seems pretty good, right?

    At the same time, in my current job, I've been working up the pay scale and now sit pretty comfortably with a salary at about the mean household income for our area. The company I work for is great and my co-workers and bosses are all great too - I'm just not so sure it's what I want to do for the rest of my life. There's some time spent traveling (locally) around to construction jobsites, but there's a lot of time spent in front of a computer screen and on my butt. The general feeling of all that comes with the corporate world doesn't really sit well with me either.

    So my situation comes to this: I have a good stable job that pays well, has good future prospects, and a very flexible schedule; or I can switch to the "best job in the world" but with lower pay plateaus (especially with the significant pay cut for academy/probation) and the inherent risks associated with the job. To complicate it more, I have a wife and two young kids to consider when it comes to relocating, job situation, etc. A big part of me is saying how crazy it is to think of switching out of the career path I'm on when it affords the stability of raising a family (and that I can still be a firefighter with my volunteer department). The other part of me is saying that I'd be crazy to let this full-time firefighting opportunity pass by since I worked hard to be here and it doesn't come around too often. It sometimes feels like having an engineering degree means I shouldn't be looking for work as a firefighter but rather more engineering work. But I also know that my educational experience is an asset for potential movement to an officer's position later on.

    What would you do? What's your experience been like?

    I am thankful to have a secure job in a somewhat insecure job market, so I have some internal conflict like, "Why can't I just be happy with what I have?" And maybe that's the answer. Maybe at this point I just have to suck it up and do what seems best for my family. But I think I may also regret that I didn't pursue the opportunity if I let it go. I'm very torn.

    I appreciate your input. Thanks.
    Last edited by CarrotTop; 09-09-2016, 09:54 AM. Reason: Fixed punctuation marks that were screwed up by the forum post layout.

  • #2
    Thank you, those are both good options to consider. I think I get stuck in the mindset that this is a no-turning-back moment when, as you said, there are indeed other options out there and it doesn't have to be set in stone. I feel lucky to have such a "good problem" as this when so many others out there don't have the luxury.

    As far as my wife's perspective, she wants to see me enjoy my job, whichever one it is. She understands the nature of firefighting so I don't think there's a disconnect there. There is an excitement around the idea of switching to full-time firefighting but there's also some uneasiness with some of the trade-offs, especially living on a super-tight budget during the first year or two with a family of four. We aren't high-frills people, so living frugally isn't a problem - it's just the paying the bills and feeding the kids that makes us nervous. I suppose you do what you have to when trying to pursue a goal though.

    My main fear is that I get through probation and all that, but it's just not working out for one way or another. Did I put my family through hardship just to prove a point to myself? Am I able to find as good of a job/company than where I'm at now?

    I know I tend to overthink and overplan things, but this has been helpful to write and process through and think about. Thanks again for your perspective. I welcome any others out there, too.


    • #3
      Prior to getting on the job I also had a stable job that paid well. The major difference it sounds between you and me was I hated my job, every second of it, and that made my life that much harder. I lost about 50k my first-year on the job, our academy is almost 9 months and no overtime, but it was worth it. My quality of life is so much higher than it was before.
      I also am married, however I don't have any kids, not sure I still would have jumped jobs if I had. How do you feel about first responder or medical calls? Everyone loves fire calls and that's what you imagine when you think of firefighting as a profession, but in reality fires will most likely make up somewhere around 10% of your calls. Most of your shift will be spent responding to first responder calls and maybe a few fire alarm calls. There are fire calls but at least around here, they are vastly outnumbered by medical calls.
      Its still the best job in the world and I couldn't imagine doing any other job for the rest of my life. I'm just saying don't jump to this job if you are thinking it's gonna be all fire because most likely it won't be. I hated my job, it doesn't sound like you do, but listen to your heart my friend, as long as your family isn't going to go hungry, follow your heart.


      • #4
        Go for it! Change is good as long as your family is on board. It's a lifestyle change for sure and it can be a tough one but the reason it's the greatest job in the world is because the good usually out weights the bad. And the reason for that is the guys and gals you will work with. Some of the most kind, good hearted genuine people work at fire stations.
        Leave your current career on good terms and try it out. I bet you won't regret it.


        • #5
          Well, to follow up the topic from awhile ago... I cannot report good news of joining your ranks. Actually, due to some additional factors that were not part of my original posts, I had to make the tough call to remove myself from the hiring list. It was painful to do that, as I had worked hard to be on the list. However, circumstances of the last few years have proven that despite the loss, it was the right move to make at that time. I'm not sure if I will have another opportunity in the future to apply for a different department, but we shall see. Thanks again to those who offered their input!

          Specifically, Pittsburgh_Kid, would you turn on PMs for a few questions relating to your post? (Sorry that this is 2+ years later...)


          • #6
            Try out for different departments.

            If you get hired, you have the knowledge to do work on the side, since you would not be in a Monday - Friday job.


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