Whether you want to just be a good human being or you want to become a Firefighter, having a proven track record of volunteer or community service experience can be very beneficial and/or rewarding, among other things.
If I want to become a Firefighter, why is it important to have volunteer experience on my resume?
Besides the reasons mentioned above, many fire departments will ask candidates during the oral interview what and how much volunteer or community service they have performed and are currently performing. Not having an answer for this question that demonstrate a proven track record of serving one's community or fellow man or woman can be the kiss of death for a candidate in many departments.
When a candidate is asked in the oral interview, "why do you want to become a Firefighter?", many answer with something like "because I want to help people," or "because I want to give back to my community." And then you look at their resume and they have zero volunteer or community service experience on their resume. Well, first of all, answering that question with those two answers is not bad, but those answers don't get you hired because they are generic or clone answers. Plus, should every human being (even non fire service personnel) want to help others or serve their community. That's something you should be doing anyway. Second, even if you feel you want to answer those questions that way, disregarding the advice given here, that is ok. You just better back it up (walk the walk, not just talk the talk) on your resume by having a proven track record to convince the oral board you actually do what you say you do.
What if I don't have time to volunteer? I have to work, I have family commitments, I have a social life, I'm just too busy!
Excuses, excuses, nobody cares about your excuses. Make it happen, find the time. If you think life is busy now, wait until you become a Firefighter. Well, if you can't handle the busy now, you may not get to become a Firefighter due to the demands the career and pursuing the career will put on you. If you want to become a Firefighter, you're going to have to great at time management, planning and organizational skills, and communication skills, just to name a few. Start learning how to juggle things, focusing on quality, not quantity.
Does my volunteer experience have to be as a Volunteer Firefighter?
NO! Since many candidates you will be competing with may have Volunteer Firefighter experience, what happens then is you look like the other candidates. That in itself is not necessarily bad, but to be a candidate that makes the top of the list to be considered for employment, you need to stand out in a positive way, and not look or have the same resume as your competitors. If you can get Volunteer Firefighter experience, great. If not, there are many other ways that can allow you to be unique and still give back to your community and serve others.
Does being a Volunteer Firefighter increase my chances of becoming a full-time Firefighter for that fire department?
NO! While it is good if you can obtain experience as a Volunteer Firefighter, it is not required and in some ways it can hurt you. How can it hurt you? Well, as a Volunteer Firefighter, the crews now get to know you. If you are reliable, hard working, trustworthy, pleasant to be around, and appear to be someone they would like to hire as a full-time Firefighter, then your time may be well spent. If you are not those abovementioned things, then your time may not benefit you for that fire department when it comes to your career pursuits. Think of it this way: being a Volunteer Firefighter gives you a foot in the door, and it may increase your odds of getting hired full-time in that fire department to 50/50. Why not 100%? As mentioned above, the crews get to know you, and they may find out the real you, who they don't want to spend the rest of their career having to babysit or tolerate! The problem with some Volunteer Firefighters is that they tend to get complacent or feel a sense of entitlement, and then get too comfortable, which is not a key to success for their future.
What types of volunteer experience are available to me as a Volunteer Firefighter?
In the major metropolitan areas, such as the S.F. Bay Area, it is very hard to find fire departments who have Volunteer Firefighters. Below you will find some links to some S.F. Bay Area Fire Departments with Volunteer Firefighter programs. The list is not exclusive, and is always subject to change. Do your own research above and beyond what is below.
Where can I find volunteer experience opportunities?
These are just a few suggestions, do your research and find something you enjoy doing so that passion and enthusiasm will be used in a positive way to benefit others!
What are some S.F. Bay Area Fire Departments that have VOLUNTEER Firefighter (or similar named) positions I can consider applying for?
What is an Explorer Firefighter and how does that position differ from a Volunteer Firefighter?
While they are both typically unpaid, volunteer positions, an Explorer Firefighter is sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America and is for individuals typically aged 13 through 21 (each fire department's requirements may vary) years of age. It is usually a step before becoming a Volunteer Firefighter in some departments.
What are some S.F. Bay Area Fire Departments that have EXPLORER Firefighter (or similar named) positions I can consider applying for?
Now that I have some volunteer experience, what do I do with it?
Document it on your resume, and be prepared to talk about it in your next oral interview!
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The Future Firefighter's Preparation Guide by Steve Prziborowski
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