What’s in your career development web?
Find your anchor, continuing spinning radials and orbs that strengthen your career path, and be mindful of poisonous prey
Not one of us succeeds alone. None of us is perfect, nor do any of us know it all. As such, your career path should include a long list of classes, programs, conferences, reading materials, practical applications, peer interactions, and personal reflections – a combination of tools to grow your knowledge, skills and abilities.
Supplementing these tools, your department may offer (or even require you to follow) a career development path (CDP). And while the department can develop and administer the CDP, it is up to YOU to climb the steps – there are no escalators here!
Each of the steps in your CDP are intricately connected opportunities for growth that ultimately form your career “web.” The more pieces you connect, the stronger the web and the greater chance for long-term success.
Engineering your web
Spider webs start as liquid in the spider that quickly stabilizes into spider silk when exposed to air. The silk can be wet or dry, smooth or course – ultimately, none of that matters in the grand scheme of things. What matters first and foremost for the spider is having an anchor point the web.
Engineering your personal career web starts with identifying your anchor point. In the fire service, your web should be anchored to your mission. If your web is anchored to anything else, you should probably be in some other business. You must eat, breathe and believe 100% in your mission. I know it’s difficult for many organizations to stray from banal and often verbose mission statements that read like a budget document, but it doesn’t have to be so complex. I’ve used a one-word mission statement for years, anchoring my web from Day 1: SERVICE.
With your mission anchor established, spinning your silk to capture the important elements for success will all be part of your CDP process.
There are many similarities to the spider web construction and dynamism of the fire service. Spiders don’t simply spin silk in a straight line; rather, the spider moves back and forth, creating orbs and radials that strengthen the web. For you, the radials and orbs connect and cross in the form of courses, certifications, educational opportunities, operational experiences and other opportunities to grow. The opportunities to attend events put on by others who are also continuously engineering their own webs is all part of the process. Maybe you pay for the event, maybe your department pays. Regardless, it’s important to go beyond simple attendance. Participate, engage with others, find ways to get outside your comfort zone. Your growth is on you to accept and accomplish – all part of engineering your web.
Trapping your prey
The spider uses their web to trap prey. Strengthening the web provides greater coverage to more easily traverse the web to access this potential food source. The spider’s food feeds their survival, while your web feeds your career survival. Your web is grabbing connections that not only feed your overall growth but allow us all to feed off each other’s successes.
As you grow in your CDP, you will undoubtedly become sustenance for other industry webs. Recognizing that there’s a nearly limitless supply of food out there for your web, your most complex challenge will likely be trapping the food that will support you, rather than potentially poisonous prey that can bring down an entire web.
While keeping the poisons out will be a challenge, similar to a spider’s web, the rotten or diseased food in your web should be allowed to drop off – if not pushed out! You’ll learn what should and should not be trapped in your web, and you’ll learn when it’s time to push off or let go. Holding onto diseased prey for no reason will cause only trouble for your web.
Sustaining your web
A spider’s web is much more susceptible to failure than your career web, but by no means does that mean you can simply build a web and walk away. You must maintain your web, weed out the poisons, and continue adding radials and orbs to expand your web.
Anchoring your mission is clearly the key, but having the values and vision necessary to uphold the public trust will be critical to your web’s success. Simply being anchored and believing in the mission doesn’t automatically guarantee success. You must also understand the organization and your personal vision, and have the personal values to effectively accomplish the mission. To help draw that all together, I encourage you to read, “What is your personal North Star?”
Are you building your web for success? Or are you simply spinning useless silk that can go nowhere without an anchor? Find your anchor, continuing spinning radials and orbs that strengthen your career path, and be mindful of poisonous prey. Purging negativity and capturing positivity will go a long way to keeping your web strong.