From the Chief’s Desk
B y R o n n y J . C o l e m a n D o you have your resume ready? Among the skills that are essential in developing yourself as a can- didate for promotion is your ability to describe yourself in a succinct manner by having a resume. Your resume is a portrait that shows how well prepared over time you are for the position you are seeking. All too often, resume building is looked on as a mundane task. Often, it is relegated to a last-minute ffort. But those who are serious about promotion
begin a documentation process long before the resume
is needed for promotional evaluation.
The military has a term for this type of documentation: It is called a “201 File.” The United States Armed
Forces keep records on their members’ military and
civilian education history. A 201 file may also contain
personal information that reflects experience and recognition of performance.
Most fire departments maintain a personnel record
that is kept in a file cabinet at headquarters. However,
it is to your best interest to develop your own portfolio
that starts off when your career is first initiated. The
resume first comes into play in the promotional process
at the rank of fire officer, and it is extremely important
at the rank of battalion chief, deputy chief, and chief.
What I am suggesting is developing an unofficial fire
department personnel file that contains information
that will later become part of your resume. My suggested process involves the use of a six-part portfolio.
The six categories for completing the portfolio include
Tab 1: Job application and record of promotion
so you can show systematic growth and development. The process of taking exams and developing test scores can help build a case for career
Tab 2: Educational records including transcripts
and certificates. Obtaining qualifications through
the educational track should be documented and
kept in sequence. This is the place where you would
keep a copy of your degrees.
Tab 3: Training records including copies of certificates received. They should be kept in chronological
order with the newest additions at the top of the file.
Tab 4: Experience documentation including
incident records and specific emergency and non-
emergency activities. This could include work that is
accomplished as part of task forces and committees as
well as sentinel events, such as specific emergencies and
activities that are outside of the scope of your normal
Tab 5: Awards and commendations, including
recognition given to you for activities outside of the fire
Tab 6: Miscellaneous information. As you are
building your 201 file, you might keep track of other
elements involved in your growth and development
process that don’t fit into the previous five tabs.
The idea is to start collect information as it occurs
early on in your career and to use the portfolio as a
means of preserving your institutional memory. Colleting these documents in this fashion will make it easy
eventually to convert that information into a resume.
While many fire departments have human resource
records, they are not organized around career development and are extremely hard to compile if you allow
the passage of time to occur before collecting it.
The contents that go into these six categories should
be considered temporary and might include documents that you will eventually throw away, but having
your portfolio readily available allows for the editing
process to occur over the passage of time. You don’t
want to reach a point where your education and experience are inadequately documented.
At some point in time you will want to sit down
with your portfolio and start developing your resume.
In building your resume, you should confer with your
mentor or organizational representative about what format is most desirable. Your resume is going to represent
you in a competitive process, so you need to prepare it
carefully. Having a comprehensive yet concise resume
depends a great deal on having accurate and meaningful
information to help the reviewer determine your qualifications for a promotion. Therefore, the emphasis should
be on the complete person rather than minutia.
Once you have completed your resume, it becomes
the cover sheet for Tab 1. Once you have established
your resume, it should be updated on a periodic basis.
Done properly, the portfolio becomes your “
reputation” for preparation.
Ronny J. Coleman is a retired state fire marshal for the State of
California. He has achieved chief officer designation at both the
state and national levels. Coleman has a master of arts degree
in vocational education, a bachelor of science degree in political
science, and an associate of arts degree in fire science. He is
president of Fireforceone, a consulting firm in California.
Your 201 File
Creating an unofficial personnel file
that will become your resume