It was a sunny Tuesday in September, nine years ago when I read a help-wanted ad that would forever change the course of my life.
I was looking for a job because I decided to change my career path once again. I was restless and still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. The ad said candidates needed a bachelor degree in any field – I had that. It said the salary was in the $36k range – less than my educational consulting firm job but much more than I used to earn as a flight attendant or as a teacher. The biggest question I had, though, was “what the heck is a probation officer?” I really had no clue. I applied for the job mainly because the commute would only be ten minutes. I interviewed for the job, but still wasn’t sure what a probation officer actually did. I was hired in January and by the end of my first year, I not only knew what the job required but I found the profession I wanted to stay in the rest of my working life. Opportunities for growth and challenge are ever-present in this profession. But the biggest plus to this job more than anything else are the relationships I have had the good fortune to develop meaningful professional relationships with peers in my department, in the State of Arizona and around the country. The sense that we are all in this together abounds in the corrections fields and I am proud to be a part of it.
The synopsis of trainings, certifications, and positions that follows gives you an idea of the countless options for advancement and growth that are available to the interested officer. I was hired as an adult probation officer and that first year I completed a two-week probation certification academy, a 40-hour defensive tactics academy, and a 40-hour firearms training academy. My second year as a probation officer I became the drug-court PO, a defensive tactics instructor, and an Offender Screening Tool trainer. My third year I transitioned into the combination role of Intensive Probation Unit Supervisor/Safety Supervisor/Absconder Team Leader. I was trained to be a firearms instructor, a critical incident response team member, a motivational interviewing facilitator, and a warrants team leader. My fourth year didn’t slow down. I added to my list of certificates that of CPR/First Aid instructor and Glock armorer. Throughout years five and six I became our department’s training coordinator and project manager. I embarked on a series of court manager trainings offered by the Arizona Supreme Court Leadership Academy, worked with a team of managers on our department’s strategic plan for implementing evidence-based practices, and became an EBP master trainer for the state. Year seven, my department and APPA afforded me the opportunity to attend a year-long leadership institute that prepares officers/supervisors/managers for leadership positions in the corrections professions. During this time I also finished up the Arizona leadership courses with a court manager certificate. Year eight and now into year nine I hold the position of Program Manager, Treatment and Training Coordinator, and Drug Court Coordinator for Gila County Probation. It has been a whirlwind nine years and I’ve loved every minute of it!
Over the years, my network of friends and sounding boards has grown like crazy and continues to expand with every training, conference, and committee meeting. I have the utmost respect and admiration for my peers and the comradeship I experience regularly is priceless. Trainings and certifications are numerous but they are just concepts and paper in the end. The true wealth of these experiences I owe to the teachers, the participants, fellow-trainers, and leaders in the field. The kinship I feel for them is profound – the good that comes out of it, even more so.
Little did I know that turning the page to that simple ad in the paper was the opening to a world that meets my need for variety, purpose, networking, fun, and challenge. I have found my calling.