Monday, 24 November 2014

On the ground: Learning the reality of careers in law and enforcement

Today's post is by Kristen McArthur, who is an undergraduate student in the Faculty of Arts.

I cannot thank the staff at CAPS: Your U of A Career Centre enough for accepting my application to attend the Law & Enforcement Career Crawl on Monday, November 10, 2014. I have always had a keen interest in the legal system, and as a student studying outside of the Faculty of Law, there have been few opportunities for me to learn more about it.

The career crawl was extremely informative, not exclusively on an “informational level” per se; rather, I came to understand and have a greater appreciation for those in the field of justice, corrections, and enforcement. I came to realize how much these working professionals really love what they do, they have a passion for it and most of them had no idea they would follow such a career path. It was all happenstance* which was all the more inspiring.

As an Arts student I thought I would have to start all over if I wanted to pursue facets of the Canadian judicial system, but there are so many opportunities out there for me that I am now aware of thanks to the career crawl. I was given information on the job descriptions, requirements and recruitment processes of the Edmonton Police Service, probation officers, and corrections. I learned about the challenging and enthralling work involved in being either a defense lawyer or a crown prosecutor. Many of my misperceptions were corrected in terms of what you see in the media and what is reality for some of those involved in the criminal justice system—which was very enlightening for someone who is interested in the same field(s).

I learned about salary, expectations, requirements, and the wide variation of backgrounds from a sheriff to a probation officer. Most people “happened” upon a career in the legal system. For someone who pursued a BA in Psychology and Sociology, meeting professionals within the system possessing the same degree was extremely encouraging and reassuring that it is not too late for me, that I too can have a career in this field with or without a law degree.

I learned a little about the cultural aspects of the judicial system like the types of cultural sensitivity training police officers undergo and if you were an undercover officer, whether you would be matched based on ethnicity. I got to see a whole other side of corrections officers, who are really passionate about their work, and their efforts toward objectivity and safety (not just for themselves, but for the accused as well). All in all, I would rate this experience as a highlight in my academic career. It has helped shaped my perceptions and understandings about the various opportunities I have available to me, not only as a student but also as a citizen and human being. Wonderful experience, I would do it again, any day.

*Editor’s note:
The concept of happenstance in careers was reinforced by the speakers as they shared with participants their own career stories. Where they ended up had less to do with planning and more to do with their responses to both positive and negative chance events, or happenstance. The speakers’ stories demonstrated that to successfully manage your career it is important to remain flexible by actively exploring your many areas of interest and keeping your options open. It is important to say 'yes' to new opportunities even when you don’t know the outcome. It is also crucial to reflect on what you learn from engaging in new opportunities. The speakers’ career stories suggested that making plans is fine, but plans should be revised regularly to reflect new possibilities. You can find out more about CAPS’ approach to career management here.

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