How to present your unrelated degrees
I have three degrees in law enforcement. Every time I go to an oral board, they seem to target and spend too much time discussing my law enforcement education. What can I do?
"Captain Bob's" Reply:
This is a problem that many candidates face with degrees that are not fire related. The board will see this and follow the rabbit down the hole; spending time having you defend your position. How do you even begin to fire relate a degree in "Romance Languages, Art, Philosophy, Economics, etc.?"
Don't create the trail. Start listing just your degree on your application, resume and including it in your oral board answer what you have done to prepare for the position. However, omit the field it's related to, i.e., Bachelor Science Degree (leave off Law Enforcement). Don't bring it up and they probably won't. If they do, tell them you learned how to learn. A study from University California at Berkeley showed that two years after graduation, 60% percent of graduates were in fields totally unrelated to their degree.
An additional question:
I have been facing the same problem about my degree.One Chief told me to bring up my degree, how I have used it and how it brought me to a career in the fire service. He told me to not let the oral board bring up the degree because once that has happened they have already formed an opinion about it. He told me to include it in my history and tackle the issue before it becomes and issue. For example, you have a degree in Law Enforcement. This has allowed you to work with firefighters from another angle and you see how the fire service is and that is more the career path you see in. Hope that is helpful.
Have you tried this approach? It might work for you, but it is our experience that once you open the can of worms, it's impossible to close. The explanation of being in law enforcement has enabled you to be around firefighters is pretty weak.
I still believe in not creating a trail they can follow. Our candidates who have left off the field from the degree have had few if any problems.
Here's another possibility:
I have 2 Bachelor degrees, one in Finance and one in Accounting. I am currently working as a Full-Time Firefighter with a good sized department. You can overcome this "focus" on your degree by accentuating the positive...that you were able to dedicate 4-5 years of your life to obtaining the degree. You sacrificed, set a goal, and achieved it. That is what is important, not what the degree is in. Try that at your next interview, it may help. Being a firefighter was not a life-long dream of mine, I changed my career path. How can anyone fault you for wanting to educate yourself, or choose a different path, one that makes you happy. Good luck.
Absolutely nothing counts 'til you have the badge. Nothing!
Fire "Captain Bob" Smith has coached countless entry level and promotional candidates to get their badge. He is a retired 28-year Hayward, Ca. Captain, speaker/author of the audio/video program "Conquer the Job Interview," the book "Fire Up Your Communication Skills" ISBN 09657620-6-8 and a member of the prestigious National Speakers Association. You can book him as a speaker or get a copy of his books and tapes by calling toll free at 888-238-3959.