Want to Get Promoted? Be the Right Kind of First

I was lucky to have some great officers and leaders influence my career path in the fire service, in business and in life. They were always offering sound advice and sharing their experiences. Some I heeded right away and others I had to learn the hard way over time due to my stubbornness.  Either way, their words and actions provided me a template to use to work to be the best I can be and to advance in my career.

Now, I have the opportunity to pass along the valuable bits of information that were passed down to me along with my own experiences and thoughts to those that ask or work with me. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to teach in many formats and locations over the years and it still is impressive how many friends I meet along the way that stay in touch. With that, I get a lot of questions about different aspects of being an officer/leader in their respective departments and careers and I’m honored that they would ask.

Recently I had a conversation with a firefighter working to gain promotion to the company officer level. We all struggle with the many factors that may influence promotions and it can be easy to become frustrated with them. But, we need to remember that we can only control what we can control, which is us.

In this conversation the discussion went in a direction of him asking me how to be number one in the promotion process? I asked what he had been doing and about his consistency. This firefighter went on to tell me about the books he’s read, the classes he’s taken and the formal process that he has performed well in at his department. It was pretty impressive and he was being consistent. But, there were a few things that he didn’t mention. That’s not to say that he’s not doing them, but they need to be important enough and ingrained that he can recall them and ensure that he continues to do them. More importantly he needs to remind himself to act on them daily.

They are what I like to call the "Be First List."

It’s not about “you” in the sense that you put yourself above others, instead it’s about what you do first. Let’s take a look. 

  • Be first to report to work and meetings; be early and eager.
  • Be first to get up from the table to clean up after a meal.
  • Be the first to start daily duties and tasks.
  • Be the first to ask the questions about the job that nobody else cares about or will. (About traditions, why we do this or that, etc.)
  • Be the first to inquire from your officer/manager about experiences and knowledge.
  • Be the first ready to drill and train.
  • Be the first to help with drills or training when appropriate.
  • Be the first to try a new technique or to demonstrate new skills.
  •  Be the first to accept challenges or assignments passed down.
  • Be the first to offer assistance to new employees and members.
  • Be the first to take on tasks for jobs nobody else wants to do or will do.
  • Be the first to fix a problem when it is identified.
  • Be the first to do the right things, for the right reasons, every time.

This list, I’m sure is missing something that you would add. Please, add it and pass it on. The point that I made with my friend is to concentrate on all of these firsts, and being first for promotion will be much easier and more likely. Of course, there exceptions to the rule, but regardless, these will make you a respected member of your crew and invaluable to your department/division.

So, be first at the right things and other firsts will come your way.

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