Veteran staff have many helpful, even life-saving tips to share with other staff and newbies. They have earned their wisdom from experience over the years, usually the hard way.
Here is a list of attitudes and actions of seasoned corrections staff which help them remain safe on the job and successful in their careers.
With such a mindset, wise corrections veterans can meet both the goals of safety and meaningfulness for their jobs, while also being invaluable role models and an inspiration to new officers and other staff.
- I’m always learning. While it is certainly true that the learning curve flattens out as we gain experience, veteran staff know that they continually grow and learn on the job. There are very few, if any, who have worked at all levels of security and with offenders of all cultures, backgrounds or both genders. New laws get passed frequently. Wise veterans know that even after thirty years in corrections, they can be faced with situations they have not encountered before.
- Training is indispensable. Veterans know that training helps them be ahead of the game, practice what to do before they are faced with a potential disaster, or learn how to deal with a new trend. Veterans also realize that training gets them to polish off old, rusted learning, so they are ready to tackle infrequent challenges correctly when confronted with them suddenly.
- I learn from new staff’s questions. Veteran staff realizes that routine can set their perspective in stone (or mud) to the point where they miss whatever does not fit into their rigidified outlook. Veterans know that minimizing or dismissing information can cost a life. Listening to new staff (and to other staff in general) helps wise veterans consider aspects and issues which they had formerly relegated to their blind spot.
- Corrections is constantly evolving. Seasoned staff have seen many trends and approaches come and go, as well as political, legal, societal, and technological changes that impact how they are expected to do their jobs. That reality is what prompts them to be open to ongoing learning and formal training.
- No matter how much respect I command among offenders, I never assume I’m safe around them. Veteran staff knows that that communication, respect and good rapport are key to safety. But they also remember that inmates may assault staff for no logical reason or for reasons known only to them. That is why veterans never let their guard down and they do not befriend offenders.
- I know that I do not know it all. Wise veteran staff rein in their ego and deflate their pride. They know that humility has nothing to do with humiliation. They stay open to what others bring to the table and are secure enough in themselves to acknowledge colleagues’ good ideas and different ways of thinking or doing things.
- My name is not Rod (Retired on duty). Veterans know that they need to remain careful and vigilant, and to steer away from complacency, especially as they get closer to retirement. They realize that safety does not increase with time on the job.
- Technology is here to stay. Even though parts of corrections operations work well because they are tried and true, technology continues to change how things are done in this field. Part of ongoing learning is adapting to new methods and guidelines that are based on technological advancements.
- I grab hold of opportunities to grow in the profession. Veteran staff keeps from getting bored or complacent by participating in new professional opportunities. They, for example, may volunteer to perform a vocationally uncomfortable task, such as participating on a committee. Doing so broadens their horizons and expands their work perspective. It may also afford them an opportunity to become agents of positive change and assistance to fellow staff. New experiences help staff continue to find purpose and interest in their profession.
- The past was glorious, but the present is even more exciting. Veterans know that triumphs of the past are great, but the focus of a vibrant life and career is on the present. Yes, nostalgia has it place, yet veterans are aware that what matters is that they impact TODAY well, do their best NOW. Wise veterans stay engaged in what is going on and participate in teamwork, even though that takes lots more effort than living off the memories of the good old “glory” days.
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