President's Letter: Climbing the Professional Ladder, Helping Others Up

There comes a point in all our lives when we consider a change in our jobs; the reasons may vary from wanting more money or not being satisfied with a current job assignment or workplace environment to changes happening in our personal lives.

Whatever your reason for wanting to move up the professional ladder into a different job or position, you’ll need some help and mentoring. This is no different than, when climbing a ladder on a fire scene, we look for the safety person to heel the ladder.

Unfortunately, starting out on the lowest rung, hard work and being loyal aren’t enough in today's world. Today we need leadership development and mentoring. Maybe we should consider this more like a professional vine or tree than like a ladder. It’s more about growing a career in the right location with good soil and providing it with fertilizer and constant watering, which takes a little more effort and time than just climbing a ladder.

Mentoring is talked about a great deal, but few people understand the process. It requires a very personal and even intimate relationship. It's more like having a personal relationship with a gardener: learning how to plant and care for our new tree so it grows strong and straight.

Mentoring must support the human learning process; it's more than just training others to do a specific task. Mentoring should be sponsoring a person for advancement. Being a mentor is being an effective listener, a proactive coach, a challenger, a cheerleader and a skillful teacher of organizational wisdom.

Mentees, on the other hand, have to be in it to learn. Whether you're looking for that person to heel your professional ladder, someone to help you grow that professional tree and mentor you as you progress in your fire service career, I encourage you to look to the IAFC.

Whether you're a new or experienced company officer, the IAFC can be a resource for your leadership skills training and knowledge resources and can connect you with other company officers and experienced chiefs. In March 2012, the IAFC created the IAFC Company Officer Leadership Committee to help integrate the company officer engagement within the work of the IAFC and to help company officers develop leadership skills to meet today's challenges and to prepare them for promotion to chief officer.

I would encourage all our members to take a look at some of the IAFC’s offerings to help our company officers:

  • Company Officer Leadership Symposium (COLS) – An intense three-tiered program providing company officers with valuable skills and knowledge required to stay ahead and grow as a leader. Each tier is a three-day program.
  • IAFC Officer Development Handbook – A great resource for current and future leaders, with over 60 pages of valuable information and recommendations for career advancement, with an emphasis on leadership competencies through all four levels of officer development.

Go to the IAFC’s Company Officers webpage for these and other resources and information.

Chief Hank Clemmensen
President and Chairman of the Board

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