Everyone can understand the frustrations that come with finding a job in their field that they’d like to turn into a long-term career. Eight Globe alumni who earned criminal justice degrees took time off from their positions to offer advice and encouragement to current students in the program.
Standing out from the Competition
Jeff Trotnic, Onalaska Police Department chief and program chair, began with advising current students about practicing professionalism and starting the job search early. “It is very important to do things to prepare yourself for that job,” he said. “How do you make yourself stand out among the people you’re competing against?”
The majority of the alumni panel felt that volunteering was one way to make themselves known in the community they wished to work in. Sean Bistodeau, who currently has a job in security, did just that.
“I joined the police reserves. They give you training, and all you have to do is volunteer your time and act professional,” Sean said. “We have that responsibility of being within the community and providing the police presence.”
Graduate Corina Russell agreed that volunteering was essential. “Volunteering is a big thing. You may volunteer for one event and not even know there are people there that work in your career field, but they’ll remember you,” she said.
Tours and Externships
Additionally, many of the alumni gained experience and guidance from their externship placements. Chief Trotnic stressed the importance of planning ahead for an externship. “Don’t wait until that quarter when the time comes. Volunteer at a site where you’re hoping to become an extern,” he said.
Bob Matthews, who works in juvenile justice, noted that completing tours and his externship helped him decide what type of work he wanted to pursue in the field.
“After I went on tours with these guys, I thought corrections seemed pretty neat,” he said. “My externship actually helped me get my foot in the door. It’s really rewarding; it’s something to strive for.”
Impress your Instructors
While volunteering, externships and taking tours often helped many alumni determine their niche and secure employment, one alumna reminded students that preparing for the job begins in the classroom.
Brian Miller, who works as a jailer, said: “When I got here, I worked as hard as I could and did my best to impress my instructors. I would recommend working your tail off while you’re here; it pays off in the end.”
Even after all the hard work and effort the alumni put in to prepare themselves for their careers, many still had difficulty securing a position. Shelly Danielson, a corrections officer, remembered that well.
“I was applying all over the state—if you’re willing to move, it will help you a lot,” she said. Furthermore, Shelly encouraged students to consider applying for second or third shift positions, since as she noted, “Justice never sleeps.”
The importance of flexibility was also acknowledged by Shar Bebee, who works in surveillance for The Ho Chunk Nation in Wisconsin Dells. Since she had little experience in the field, Shar tried not to be picky. “I applied anywhere, every state. I was going anywhere, and I needed to take what I could get,” she said. “Now I have the experience, and I’m training for lead agent.”
Polish Your Skills, and Don’t Give Up!
Though it might come as a surprise to some students, several alumni noted the significance of having impeccable writing and communication skills.
“Be professional, stay professional, speak clearly, enunciate, learn how to write, and work on your personal skills, not just your career skills,” Bob Matthews recommended.
Most of all, the alumni offered a realistic view while encouraging students not to give up on finding a job. “You’re going to apply and apply and apply, and not hear back at all, or they’ll say ‘thanks but no thanks,’” Chris Larson, a patrol deputy, added. “It’s disheartening, but you keep applying.”
Shelly Danielson capped off the evening with this bit of wisdom for the attendees. “Use these instructors; they’re amazing. Get out there! Do job shadows, whatever it takes. You’ve got that desire, keep pushing. Keep working on it.”