Never give up on your Firefighter Career!

By Juan Francisco Manzanera

A guest post by Juan on his journey to becoming a firefighter for West Midlands FRS, and why you should never give up on your Firefighter Career!

“Would you ever consider becoming a firefighter?” Exactly 2 years ago I was planning to take my 3 year old son out to a Fire Station open day, when my wife unexpectedly asked me that question.

No, I hadn’t. But for some reason, on that day, I felt an undeniable urge in my heart that this was the path for me. I visited my local fire station in the West Midlands to find out more, and they were extremely helpful and showed me how to go about the recruitment process.

At this point, I was extremely excited and motivated, and resolved (as I’m sure many of you have), that I would pass the first time! I even had an interview with a new recruit and collected his advice on how to be successful in the recruitment process.

I followed his instructions precisely, and worked hard every day to prepare for all aspects of selection. I was confident I would pass the first time.

I did pass the first batch of online tests; situational judgement and behavioural judgement, however, I did not pass the second batch of online tests (Maths, Mechanical and Verbal). On top of having to now deal with the blow of failing, I also had to deal with the fact that I would not be given any feedback on how I’d done.

Really?! How can I know where to improve if I don’t know where I’ve failed? I felt like I was truly in the dark.

At this point I began to hear stories of unwavering determination; a firefighter who got in after 13 years of trying, another who got in on his 21st attempt, and other remarkable stories. I then realised just how difficult and competitive a process it is, and that I’d need to be ready to try and fail many times if I wanted in.

I resolved to do just that, and not give up.

And I did fail. I got an opportunity to try 5 more times for different fire services across the country, and in each one, I failed at exactly the same stage.

It was very disheartening and none of the FRS’s gave me any feedback. A seasoned firefighter gave me the following advice, “Become an expert in all fields”. I realised that even though I didn’t have the chance to get any feedback, I could still improve my mathematical, mechanical and verbal knowledge. For about 20 minutes a day over a period of 2 months, I did practice tests in each of those subjects. If there was any topic I felt weak on, I would study it until I understood it.

At long last one FRS gave me basic feedback, and informed me that I failed on maths, as I suspected. I worked on it.

On my 7th attempt, I finally passed the online tests! I knew that if I could make it to interview, I would pass, since I felt this was a strong area of mine. However, I failed at the physicals in the tunnel test and assembly test. Although I was disheartened at this, I checked my email and there was an invite to apply for West Midlands again.

I purchased and worked through “How to Pass your Interview Workbook”, the “Interview Checking Service” and “Assessment Day eBook” from FRS Development, and all of these were instrumental to me passing.

This time, I went the distance. When I heard the news last October, it felt like one of the happiest moments of my life!

That was not the end of my troubles. I had unsettling issues in my medical that needed looking into, and this was extremely stressful for me. In the end, it was nothing of concern. Add to that COVID-19, and it has been a one year wait since being successful at the selection process. A wait that has taught me inner lessons of trust and faith and has matured me as a person.

But 2 years later, here I stand, ready to start training this October. If you choose this path, it is a hard road but a worthwhile one.

Stay strong, believe, and never give up on your firefighter career. Ever!

About Juan: I’m a 34 years old,, married and with a 5 year old son. I have a background of doing volunteer work and for the past 10 years I’ve been a professional musician. I’m about to embark on my greatest adventure to date; joining the West Midlands Fire Service!

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