Throughout my time at Durham College there has been so many amazing career opportunities circulating for after we graduate. In my first semester I was beyond grateful. Then COVID hit and I decided to take a year off and move out west to live the boarder west coast lifestyle. I think it was necessary for my nineteen year old self to hike some mountains and just breathe some fresh air for a bit. Then reality hit. Working at a skate shop making minimum wage just isn’t enough to live in the most expensive city in CANADA. I had to go back and finish school. (I also met a girl from Ontario so that may or may not have swaid me to move back home…) regardless.
On arrival I instantly missed Vancouver and had zero doubt in my mind that I belonged there.
My game plan quickly turned into “ok get done school, you only have 1 year left. Once you do that you’ll be back out west in no time.” I started to realize that by opting to move back, I was missing out on the multiple LOCAL job postings a month. This program is so great at partnering with local call centers and emergency agencies. As awesome as this all is. It unfortunately doesn’t help me much. Nonetheless I am very stoked for my classmates.
In the last two years I have learned so much about the Durham FIRE, EMS, and Police force. I almost feel like I practically work there. But I didn’t know anything about what the industry is like in BC. Sad to admit but I really knew nothing. This meant I had a good amount of research to do. Here’s what I found.
I did a quick google search “Dispatch jobs Vancouver”. Only one thing popped up “ECOMM 911”. After doing further research on why that was the only search result, I came to the conclusion (and I may fully be wrong here) that there is one main hiring headquarters, and everything just gets outsourced from there. So your chances of getting hired plummet. You don’t have even a quarter of the options as ontario. One place in the city hires you and then decides for you if you’re going into police, fire or EMS. I think that is a crazy concept but I guess I understand it. It definitely makes applying more stressful in the city because if you don’t get it, tough luck essentially. Nonetheless I figured with my plans to move back May first I should apply sooner than later. I’ve heard the process can take up to a year.
So I took a deep breath, whipped together a detailed resume/cover letter. By detailed I mean getting my business major girlfriend to triple proofread it. I then sent it off and crossed my fingers that I would get a reply. I had a good feeling about it seeing as I’m set to graduate from this program soon, and it’s a fairly uncommon diploma program. And just like I had anticipated, the hiring manager liked my application. I was excited but I know better than to celebrate early. There’s only seven more steps in the hiring process. My first step was to fill out a quick 45 minute questionnaire about my personality and what I value from a career at ECOMM, I just told them exactly what they wanted to hear and that was that. EASY! Then it happened, I got a call insinuating I made it through round one and my second step was to do a virtual pre-recorded interview. I had prepared to have a zoom call with a few corporate looking faces staring back at me preparing to judge me as harshly as humanly possible… But I was very wrong. Instead a blank screen with text came up and I was to record myself responding to the written question for the exact amount of time that the screen counter said. The whole thing felt a bit awkward and forced. It would have been so much easier had I been able to actually interact with these people. But I have a feeling that will still come. There would be some questions that I would have to force into 30 seconds. Then on the other hand there would be times that I’d answer and question and not have much else to say and there would be substantial time left on the counter forcing me to ramble for another minute and a half sounding like a complete moron. But that seems to be all part of it. They want to know how you’ll handle yourself in different situations.
When my parents asked me how it went, I basically lied through my teeth. My parents are very strict about starting a career at a young age, which put even more pressure on me in the interview process. I told them that I thought I did fairly well, when in reality I actually felt that I rambled nervously and choked at every basic question. I mean I’ve trained and gone to school for the last two years just for this exact moment. Three weeks have passed since my parents asked if I had gotten a response. I just had a gut feeling that I wasn’t qualified based on my interview. But as luck would have your gut feeling can actually have days off because I was wrong!!!! I woke up one morning to a missed email from ECOMM Vancouver saying they wanted to get to know me more and that I passed step 2 of the 6 step interview process. I was very happy to say the least, having jumped to the conclusion that I would work at a skateboard shop making minimum wage for the rest of my life.
The next stage was for me to take an even longer questionnaire that involved extensive personality testing and random things that I couldn’t particularly relate to the profession such as math questions. Maths definitely worries me because it’s far from my go to subject. Again not sure what math questions have anything to do with people giving birth on the phone but….. Most of it seemed to be on probability and percentages which is somewhat related I suppose, so I was able to rip through them and get a passing mark on that hour “random unrelated intelligence test” as I like to call it.
After receiving the notification that I had passed yet another test/interview with flying colours (thanks to my schooling) I was sent a link to a scheduling website where I was prompted to book my CRITICAL test… This was the moment I have been training for my whole life essentially…
So then it was time to study. I spent hours a day practicing critical for the next 2 weeks. Until it was finally the day of my test. I remember it so well. It was on a Tuesday at 10amPST which was actually 1 O'clock for me here in Ontario. I had forgotten about that so I eagerly logged on super early and stared at a blank screen for 45 minutes until I realized I had to wait a while. Fast forward three hours I’m sitting in the waiting lobby with crazy sweaty palms stressed even though I know pretty much what to expect. I also couldn’t help to think about all the people pre covid who had to write those in a room with multiple others well being watched over by hiring managers. That calmed me down a little, the only person in the room with me was my yellow lab Tikka and she honestly wasn’t that stressed about my test scores.
As I pressed the “start test” button I was immediately taken to the first level of the multi level test. This first part was a typing test, I’ll be real, I didn’t think twice about taking this test but it turned out to be much more difficult than I had expected. It wasn’t an average typing test on the internet with a paragraph that flows well about a parrot in the jungle or something. It was random street names mixed in with crazy last names accompanied by strange businesses. It was very very difficult. I consider myself a decent typist and this had me struggling.
After that was over I spent the next hour and a half taking various memory tests, geography location mapping based quizzes, and information relaying which I found fairly easy. But overall it wasn’t a short or relaxing process.
After I finished I sat back, grinned and just waited for the email asking me to start training for the position.
But that never happened……
It’s been two months now since I wrote the critical and I haven’t heard anything back which makes me honestly admit that I don’t think I got the job. It’s really tough to say because I didn’t feel I did wrong and I deeply feel I am qualified for the position. But I guess Vancouver is a big city with tons of opportunity so I’ll just have to keep my chin up and take it for what it is. Back to the skate shop for a bit.
So for anyone out there wondering if it is an easy thing to graduate and get an instant job. It’s not. I’m proud to say I got a 98% on my final written APCO EMD test, and I still managed to get ghosted by a big dispatch recruiting company. Being a new grad is difficult and that’s okay. My mother is a very skilled registered R.D.H and fresh out of school it took her the better part of a year to even get a part time position. I’m going to keep on the look out. But I have been happy to share with you my very real struggle of finding a career in 911 EMS.
Post written by Cam P.