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Level Out or Level Up

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Not everyone is gunning for a promotion. And it's a select few who dream that they will become the director someday. Formal leadership roles are not for everyone. We all have our own journeys. Each of us are called to follow our own path.

I identified less with a formal title, and more with a mission. I wanted to be involved, I wanted to grow, I wanted to be a factor. But I wasn't interested in promotions or titles. I felt called to stay on the ground making a difference to my callers, field units, and co-workers.

Change creeps up on us, though, little by little, and then one day, we find ourselves agreeing to train yet another new person and finally being appointed as an official CTO, Lead Dispatcher, TAC, or PSAP Coordinator. Those are titles to things that we all do in the 911 industry. Even those who are not official trainers lend a hand to their teammates and show them something new or guide them through a harrowing experience. We become accidental leaders as well. Without warning, we can be presented with circumstances where we are the one that makes a stand, guides the team, or invents a timely solution. Throughout my career, I have been a follower, leader, risk taker, and status quo gal. I have stepped out and stepped up, and I have hung back and wondered if I dare consider myself qualified.

It has only been in recent times that we recognize that growth is not linear. We don't have to tread the same path as others; if we do, we don't have to do it in the same order or at the same speed. Still, others find they are called on a previously never explored path. So many opportunities present themselves to us. It's a never-ending rush of chances. When opportunities to rest present themselves, we might feel like a failure. And we might call them apathy or laziness. We don't glorify resting, so it feels like we're moving backward. Falling behind.

The graph that reminds us that success is not a straight shot to the top paints a picture of peaks and valleys. What if we recognized those valleys as rest breaks rather than failings? Consider that just as our body must rest and sleep, perhaps the dips in our careers are opportunities to relax, and recharge. In our physical body, resting is a time of rejuvenation. Human Growth Hormone is released during sleep. The release of HGH during sleep is a critical part of how your body is restored while sleeping.

It is this phenomenon that I believe I've experienced. In my 911 career, I may have looked like I was standing still. Could it be that I was resting, restoring, and preparing for such a time as this? Perhaps, not visible to others, I was putting down strong roots rather than blossoms on my branches?

My roots are strong, and my branches are solid, so recently, I declared that I'd rested long enough. I sought to take on a new challenge. To that end, I have been studying for my ENP (Emergency Number Professional certification) for about eight or nine months. NENA, the National Emergency Number Association, has provisioned a process by which we can demonstrate a mastery of the comprehensive knowledge base required for emergency number program management. It was not pretty, and it certainly wasn't straightforward. It looked nothing like taking an elevator to the top floor. Some days I studied for 4 hours, and other times I would ignore the materials for weeks, only to rally and dig in again. All that effort (and rest) culminated in taking the exam a few days ago. I am happy to report that I received a preliminary notification that I passed. Achieving this certification doesn't bring a new job title or a raise. Instead, becoming an ENP and other projects I'm involved in gives me a sense of self. It's empowered me to embrace more challenges. I don't regret not doing it long ago, for that was when I was resting. Upward growth was not visible to others. I was putting down roots. I was growing in ways no one could see.

I leave you with this; if you are feeling stuck or stale, take inventory of all your growth, from trainee to today. Then, make an action plan to move to whatever new level you seek. You don't have to become a director to be a leader in this profession. And there is not a single thing wrong with a bit of a rest; in fact, it's necessary. However, the real danger is not resting but simply leveling out and coasting. No matter where you are, there are opportunities to level up.

To learn more about ENP and apply and start studying for your exam, click here:


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