Are You Blinded by the Smoke of Career Development?

My blog for November 22, 2023, was titled Brick and Mortar: Certified or Qualified? I compared bricks to certifications and qualifications to the mortar that holds the bricks together to build a solid career structure.

Walking through the smoke

In the photo above, notice the firefighters walking through the smoke. The smoke is acrid, stinging the eyes and making them water. Prolonged exposure produces a headache from the carbon monoxide contained in the smoke. Visibility becomes difficult and more so when the smoke becomes thicker.

Many times, career development feels like walking through the smoke of a fire.

The process of career development

In the fire service, many organizations provide a checklist or matrix of certifications the firefighter must follow to progress in their career. Some organizations include a task book as part of career development. In this process, the firefighter must complete each task in the book while under observation by someone of a higher rank or qualification. These steps compare to the bricks I wrote about in November.

The smoke of career development

The mortar binds and holds the bricks together that create the structure. In the November 22nd blog, I wrote that part of the mortar contains evaluated experience, wisdom, and judgment.

What about the rest of the mortar? What is that comprised of? Trying to answer those questions often creates career smoke leading to frustration on the part of the person who is seeking more opportunities for personal and professional development.

Get out of the smoke

Just as it is not healthy breathing the smoke of a fire, it is not healthy trying to navigate the smoke of career development without assistance. You must step out of the smoke and gain clarity and control of your career.

This means that even if your organization does not provide training opportunities or it is a one-time only offer, your career continues regardless of the training that you are missing.

How do you gain control of your career development and not leave it to the mercy of your organization? By first identifying the other parts of the mortar that you need such as self-awareness, understanding human behavior, and how to better communicate. This also requires an understanding that personal development is an ongoing process and does not occur overnight1.

Reading books, articles, and blogs is a good practice, but you need to move beyond those single person activities as they only take you so far and at a slower pace of development. Attending seminars, workshops, and webinars is also beneficial, but what happens afterwards? All too often the information gleaned from those activities is not shared with others and it is lost to time.

Coaching and mentoring

However, engaging in the services of an experienced coach and mentor allows you to climb to higher levels and increases your impact on the lives of others. Your participation in bi-weekly or monthly small group meetings expands your horizons even further.

This is the service I provide through Tailboard Talks. The opportunity to come together with like-minded firefighters and fire officers in a safe environment. An environment where you can voice frustrations and ask questions without fear that you will be ambushed in an annual evaluation by your supervisor.

To learn more visit my website at Individual Officer Development Options – Fire Officer Leadership Academy or send an email to [email protected].

2024 is only a couple of days away. Get out of the smoke of professional development and propel your career to new levels.

1John C. Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, (New York: Center Street, 2012), 10

Fire Officer Leadership Academy