Starting your career as a probation service officer
If you read our recent article about how to enjoy a varied career in probation, then you’ll know that the probation sector is open to anyone. Lower level probation service officer job roles are open to anyone interested in working in the sector. However, if you have a degree or relevant criminal justice experience (such as work as a prison officer, housing or youth offending) you may have a greater chance of success. We briefly mentioned in our previous article that the National Probation Service regularly hosts dedicated interview days for prospective probation service officers, so we wanted to clarify how to apply for a position and what to expect from an assessment centre.Eligible for those keen to work within the NPS Currently, the probation sector is split into two key areas; the National Probation Service (NPS) which manages high to medium risk offenders and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), which support low to medium risk offenders. It has been announced that the government plans to reverse the controversial Transforming Rehabilitation programme and merge the two services together. However, nothing will likely change before December 2020. If you are keen to start a career as a probation service officer, then you may be invited to attend a dedicated interview day, run by the NPS. These assessment days are specifically designed to facilitate PSO interviews across the UK and are an opportunity to find out more about the job role. How to apply If you are new to the sector and you’ve never applied for a job role before, then you should apply via the NPS website. This is a dedicated site which provides full details of what the role entails and how much you can expect to be paid. During your online application, you will be asked to provide details of your career history, education and any relevant experience. Following that, the application will move onto a decision-making test which will determine your ability to respond to specific scenarios and competency questions to test your attitude and skills. What to expect from an assessment centre Once you pass, you will be invited to attend a half-day interview at an assessment centre. Held in locations across the UK, these days are a way of undertaking a final interview before an assessor decides if you are the right candidate for the role. During your visit, the session will be split into three distinct parts; a group exercise, a written test and an individual interview. The assessors are looking for desirable candidates who stand out as having the potential to make fantastic a PSO. They want to find out if you can work in a team, what your communication skills are like and how you can adapt your experience and life skills to the requirements of the job. Whilst no specific training or qualifications are required, you may wish to highlight any relevant background experience you may have. Candidates who have worked within the housing sector, voluntary community groups or within a healthcare environment can be at an advantage. If you are unsuccessful in your first assessment day, there is nothing to stop you from re-applying. Take the time to reconsider your experience – perhaps see if you can undertake any voluntary roles which may give you a greater advantage.To find out how we can help you to progress your probation career, please get in touch.
You’ve got the job! What’s next?
So you got that job you were hoping for! And if you’re registered with Sanctuary, you will know that you are in capable hands. We will take full responsibility for handling contracts, confirming start days and ensuring you’re fully compliant so you can stay focused. Whether you’re working in offender healthcare, starting a new job within probation or joining a youth offending team, there’s much to consider ahead of your first day. To help you on your way, we’ve listed a few things that you may want to consider before starting:Time for a short break?After leaving your current role, you may wish to take time out for yourself and enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation before you start a new contract. If you’re resigning from a permanent position, your ability to take a few days holiday between jobs may depend on your notice period and whether you have any annual leave left to take. Likewise, if you’re working on a short-term contract then you will need to be sure of your final contracted working date. Your Sanctuary consultant will liaise with the new employer and confirm your new start date, so if you do need a day or two to yourself, make sure your consultant is aware. This will allow them to factor it in on your behalf.Practical preparations ahead of the big dayWe will collect, verify and provide your security clearances (if required), compliance and immunisation documentation to your new employer before your start date. We will also continue to monitor document expiry dates throughout your employment and remind you before any are about to expire.Have you planned your route to work? If you’re making the most of public transport, how does this fit in with shift work? If you’re going to drive, do you know where the nearest car park is and how much change you may need? You may benefit from googling the journey at the time you plan to leave; using a tool such as Google Maps could help you to spot any high traffic areas and plan alternative routes. No one wants to be late for their first day, so you may even wish to do a practice run ahead of time.Check the latest legislationIn today’s changing political climate, we’re seeing a fast-paced evolution across all areas of criminal justice. From the announcement that probation will be re-nationalised through to the latest stages of the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019, it’s important to ensure that your knowledge is up-to-date. We use our blog pages to discuss sector-related news and also recommend checking in with the latest news from the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Health and Social Care. Remind yourself of the job roleIf you’re moving into a new probation or youth offending role, then you are likely going to be working in a similar position. However, every company operates differently, and what may be standard practice for one employer may be different in another. Before you walk in on your first day, re-read the original job description. It will remind you of what the employer is looking for, and why they chose you to fill the position. If there are specific references to key areas within the role, then make sure you are confident in your knowledge of those specialisms. First day jitters are normalFirst day nerves are normal, but everyone will be keen to make a good first impression. We always recommend that you walk in with a big smile and take the time to join in with conversations. If you show that you’re warm and approachable, a good listener and a hard worker you’ll soon be a much-loved member of the team.For any additional help in preparing for your first day, please contact your Sanctuary consultant.
Using the right language on your CV
How can you ensure that your CV makes an impact? How do you get the balance between keeping things concise and being vague? This is where the choice of language comes into play. We’re not talking about being multilingual - although if you are, mention it on your CV! - we’re talking about moving away from clichés and freshening things up. The hiring manager has heard the phrases “great team player”, “hard worker” and “self-motivated” a hundred times before and whilst these things are important to mention, you should start making the most of action verbs within your descriptions. These are words which demonstrate your confidence and can easily be expanded upon during an interview scenario. “Action verbs are used to deliver important information in a sentence and add impact and purpose. These verbs play a vital role in grammar and signals to the reader what action the subject is performing in the sentence”- Source: YourDictionary.com. Making the most of action wordsLet’s look at some common examples and see how we can improve them through the inclusion of action verbs.Before: “Held regular planning meetings with multi-agency teams to reduce re-offending”After: “Established and supervised regular planning meetings with multi-agency teams to reduce reoffending”.The difference is clear. Simply using the addition of the words ‘established’ and ‘supervised’, the same sentence suddenly seems much more powerful and enhances the specific impact. Here’s another example. Before: “Worked with multidisciplinary staff and developed a specialist practice-based clinical model of care” After: “Championed strong working relationships with multidisciplinary staff and implemented a specialist practice-based clinical model of care” Again, the use of two action words really grabs your attention and makes you sound more confident and experienced.If you need help to improve your CV, then please get in touch with one of Sanctuary’s dedicated recruitment consultants.
Handling tricky career moments
We all dream of having a flawless CV; one which shows our career trajectory and highlights our expertise and knowledge. But whilst some lucky people have a career which is plain-sailing, others may find that they have had some ups and downs which could cast a shadow on their professional expertise. If you’re looking for your next criminal justice job role, then it may be wise to consider how your CV looks to potential hiring managers. You may know that you have the capability to handle the job role, but there may be some skeletons lurking in your career wardrobe which could cause doubt. Long periods of unemployment, health-related issues or even tricky moments from your past could be enough to prevent you from making the most of your opportunities.So, how can you handle these moments and present yourself as an ideal candidate for the job role? Let’s take a look…Always be truthfulHonesty is always the best policy when it comes to recruitment practices. Whether you were let go from a previous job role or you had an issue with a professional body, it’s always wise to be up-front with recruiters about what the situation was, and what you have learnt from it.In professions such as youth offending or probation, it’s not uncommon to find practitioners who may have been inspired to train as probation officers or substance misuse workers following their own personal experiences. If this is something that you have lived through, then rather than hiding away from your past, use it as a strength. Use your CV or your interview to demonstrate how your personal experience has guided your career; show how you’ve overcome any difficulties and how it makes you a stronger practitioner. In relation to your CV, make sure that everything is 100% accurate.Factual data such as employment dates or qualifications are easily identifiable so it’s imperative that you tell the truth. If a hiring manager undertakes basic checks and discovers that you’re not being honest, then you’ll quickly find yourself looking for a new opportunity.Explaining long career gaps doesn’t need to be difficultIf you’ve taken a long career gap (six months or more) then you may feel under pressure to explain your reasons. Regardless of whether it was a result of unemployment, health-related issues or even simply time off to recharge your batteries, it’s much more common than you may think. Making simple formatting changes can sometimes be enough to help you focus on your strengths whilst still remaining honest and truthful.If you are asked by any hiring managers about any career gaps, then the most important thing you can do is to show how you’ve kept your skills up to date during your break. If you’re working in a job role where professional registration is required (such as offender healthcare) then you may need to check with your professional body what the requirements are.For example, the Nursing and Midwifery Council have published strong guidance on how to return to practice following a career break.If you’ve used your time away to focus on voluntary work, then use your CV and/or your interview to explain how your new skills/experience are applicable to the workplace. You may be amazed to discover how transferable some skills are!Think about what you are saying and how you say itIf you’re in an interview, and you’re questioned about a time where you struggled with a co-worker, or you’re asked to explain why your contract was terminated by a previous employer it can be a natural reaction to go on the defensive. You may find old emotions are stirred up or you may struggle to hide your feelings. In an interview situation, this could be a huge turn-off for any prospective employers. If you know that you have a past moment which is likely to be discussed in an interview situation, practice what you want to say. You may find that your Sanctuary consultant is best placed to help you. After all, they can suggest how to explain certain career moments or practice some interview questions with you to help you with your nerves. Practicing what you want to say, and how you want to say it, can help you feel much more confident when answering tricky questions. If you have a delicate matter within your career history and you’re unsure how to address this on your CV or ahead of an interview, please make sure you speak with your Sanctuary consultant. We can work closely with you to find the most appropriate ways to share tricky moments, whilst simultaneously highlighting your strengths. If you need any advice or guidance, please make sure you give us a call.
Moving ahead in your probation career
Recently it was announced that the government will be re-nationalising offender supervision programmes from December 2020. Although many details are still to be confirmed, this could be an opportunity for some probation officers to further their careers, as these changes will undoubtedly lead to the creation of new senior or managerial positions. As specialist recruiters of POs and PSOs, we’re still waiting for clarification of how the new changes will impact upon recruitment, and we promise that we’ll share the information with you as soon as we have it. But in the meantime, if you are keen to move ahead in your probation career, then it’s wise to review your CV and ensure that you’re highlighting the most appropriate skills.Here is our advice on how to use your CV to further your probation career:Demonstrate your career progressionAs probation officers, you’ll likely have experienced continual career development throughout your career as you progress through the banding system. As your CV is the first point of contact for any prospective employer, you’ll need to demonstrate how your career has developed and what skills you have learnt. Make sure that you highlight any specific training workshops that you’ve participated in. If possible, try to explain what you learned from each course and how you’ve put that knowledge into practice. If you’re interested in moving away from working with offenders into a more managerial role, you may wish to undertake a PRINCE2 project management qualification. This will show that you have the skills and knowledge to manage a team and could differentiate yourself from other candidates. Showcase your work with multi-disciplinary teamsThose working in senior probation roles will find that they spend a lot of their time working across multi-disciplinary teams. For instance, you may find yourself attending different committees or sub-groups to represent your probation service. When you’re applying for managerial positions, take the time to showcase any work that you’ve done with multi-disciplinary teams – for example, you may have built close working relationships with youth offending teams as people transition into the adult probation system. Your work with external teams will likely be a topic of interest in any interviews, so try to think about situations where you’ve been able to successfully work together with others to achieve positive outcomes. Highlight your knowledge and passion for probationGreat probation managers and senior probation officers have a strong passion for what they do. They continually take the time to update their skills, read the latest research and discover new practice models. You can use your CV to highlight how you’ve tackled repeat offending and what you’ve learnt from other colleagues. We know that this could conflict with our previous guidance on how to cut down a lengthy probation CV, but it’s important to use your CV as an opportunity to showcase your knowledge to any prospective hiring panels. If you’re keen to move into a managerial role, an important task is to share information and guidance with other probation boards or regional groups. You will need to talk confidently about issues in your own area and how you’ve overcome them. This could also be a topic of interest during any interview panels, so consider if you have any situations or scenarios you could discuss with the interviewer. Consider your wider skill setFinally, it's important to think beyond just probation. You may have a variety of skills which are perfect for a managerial role, which goes beyond the traditional scope of a probation officer. We know that many of our probation candidates have a colourful career history. Perhaps you previously trained as a social worker, or maybe you’ve experience volunteering for a local community organisation where you were responsible for overseeing budgets. Think about what skills you have and consider how they could apply to a senior position. Use your personal profile to explain more about who you are as a person and describe what makes you such a strong candidate for the job role. If you need support writing your CV for your next probation job role, get in touch with your Sanctuary consultant. They’ll be able to help you adapt your CV, giving you the greatest chance of success.
Leaving your offender healthcare job amicably
Leaving a job role can be an emotional time. Whether you’ve worked there for years or you’ve been employed on a short-term contract, it’s important that you part ways with your employer and your colleagues amicably.Offender healthcare is a niche-role; after all, you not only need to have your nursing qualifications but you also need to have different security clearances enabling you to work in a secure setting. Therefore, we would always recommend parting ways amicably when leaving an offender healthcare job role – after all, you never know when you may work alongside previous colleagues in a different environment. If you’re used to working on short-term contracts then you may find that moving on harmoniously is easy to do; after all, you know from the outset that you’re only going to be working there for a specified amount of time. But if you work in a permanent job role, moving on can be much harder. To make the process much easier for everyone involved, we’re sharing our advice regarding how to leave your current job role amicably. Resign in personNo one ever enjoys handing in their notice. Even if you’ve been unhappy at work, you’ll undoubtedly feel nerves as you ask to speak to your line manager. But as easy as it may be to simply send a swift email, you should always resign in person. It’s an opportunity to explain to your manager why you’ve chosen to move on and to show any thanks/appreciation for the opportunities that you’ve experienced. Offering a formal resignation in person will show much character, and how you handle this can play a big part in how effective your notice period can be. If you are planning to resign, it’s important that the first person you tell should be your line manager. It may be easy to share the news with a trusted colleague, but if the news leaks before you have a chance to speak directly, it could make you look unprofessional or untrustworthy. Give as much notice as you canWhen an employee resigns, it can be extremely difficult for an employer to find an immediate replacement. Not only will they need to find a nurse with the same skill set, but within the offender healthcare profession, there is also the added challenge of finding a candidate with the right security clearances. In order to ensure that you have an amicable departure, you may wish to try and provide as much notice as you can. Your contract with stipulate what your notice period is. For some people, it could be as little as two weeks; for others, it could be much longer. The RCN has some published some great information which helps you to understand your contractual rights when working during your notice period. Have a clear handover with colleaguesLeaving your employer amicably isn’t just about parting on good terms with your managers. It’s also about parting on good terms with your co-workers. We’ve mentioned above that you never know when you could work alongside a former colleague, so it’s always wise to avoid burning any bridges where possible. An easy way to ensure that your former colleagues think highly of you is to ensure that you have a full handover with them on your last day. This could be about updating them on a patient’s prognosis or helping them to understand what specific medical attention an individual may need. It’s also about ensuring that all administration tasks have been completed before you leave. The easier the handover process is with your colleagues, the more amicable your departure will be. If you’re ready to resign from your current offender healthcare job role, then you need to ensure that you have a new job lined up. At Sanctuary Criminal Justice, we recruit for a wide range of offender health jobs across the UK. You can find more about our latest vacancies by searching through our jobs page.
Is social media harming your career?
Since the explosion of social media over the past decade, it’s almost impossible to keep your private life private. With the anonymity afforded by the likes of Instagram and Twitter, have you ever considered what your digital footprint is saying about you?If you’re serious about looking for a new job role, whether it’s within the probation sector, a youth offending team or as an offender healthcare nurse, then you may want to take some time to review your social media output. In today’s tech-savvy world, many hiring managers may head to Google to do some further background checks before offering you a job role. Within just a few clicks of a mouse, it can be easy to find out who you are, what you like, what you’re saying and what others are saying about you.So, could this impact your career?In most cases, your online presence is harmless. After all, no one is going to bat an eyelid if you’ve shared a few cat memes. But if your online profiles are showing support for controversial figures or you’re sharing potentially offensive content then an employer may think twice about hiring you. However, if it takes a potential employer just a few minutes to discover your digital footprint, then it should be easy to change a few settings to give yourself more privacy.Have you Googled yourself?The first thing you need to do is to Google yourself. It may seem like an ego-trip, but if you can look online to see what presence you have, you can decide if you need to act before you apply for your new role. More than likely you’ll find that most links do not refer to you (particularly if you have a common name) but it’s worth checking the news pages as well as Google Images for any incriminating photos. The last thing you want is for your potential new boss to see a picture of you with your friends on a night out – it may sound silly, but if you’ve been tagged into an image on an open social media site, it can easily be picked up by Google’s search algorithm. You can use your Google search to your benefit. It will likely pick up your LinkedIn profile, so here’s your chance to double check that your profile is up to date. You may wish to take advantage of the ‘post an article’ function on LinkedIn. If you write articles showcasing your knowledge, then this will also be picked up within the Google search and could look favourably on you by hiring managers.Check your privacy settingsIt may seem obvious but it’s amazing how many people leave their social media profiles completely open for anyone to view. In most instances this may not cause any harm, but your Facebook profile should always be kept as private as possible. It’s not difficult to find out your date of birth, your hometown, and even your mother’s maiden name or your school within just a few clicks. In the wrong hands, this could easily lead to identity theft or even worse! What’s more, if your Facebook profile is open, a potential recruiter can easily look at your entire profile. They can see your likes and dislikes. Discover your political views and look at every photo you’ve ever uploaded. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, then it’s incredibly easy to adjust your privacy settings on Facebook. All you need to do is click settings > privacy. From here, we would advise that all your settings are set to “friends only”.It’s also worthwhile keeping your Instagram private as well – to do this, click settings > privacy and security > account privacy and click to “private account”. You won’t lose followers, and people will still be able to follow you; you’ll just have to accept them first.Are your profile photos appropriate?The two things that will always remain public will be your profile photos and cover images, regardless of what social platform you are on. Always make sure that you choose an appropriate image. First impressions do count. If a potential hiring manager has seen a photo of you in a compromising position as a profile photo, you may have to work harder than another candidate to win them over. It may seem unfair, but you need to ensure that your public profile portrays the image that you want to project.Remember that social media is a public forumSocial media can be a great way to create a good first impression and it certainly has its benefits. However, it’s important to keep in mind that whilst you may think that you’re anonymous, it’s incredibly easy to identify who you are. Social media is a public forum and should be treated as such – particularly if you wish to be taken seriously within your career.The best advice we can give is to remember to never post anything that you wouldn’t mind your boss or grandparents seeing!