From the Chief’s Desk
B y R o n n y J . C o l e m a n T he movie Ghostbusters had a catch phrase that asked a rhetorical question: “Who you gonna call?” The inference was that if you are dealing with a paranormal situation, calling the Ghostbuster squad to get advice is appropriate. If you are pursuing an education in the fire service, you might face the same scenario. There could come a time when a problem exists with your career preparations, and you must ask: Who should I be calling for advice?
If you are engaged in any of the college environments,
the answer is simple. You should be in contact with your
college counselors. All colleges provide career counseling
services, but not all students access them.
Most colleges welcome you to see your counselor as
often as you like. For purposes of planning, it is recommended that this meeting be conducted at least once
a semester. At the minimum, you should talk to your
counselors at least once a year.
An academic counselor is one of your best all-around
resources to help you plan your academic path and
ensure that you meet all requirements needed to receive
your degree with a minimum of redundancy or duplication. However, counseling services require students to
request assistance. Therefore, you must actively seek out
Building a strong relationship with your guidance
counselor is essential at the beginning of your college
experience. For example, there are placement tests and
deadlines that must be met that you may not be aware
of to which the counselor would direct your attention.
If you want counselors to give you the best advice, they
need to understand the complexity of your personal and
professional life. They must be very much aware of your
strengths and weaknesses also. Developing a strong relationship will also distinguish you from others who fail to
get guidance from academic counselors.
Once you establish a relationship with your guidance
counselor, you should provide him with copies of your
201 file to clearly illustrate your past achievements. It
should include, at a minimum, your transcripts and academic experience. This should also help your counselor
understand what your interests are.
Some of the most important things you can discuss with
your counselor are the issues of compliance with degree
requirements and a review of prerequisites. In talking with
your counselor, your primary goal should be to complete
your education in the shortest time possible. Always tell
your counselor what your true feelings are regarding con-
ditions that you are experiencing in the academic world.
The most effective meetings with your counselor are
face to face. Under these conditions, your listening skills
become very important. When listening to the counselor,
you should pay attention not only to the words but to
the tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.
You need to listen to learn. You need to really be in the
moment when you are talking to your counselor. You
should not let distractions and daydreaming reduce the
impact of what the counselor is telling you.
An additional resource for your educational opportunities should be your department’s training officer.
Checking with the training officer and conducting a
review of the department’s career development guide
should aid you in making accurate academic decisions.
It is not uncommon to have a lot of advice administered
around the coffee table in the firehouse. When it comes
to academic pursuits, you should place your confidence
in your academic counselor, but you should also seek
out mentors from those who have gone on the same
path before you. They may have familiarity with course
material and curriculum that can assist you in making
decisions on your academic trajectory.
As you continue to pursue academic endeavors by
completing an associate degree and then moving on
to a bachelor’s degree and ultimately a master’s degree,
the role of the counselor becomes even more significant. In the final analysis, the counselor is likely to be
one of the most effective advice givers that you can
rely on. Going on the Internet or whatever academic
pathway you are on to review the counselor’s perspective is useful. The idea is to make sure that you are
following the path to academic achievement where
you will have a minimum of wasted effort in achieving your educational goals.
So, going back to the rhetorical question at the
beginning of this article: Who you gonna call? Your
academic counselor should be on speed dial on your cell
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.
Giving and Getting Advice
College counselors can provide support
and guidance for a firefighter’s academic path