Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I need a job, but being a retired fireman qualifies me for nothing.

I have now been officially retired since April of 2009, and I am no officially going insane from boredom. Oh I write every day and see friends and “do lunch” a couple of times a week. But now that I am healthy and have recovered from my recent health scare I realize it is time to get back in the game.

For two reasons, first my pension covers all my basic needs and I am so grateful to have it, but that is it, it covers the basics but nothing else. I even had to turn off my cable and internet at home to save money, much to the disappointment of three kids.

Secondly I am able bodied and willing to work and I need a reason to get out of my house, because sitting around unshaven holding a TV remote in my underwear has become all too easy.

I have begun my job search in earnest in the past few weeks. I was a professional firefighter/paramedic for over thirty years; I started when I was 19 years old, so guess what? I haven’t a clue how to go about applying for a job.

The first thing I discovered was no one lets you actually apply at their business. Oh you can sit down at a computer in Target and apply that way, but you can’t talk to a human being, you can’t have that eye to eye contact and firm handshake that I rely on.

It is all on the internet now. Go to a website and wade through page after page of questions. I’m okay with that, but I put in at least one application a day and that is pretty much my limit because of the amount of time required to fill in all the spaces. You have your resume, your references, your education and the big one for me is past employers.

For the most part I have one, the fire department. I always had off duty jobs but most of those are from years ago. I can also list that I teach at the University of Colorado, that I was Director of Public Relations for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb for 12 years, that I am an author, former stand-up comic and the list goes on.

Then I got some feedback from a friend, they said
“Tim your resume needs to be more blue collar. You are applying at Cum and Go with this kind of resume? It won’t work, you need to dumb it down.”
“Dumb it down?” I asked?
“Yeah dude, people that read this will think you are an egghead, too smart to be a mindless drone, besides they don’t want to work with someone that will make them feel stupid.”

I hadn’t thought of that, so I have created two resumes now, one that is blue collar and one that includes all my past experiences. As I apply for a job now I have to decide which resume to attach. Oh and by the way I didn’t get the job at Cum and Go, I failed their assessment test.

The other big side effect of the blue collar resume is that it pretty much says that for over 30 years all I did was tear stuff apart, run into burning buildings and on occasion save a life. That may sound cool, but that isn’t a skill set that the local Cum and Go is looking for.

I have been offered some chances in sales but my ability to sell stuff is equal to my ability to hatch eggs, I have no skill at sales. So I keep looking for something, anything that I might have a slight chance at.

I have applied for security guard positions thinking I was a fireman all those years, heck I’m used to wearing a badge I can do that. No one has asked to interview me on that one. I have tried some restaurants, hell I was a great firehouse cook I could work at Taco Bell, no luck.

Because my firefighting career has caught up on my body, I can’t really do heavy manual labor anymore, so that eliminates tons of jobs. I made it to the face to face interview round with Lowes, and guess what? I was grossly unprepared for the process.

I don’t know if any of you have been through this kind of interview but it was my first time. I guess I should have done some research prior to my appointment, because they caught me flatfooted.

It consisted of about 15 or so situational questions. I sat down with a very pleasant lady and we began.

“Tell me Tim about a time in the past where you had a conflict with a fellow worker. How did you handle that situation?”

So right away I thought back to my days in the firehouse and I remember having a conflict (actually many conflicts) with another fireman and to resolve the problem I duct taped him to his bed while he was sleeping causing him to miss an alarm because he couldn’t get himself free in time to get to the fire truck.

Then I thought maybe that wouldn’t be a good example. I broke into a sweat, became very nervous, and I panicked. I searched my memories for a suitable example, nothing but a great big blank. So I lied and made up a story that I thought would show my skill at conflict resolution and demonstrate that I was a team player. I ended up either lying on all the other questions or only being able to make a fire house reference. Either way I wasn’t offered a job.

I need to find work. If any of you have some helpful tips, please, please impart them to me as I am an abject failure in the real world outside the protection of a fire house.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I have no idea how to go about it.


avgjoegeek said...

Tim I feel for you. I've pigeon holed myself from doing Tech Support for so long. When I was out for 9 months on the "Obama Vacation Plan"?

I applied EVERYWHERE. And the process sucked. I dressed up in my best clown suit and put on the "good employee" act. In the end after all of the song and dance? I was lucky enough to return right back where I started...? So I'm grateful to be employed but still right back where I started lol.

Um.. have you thought about doing something different than blue collar stuff? I've known you for a bit so tell me if I'm completely off base here. Sure your a Paramedic and a Firefighter. But your also a Public Speaker, Teacher, Screenplay Writer, a PUBLISHED AUTHOR, and all around funny story teller. And you can't leverage those skills into anything?

How about maybe doing substitute teaching? Its a short term gig with Summer's off usually. The extra cash won't make you rich but should augment your income enough to turn the cable back on and get you a clean pair of underwear and socks.

Plus it doesn't have to be necessarily with a traditional school. There are a million colleges/trade schools etc that require english/public speaking etc.

But the only thing I don't know.. is what kind of education you'd need for it.

Well good luck - and we need to do lunch sometime soon to catch up! :-D

Fireman said...

Thanks Jason, I will be teaching at the University again next semester, but don't you have to have a teaching certificate to substitute? Anyway you make some good points. I am putting together a video and presentation for my new book on Kickstarter, so if that comes through I'll be in pretty good shape.

Lorinda J Taylor said...

Well, that's a pain! I thought we were supposed to be honoring and helping out our firefighters and paramedics for their great service! And it seems to me you have plenty of qualifications! What about the area of teaching other people how to fight fires or do the work of paramedics? And doing public relations for the Hill Climb? Did you make any contacts there? What about other public relations work, maybe for some of our local tourist promotional activities? But I know exactly what you mean about being overqualified. After I retired, I had a momentary lapse and thought it would be nice to have a little part time income, so I filled out a resume at a bakery near my house. Education level? How about two Masters' degrees and work toward a PhD? How over-qualified is that to work a bakery counter? LOL

Fireman said...

Thanks Lorinda, I have explored most of those options and nothing yet, but I'll keep at it.

Sandra Tyler said...

Gosh, what a tough spot. My neighbor is a retired police officer, and he went into construction. Or rather, just small house rennovatiions, that kind of thing. I was going to suggest that but maybe that's too much physical labor?

Lorinda J Taylor said...

You know, like Sandra I did think of suggesting starting a handy-man business. There are lots of older people like me who are always looking for somebody trustworthy and competent to do things for them like put in light fixtures and light switches, fix locks, repair screen doors and leaky faucets, etc. I have a handy man right now, but I'm always afraid of losing them! I'll bet you know how to do that sort of thing!

Fireman said...

Lorinda and Sandra you two are just the best ladies, thank you for thinking of me and you have a good idea, something I think I'll explore. In the mean time consider yourselves hugged.

Another Retired Fireman said...

I feel your setiments also. I am aretired fieman for two years now, with a bad back from the job. I worked 30 years also. I don't have any of the other abilities you have. I was a cabinet maker for several years along time ago, but with my back that's not an option. My sister knows my job search situation like yours, and found your site and sent it to me. I don't usually write to people like this, but you sparked my interest with the same situation I am in. Good luck, and if you find any good ideas, please pass them on. Thank you.

retired fire captain said...

Hi Tim,
I am just now reading your post, and I can totally appreciate your struggle. I am a retired fire Captain/EMT also, 18 years on the job left to get my neck put back together. The surgery went great and now I too am getting stir crazy. I am still young and wanting to find a less stressful line of work. My resume probably looks a lot like yours, and I haven't had more than a few interviews. I thought stocking grocery shelves sounded pretty cool, but they didn't feel the same way.
What has struck me, is that they are a lot of us out there and maybe if we created a pool or organized somehow it would help. We have such a unique skill set, and clearly we are possessing those worker skills that would make us more than valuable to many companies. I am just starting my search, and its humbling and eye opening.
Let me know if you find any secret of luck.

Tim Casey said...

Thanks for stopping by Cap, I'm with you on the thought, but you know how hard it is to get firefighters to organize for anything. I thought that large companies could use us for internal safety teams but no luck there, fire extinguisher services maybe, helping school athletic teams, I don't know. Good luck, I'm still looking.

Mandy said...

Try looking into companies' safety departments. positions such as "Safety Manager" etc. they usually require knowlege of OSHA and HAZMAT along with construction knowledge, based off the position. Also, depending on your training in the FD, something with a chemistry background in addition to safety might work. My husband was a Captain in Virginia. When we relocated to Florida for family reasons in AUG '13, they wouldn't honour any of his credentials for the FD here (Graduated Valedictorian with a BA in Governmental Admin with a minor in Fire Science) Challenging the state test was super expensive with no promises of a job due to government cutbacks and he really wasn't up to start at the bottom again going thru the academy. This really put us in a bind. I read this article and its every complaint I hear from him. Keeping our fingers crossed and applying for positions with companies like I aforementioned, were hoping to find something soon. I'm just glad I went to school to be a nurse:) You guys deserve so much more after a career that makes you rethink humanity, destroys your knees and backs, takes you away from your families for 24 hr shifts and puts your lives on the line everyday.

Anonymous said...

5 months and bored to death and busy everyday.

Retired BC said...

I retired after 32 years of service. Like a lot of us my back is none repairable. After a year I thought it was time to go back to work. I mentioned it one time and gat a call 2 weeks later to go to work. There are a lot of small business owners that are looking for someone who is trustworthy, loyal and have some integrity. The person I started working for told me that I am the first person that has worked for him who hasn't stolen from him. I was surprised to hear this but after talking to other small business owners they all have huge problems with theft or people just not showing up for work. A few have also offered me a job. If I were you I would start looking at mom and pop businesses. They need to be able to walk out the door and know their inventory and cash box is safe. I hope this helps. JRS

Anonymous said...

Brother. I have no idea regarding your local real estate market, however have you considered being a realtor? You make commission when a client buys or sells property. You have a trust worthy history. Being a realtor is the opposite of firefighting in the sense that firefighting is fun when ripping with your pike pole to get to the hot spot... being destructive to meet a positive outcome. Brokering houses you are building positive relationships with people and are being constructive to meet a positive outcome. Also realtor is not sales, it is making positive contacts with people and assisting them to find a nice home in which to live. I was a Canadian firefighter and at age of 38 the grim reaper paid me a visit. I fought back and am now unable to be a firefighter any more. No worries, don't take a job where the feeling is gone of helping others. Consider real estate.