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Getting Paid to Begin Fires: How a Park Supervisor Landed His Dream Job

In his dream job as a Florida park supervisor and “burn boss,” Tony Clements wears loads of attention-grabbing headgear.

A Florida Scrub Jay fowl masks when entertaining youngsters, a gorilla head whereas goofing round pretending to be Bigfoot, and, on a extra severe be aware, a flame-retardant helmet when he’s scorching patches of earth throughout a prescribed burn.

Clements can also be janitor, ecologist, meteorologist and development supervisor — all whereas overseeing the 1,400-acre Oscar Scherer State Park.

However lengthy earlier than Clements landed his dream job, he labored as a paperboy, dishwasher, landscaper, automotive washer and air-conditioning installer, amongst different occupations.

It took loads of persistence and perseverance to get him the place he’s at this time, however his vast smile  and infectious snort behind a beard with a contact of gray tells you it was price it.

Right here’s Land Your Dream Job (No matter it Might Be)

Tony Clements volunteered at parks to get his foot within the door. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Clements’ fondest recollections from his childhood in Wales are exploring the forest behind his mother and father’ barn, digging for bugs and monitoring birds. He conjured these recollections after a nasty breakup in his 20s led to the existential dread that he wanted to discover a actual job.

“All the roles I had have been nice,” he says. “However I wanted a profession.”

So, he seemed to the Florida State Parks system, which appeared like the right match for somebody enamored with the outside.

“I knew I wished to make a distinction and do one thing that I get up each day excited to do,” Clements says.

One downside: They weren’t hiring.

So, he did what he recommends anybody making an attempt to land their dream job ought to do and began volunteering. After a pair years, he utilized for an assistant park ranger job and received turned down. Then he was turned down once more. After which a 3rd time for good measure.

“It’s important to be persistent,” mentioned Clements, who received the job on his fourth strive. Now, he’s been park supervisor for 14 years. He even met, and married, his spouse within the park.

However what in case you don’t know what your dream job is?

John Sheehy, Profession Growth Coordinator at Stetson College, says first take into consideration the belongings you completely don’t need to do for a profession and work from there. Begin with a large view: Don’t need to work exterior? Contemplate occupations which are indoors. Then refine that: Can’t stand sitting down all day? A desk job most likely gained’t be a great match.

Now take into consideration your particular abilities and pursuits and create an inventory of fields that faucet into these expertise however nonetheless keep away from your “not gonna do it” standards.

“Speak to professionals in a number of areas of the fields you’ve got curiosity in,” he mentioned.

Listed below are just a few methods to really feel out a profession or firm:

Now that you simply’ve zeroed in on a area, you could meet individuals within the trade. Networking can assist you refine your data of a sure area and forge connections that might yield a job in the future.

Sheehy compares it to beginning a hearth.

“Work on getting a number of pockets of embers glowing in a number of areas after which when it’s time, gasoline the hearth, add the kindling to get the hearth pink sizzling,” he mentioned. Meaning you could sustain common communication together with your community; you may’t let these relationships get chilly.

And at last, bear in mind to be affected person. You’re not going to fall proper into the dream gig. However when you get that first job in your chosen area, you can begin climbing the ladder.

“Dream jobs are hardly ever the primary job one acquires, and realizing that may help in working your approach to it sooner or later,” Sheehy mentioned.

Dealing with Actuality — and Sustaining Perspective

A member of a Florida Park Service hearth unit works on a prescribed hearth. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Absolutely some of us dream about engaged on Wall Avenue and making boat a great deal of cash. However, for many individuals, a dream job is extra concerning the work and fewer concerning the money — and that may require sacrificing some comforts.

For Clements, who makes $46,000 a yr, it’s meant making meticulously deliberate journeys to the grocery retailer. Each week, his household is aware of precisely what they’re going to eat, and subsequently precisely what to purchase.

“They are saying we throw away a 3rd of the groceries we purchase,” he says. “Which is loopy.”

Clements is fortunate on one entrance, although: He doesn’t pay lease or a mortgage whereas dwelling in a home on the fringe of Oscar Scherer park.

Even when your dream job doesn’t pay a lot basically, you need to at all times advocate for your self and push for honest pay within the hiring course of. Do your analysis on what the job pays in comparable markets, and use these tricks to assist negotiate a greater wage.

Above all, in case you’re fortunate sufficient to land your dream job, bear in mind to give attention to each the “dream” half in addition to the “job” facet. You’ll need to work laborious and make some sacrifices, however you’ll be doing what you like.

Beginning Fires and Residing His Dream

Clements checks in along with his colleagues. Executed correctly, prescribed fires restore pure habitats. “To have the ability to be a distinction in nature… actually makes my day.” Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

On Might 31, Clements received a name at 5 a.m. A storm had torn by the park and landed a department on a tent within the tenting space.

He rushed to the scene, chainsaw in hand, to take away the tree limb.  However Clements’ greatest days at work are when he will get to be the burn boss, overseeing prescribed burns. These are man-made fires that help the forest’s ecology by mimicking pure wildfires and burning up useless leaves that might ship a wildfire uncontrolled and into surrounding neighborhoods.

The climate must be excellent for a prescribed burn, and Clements has to assume by any state of affairs during which one thing goes incorrect. He places collectively a 40-plus web page handbook that outlines every occasion.

“It’s essential be prepared for the hearth to chunk again,” he says.

When he’s not overseeing prescribed burns or asking — extraordinarily politely — {that a} patron places his canine on a leash, he relaxes along with his spouse, son and daughter (when she’s not away in school), together with their two chocolate labs (Mocha and Brady), bunny (Bun-Bun), fish, chickens and Leopard tortoise. The household spends loads of time rehabilitating animals they’ve discovered injured within the park.

As a child, Clements would spend afternoons climbing bushes and weaving by the woods in Wales making an attempt to trace down robins or goldfinches. Now he spends his days exploring his personal forest in his personal yard.

“I take nice satisfaction in being the steward of this land,” Clements says.

Alex Mahadevan is an information journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

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