As an educator, I always tell students that the desire to get involved in a criminal justice career must go beyond schoolwork. What you learn in class is very important. But there are important “soft skills” – personal attributes not specific to an industry or task – to learn while you go through your education that are important to practice while you earn your degree. Learning these skills can help set the stage for the career you want.
1. Written Communication
Written communication is pertinent to criminal justice because documents you write have the potential to become legal documents. It is important that you evaluate your writing. Do you write in “text-speak”? Do you have many grammatical or spelling errors? Practice writing and seek assistance should you need it. Writing does take practice. With diligent practice, it will improve. It takes time and effort.
2. Oral Communication
Since many jobs in criminal justice will put you in regular contact with the public, how you speak is very important. Do you speak to everyone like they are your close friends? How you speak can influence people’s view of you. If you are afraid of speaking or speak very informally, practice. Being an unwavering introvert, it took me time to feel comfortable speaking in public. When you write a paper, read it out loud as though you were giving a speech to an audience. Practice in front of friends and family. Do it often. If you have a local Toastmasters organization or other speaking organization, join it and be active in it.
3. Time Management
Many careers within criminal justice entail days that are never the same. Many events can occur all at the same time. Deadlines are important. They are important because people’s lives, freedom and rights depend upon it. The perfect place to practice this is during your education. I always tell my students to write their due dates down or input them in their smartphone. I tell them to write out their schedule and to adhere to due dates. As you begin or continue your education, go beyond your schoolwork to learn. Challenge yourself. If you are good in one area, such as writing, go beyond. How are you regarding speaking? How are you regarding deadlines? And remember, learning does not end once you earn your degree.
Criminal justice is an exciting field. It is a field with great responsibility and one that is very rewarding, but many things change within criminal justice. What is crime changes. Our laws change. Practices and policies change. Never give up on learning. Seek out opportunities. Soak up learning every moment you are able.