Candice Williams (MA '11), a counselor with Children's Safe Harbor(l), and Georgia Haynes, Senior Court Officer with Tarrant County Adult Probation (r), visit with a student at an NABCJ gathering.
Criminal justice students got an insider’s view from professionals on how to get hired and succeed at jobs in the field at the second annual conference sponsored by the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice.
“Students to Professionals: Where We Are to Where We Want to Be” provided panels of criminal justice professionals on resumes, interviews, internships, careers and lifestyles. The panels included representatives from police, corrections, courts and victim service agencies.
“We want to provide more students with professional perspectives on job searches and resumes,” said Jamal Turner, President of the NABCJ. “We wanted to give them the insider’s view.”
NABCJ President Jamal Turner (l) confers with SHSU Employment Specialist Greg Monteihl.The National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice is a non-profit, professional organization that promotes the advancement of criminal justice. The organization sponsors Women’s Week, which raises awareness of women’s issues through events on physical fitness, professional advise for future careers, and domestic violence, as well as the mini-conference that allows students to network with practitioners. It also sponsors an after school program at Scott Johnson Elementary School and participate in highway cleanups and Saturdays@SAM.
Greg Monteihl, an employment specialist with SHSU Career Services and a former job developer and human resources specialist with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, provided tips on developing resumes. Monteilh said your resume should be a marketing piece, a tool to communicate the things you have done well and to stress the skills and experiences that make you a better candidate. Deputy Chief James Fitch of the University Police Department, a former Huntsville officer, told students what to expect during the interview process for law enforcement jobs.
In addition to facing a polygraph exam and criminal background check, most police departments use a panel of officers during the interviewing process. Police like to pose scenario-based questions, which often fall in the “gray areas” of operations, such as whether to give a fellow officer a speeding ticket or to arrest him or her for drunk driving. The panel is generally gauging how you handle yourself in stressful situations.
“You have to be absolutely honest in this field,” said Fitch. “None of us are angels. We all make mistakes.”
A criminal record, like a drunken driving conviction, will knock you out of contention for most law enforcement jobs for up to 10 years. It’s important to divulge past indiscretions, such as experimenting with drugs or juvenile records, and to take ownership of mistakes and not blame outside influences. Any lies uncovered on an application or resume will lead to immediate disqualification, Fitch said.
Fitch said students should be prepared to answer questions identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and it is critical to research the department before an interview. During an interview, you should sit on the edge of your chair to promote good posture, show enthusiasm and reduce nervous tics and maintain eye contact with all members of the panel. Remember to shake hands with everyone before and after the interview.
“You are selling yourself,” said Fitch. “You should dress correctly, shake everyone’s hand and address them by name or rank.”
Terri McGee, Assistant Deputy Director for Harris County Juvenile Probation (center), talks to students following a presentation on internships.Terri McGee, Assistant Deputy Director for Harris County Juvenile Probation and Denise Kennedy, a former Texas Department of Juvenile Justice Parole Officer and Internship Coordinator, encouraged students to pursue internships for the experience needed to get hired in this competitive marketplace. Students also should consider more than one internship, volunteer opportunities, practicums or clubs to help build their resumes.
“You need to be able to get experience to get into an agency,” and Kennedy. “Because it is so competitive, you want to make sure you are seen in the best possible light.”
Kennedy and McGee said a good resume will get you in the door for an interview, but it also is important to clean up your image on social media sites, including Facebook and voice mail. Criminal justice internships often require criminal background checks, and students should research the agency for its history and opportunities and should work on writing skills.
“You don’t have to be a Ernest Hemingway or a Terry McMillan,” said Kennedy. “But you do have to be able to write specifically and succinctly and tell us who, what, when, and where. You also need to use complete sentences.”
NABCJ students share a dinner with professional speakers. McGee said during internships, students need to act and dress professionally, take notes, ask questions, be prompt, attend regularly and get contact information from supervisors in the office in case of emergency. In addition to good writing skills, students also need to develop their computer skills.
“Treat it like a job,” McGee said. Georgia Haynes, Senior Court Officer with Tarrant County Adult Probation, and Candice Williams, a Clinical Team Counselor at Children’s Safe Harbor, provided tips on how to succeed on the job and get promoted.
Williams said the people that you meet at your first job will be the ones to help you in your career. Whether is it is an internship, a volunteer position, or an entry level position, it is important to do the best job you can do.
“They will watch how you interact with other people and if you have leadership capabilities,” said Williams, former Undergraduate Advisement Coordinator for the College of Criminal Justice.
Haynes urged students to select a mentor for their career by offering to shadow a supervisor who they admire. It also helps to volunteer for projects to help build your skill sets.
Even after you get the job, many agencies continue to monitor employees through social media, criminal records and drug and alcohol testing. Fingerprints taken for criminal background checks also remain in the national database. Williams and Haynes also stressed the ability to write and speak well.
“You need to write and articulate what you need to get across,” said Haynes. “To write well and speak well is important in the criminal justice system.”