Random life advice?

5 posts in this topic

Hey y'all! I got a random one for you, which might seem silly to ask here, but I think your impartiality might help me out. 

Sooooo, right now I work as a telecommunicator for my local police department.  Basically, I'm a 911 dispatcher.  Yes, it is crazy.  Yes, I hear insane stuff frequently.  That's not what I'm here for, though. :)

I like the job quite a bit, but it's not perfect.  There are a couple big problems, the primary one being the schedule.  Right now I work night shift, which is ok but not optimal, but worse than that, I rotate so that I work every other weekend.  The problem here is that I only get my son on the weekends.  If I worked dayshift it would actually be worse because I would still have to do every other weekend, and I would actually get less (really almost no) time with my kiddo on the weekends I worked. 

This all leads me to be considering applying to be a career firefighter.  Obviously that job can be even more stressful than the one I have now, not to mention the fact that it is also actually dangerous, while I'm never in any harm's way now.  There would definitely be many rewarding factors to the job though, and the main one I would actually be looking forward to would be the schedule.  Firefighters, at least in my city, work 24 hour rotations.  That means that they spend a day or two in a row at the station, responding to calls as needed.  If it's slow, they chill.  If it's night, they sleep.  And so on. 

So I guess my question is this: should I go for it, particularly as my main motivation seems to be the schedule? I never dreamed of being a fireman when I was a kid like others did, and I wonder if it isn't irresponsible to take a job where I could die when I have a 7 year old son who obviously would be devastated if I did.  Like I said, I bring this to you because I feel like my family and close friends are really just too close to give me an objective answer.  My family, for instance, pretty much all poo-pooed the idea.  My son only understood it as me having more time with him.  My girlfriend is trying to remain impartial and just supportive with no strong words either way, but clearly is more worried than anything.

TL;DR - Should RFB try and become a fireman despite the danger, even though it's mainly for the cushy schedule?

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(Working in a call center was actually one of my last jobs before going back to lots of school for a big career change. And scheduling control will actually be one of the benefits of the change.)

It's a hard question to answer because, if you're starting a new path, there are so many job paths to attempt. There are certainly other jobs besides firefighting that may have better schedules than the one you have, so you have to ask yourself "why firefighting?"

For example, I have an acquaintance who was finishing medical school and chose to do emergency medicine because of the schedule. They can work ridiculous shifts but then have loads of time off, depending on how you and the hospital want to set it up. (We're talking every other week off.) He was right about the schedule, but he underestimated how much the job would drain his soul. Now he apparently regrets choosing it, wishing he had just done family medicine.

My point is, if scheduling is what you're going for, and if you're willing to do some extra training such as firefighter school, I have to think that there are many options besides firefighting open to you. Firefighting might be the right choice. But I don't think scheduling is the single reason that should guide you towards it, especially if you're hesitant about the other aspects of the job.

Reading between the lines, though, maybe there are other reasons firefighting interests you right now? You have some proximity to it right now as a dispatcher, it probably wouldn't require too many years of your life to switch into it, you probably wouldn't have to move cities, it's a very respectable vocation, it doesn't have a lot of employment uncertainty (as far as I know)... many of those things may feel emotionally desirable to you right now as a father/boyfriend.

So, it might be the right choice for some of those reasons, but make sure it's for the right long term reasons.

My general feeling is that, if you are willing to put in the resources to switch careers and you're young enough to make the investment worth it, make it a damn good switch.

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My Uncle was actually a firechief and his sons were firefighters, so I have some knowledge of it.

In my opinion, and this just being honest (that's what you want right?)

It doesn't sound like you're the type of person with the mentality for that job.

First off, I wouldn't want someone whose primary motivation for the job is a "Kushy schedule" when people's lives are at stake.

Secondly, are you certain that you are physically capable for the job? I hate to make assumptions, but generally people working long hours in chairs at any sort of call center and a relaxed schedule (which from my knowledge, firefighters don't actually have) is not typically the mark of someone who gets up and runs a mile every day at 5 am. Are you able to sprint for a long period of time? Are you able to lift a grown man or woman with minimal effort? Etc? Could you pass their tests?

and from what my family told me, the tests (which vary by location) are usually a joke compared to what the job actually demands.

Further, and I know that you hear crazy shit as a dispatcher, but actually dealing with the situation in person is dramatically different: Are you going to be able to remain calm when it's you who has to pull the bodies out of the building? Seeing children who are suffering smoke inhalation and might even have horrific injuries? Car accidents leaving people mangled or dead? Are you prepared to die saving a stranger? The list goes on

But in my opinion, if the answer to any of those questions is "no" — then it's not the job for you.

So for you and the sake of your community, I hope that you really take a good look within before deciding to pursue this further.

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^Lolz.  Thanks for the comic relief here, @Modus.

Working in reverse order...

@AngelCityOutlaw: First off, I appreciate the honesty and the benefit of your experience.  :) 

So, to address your concerns there, yeah, the schedule being my primary motivation is exactly what's holding me back, but I would say that the reason I'm a dispatcher now is that I do have a strong internal motivation to help people, so lives being on the line is (sort of) a plus.  It terrifies me, for sure, but so did being a dispatcher and I did that anyway, largely because I thought I could help people.

As to my physical fitness, I neglected to mention that I am also a personal trainer.  I'm in pretty good shape, and more than willing to work hard to get up to snuff for the squad. I'm somewhat familiar with the test that would be involved and feel pretty good about gearing up for it.  Actually, having a solid goal to train for would be nice, as I've been a little rudderless lately as far as that goes. :) 

@Patrick Burns: Thanks for the clearly well-considered post!

You read between the lines quite well, sir.  All of the things you listed also appeal to me.  I would probably be a shoe-in for the job as I'm already working for the city, and I actually would need very little additional training (pretty much just firefighter school, which I would be paid more than I make now for).   Actually, getting into the thought of additional school/training, it dovetails nicely with a mid-term plan I have as is: I am pretty much convinced at this point that I should go back to school (online) and get my Bachelor's in Emergency Management Systems, which my city might pay for even now, and I'm sure they would if I was working as a fireman. 

Speaking to one other point you made and to some degree AngelCityOutlaw's, the draining of the soul from seeing terrible things is a real concern, but I already get a fair bit of that now, and you would be surprised how crappy it is to HEAR all of these things and not be able to control anything.  Being a dispatcher is a double-edged sword in that I can get help started towards someone having the worst day of their life, but I can't go out there and fix anything, which usually is good for me but sometimes is TERRIBLE.  That's something that would motivate me to go for it.

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