5 Things You Can Do to Have a Successful First Day in the Firehouse
You have made it through all the testing and your firefighter interview preparation has paid off! The thought of your first shift can leave anyone feeling a bit unbalanced and overwhelmed. Let’s take a look at what you can do to have a successful first day in the firehouse.
Today is the day you prepared for! You made it through the academy and successfully earned the rank of probationary firefighter. With the studying, academic preparation, and physical demands of the academy behind you, it’s time to take that first step of your new career. For many probationary firefighters, or probies, one of the biggest unknowns is what to do on day one. You’ve got this one chance to start your career off on the “right foot,” build rapport with your new crew, and impress your captain. It’s imperative to go into day one mentally and physically ready for the 24-hour probie life.
Probie’s First Day Must Do’s:
1. Be Early, VERY Early
Vince Lombardi once said, “If you are five minutes early you are already ten minutes late.” During your first year arriving 30 minutes early is on time, 15 minutes early is late, and late is absolutely unacceptable. Your arrival sets the tone for your day and is an indication to your crew of how prepared you are to be a high performing team member. Arriving early shows that you value being informed and want to take an active role in ensuring all systems are a “go” before your shift is set to begin. Your goal is to be the first-arriving crew member. So you may need to tailor your approach to your crew. If your Captain normally arrives 30 minutes prior to a shift, then you want to arrive 45 minutes early. This is your time to start the coffee, check out equipment, and be brought up to speed from the off-going shift. You’ve not yet earned the ability to sit at the kitchen table and shoot the breeze with the crew- so don’t do it.
2. Look Your Best
Similar to the interview, your appearance does matter. The firefighter uniform naturally evokes confidence from the public, but your biggest concern on day one is that you inspire confidence and respect from your crew in every single thing you do– including your appearance. Your hair should be cut, face clean-shaven, and nails/cuticles clean and trimmed. Your uniform should fit your body. If the uniform issued to you on day one is not a perfect fit, then be sure to make the time off-shift to have it tailored to your physique. Example: your sleeves should not come down to your elbows unless you want to risk looking like a newbie your entire career. Aesthetics leave impressions and you want the impression you make to be one of a professional.
3. 100% Effort
As a probationary firefighter it’s imperative that you not only work hard but be seen doing it. You need to prove that you are proactive in determining the needs of the crew and can prioritize tasks for impact and efficiency. Let’s say that on your docket you need to clean the kitchen, vacuum the t.v. room, and scrub the bay floor. A high performing probie will prioritize these tasks for visibility. Instead of cleaning the kitchen during dinner, vacuuming while the t.v. room is in use, and scrubbing the bay floor after the engine pulls away, the high performing probie will clean and vacuum while the engine is away and complete those tasks just before it returns so that the crew can see the probie finishing scrubbing the bay floor as they return. Either way, YOU are the one doing the work, it’s up to you to make sure you are “seen” doing it, and thus build a reputation of being a hard worker.
4. Listen More Than You Speak
Your probationary year boils down to two things: exhibiting your work ethic and learning as much as you can on the job. As a probationary firefighter everyone knows that you are new and green, so there’s no need to offer opinions when they aren’t solicited and your focus should be on learning from your crew. Listening = learning. The only time you shouldn’t be listening is when you are asking questions. Once you have built a strong rapport with your superiors and fellow crew members, you can ‘read the room’ and look for moments to let your personality out. While it is vitally important to listen more than you speak, it is also just as important to let your crew get to know you for the person you are. If you never speak, they will never have the opportunity to get to know you.
5. Who Doesn’t Like Donuts?
It is a long standing tradition in the fire service that you bring treats for the crew on your first day. This holds true whether you are showing up for a ride-along, a station visit, a mock interview, or your first day on the job. Bringing something in shows your appreciation for their time and acknowledges that you appreciate them allowing you into their station. Along with a good attitude and a strong handshake, bringing treats is one of the fastest ways to make a good impression. You can bring donuts, muffins, pastries, breakfast burritos, or ice cream; but whatever you do, bring something.
Don’t let all your hard work up to this point go to waste. Be sure you are on top of your game the first day you show up in a fire station. The tone you set and the impression you make during your first days will set the tone for the rest of your career. Senior firefighters are paying attention to you and the little things on your first day, so do your best!