3 years ago, I decided I wanted to fight wildfires.
I had zero experience in forestry. The only thing even tangentially related to it on my resume was a stint as a museum security guard during college. What I did have was a desire for adventure and a strong determination to make it happen.
I talked to a couple of guys I knew who had fought fires and got a sense of what needed to be done.
First, I created a profile and applied to open positions on USAjobs.com. This is a tedious but crucial step for anyone trying to get a government job. You have to apply for the position on the government’s website. It’s a non-negotiable requirement. But, if this is all you ended up doing, you have a very slim chance of getting a job–especially as a first year with no experience.
The trick to getting hired in wildland is to follow up with the duty stations you apply to. Over the phone or, even better, in person.
So, I started reaching out to duty stations, introducing myself, and asking some questions. What the Captain’s experience was, whether they had housing available, how much overtime they typically saw in a season, etc.
I made a simple spread sheet tracking who I called and what their responses were. It was a long process that resulted in a list with over 70 names and numbers.
I left a lot of voicemails and got a lot of neutral responses.
Eventually, I got on the phone with an engine boss who I clicked with. We set up an interview, which lasted for over an hour.
I told him how while I didn’t have any firefighting experience, I had done a lot of camping and overland travel in remote areas. We talked about how I had started doing crossfit to prepare myself for the grueling physical demands of the job. This showed him I was serious, and was treating my being hired as a foregone conclusion. A week after the interview, he hired me.
I ended up being one of only two full time General Schedule hires he made out of several hundred applicants.
This guy was a bit of a hardass. He was a veteran who had driven a tank in Iraq. He was also an excellent leader who I learned a lot from. I had a great summer fighting fires with him. I even got to go on a few tours with a hotshot crew.
Now, you could say I got lucky by calling this guy at the right time on the right day.
This is true. However, I drastically increased the odds of having that fortuitous phone call by having a relentless mindset and taking action to see that it happened. I believed I was going to get hired, and I took every step within my power to turn that belief into reality.
The secret to me getting my foot in the door in fire was no secret at all. It came down to consistency, persistence, and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
The same strategy can be applied to any objective.
While success is never guaranteed, with hard work and determination, you have the power to radically increase your odds.