One of the major questions when pursuing a criminal justice career is: do you want to be front line or back office? Both come with their own connotations and assumptions. Maybe front line is more exciting but also more challenging, more demanding, and maybe even scarier while back office may be more stable but ultimately more boring and often less rewarding. These are typical assumptions that I can admit to being guilty of thinking sometimes, but none of these assumptions are necessarily true, and definitely not reliable until you experience it for yourself.
Experience is the best way to get to know yourself and sometimes you’ll discover something you never expected to be true. Working with Trading Standards and the Safer Communities Service as part of my volunteering work for the Criminal Justice Fast Track has given me a number of opportunities to see both sides. I’ve often been tasked with admin work, such as reviewing witness statements, inputting police reports, conducting research for victim visits, cataloguing counterfeit products, and corresponding with trade markers. This has allowed me to get to know the system upon which Trading Standards runs and has inevitably aided me in my front line experiences. Two weeks ago, I went out with a colleague to visit scam victims and my back office experience benefited this enormously. But as I worked more with those on front line duty, including PCSOs, I got a taste for it. My experience of back office duties hadn’t yet been enough to persuade me of its merits career-wise, despite finding it interesting for work experience.
However, meeting an ex-police crime analyst last week gave me an invaluable insight into just how rewarding ‘back office’ duties can be. So, here I am, back to square one, but not really. If anything, I’ve learnt not to judge potential career routes by a handful of experiences – always keep an open mind. And through my experiences I’ve also learnt a new spectrum of how I feel about where I want my career to go and where I don’t want it to go. And I’m motivated to continue learning with ever new experiences. Many people know where they ultimately want to be, but I’m not one of those people, and neither are a huge number of people, but with these experiences, I’m starting to find my way there. No one can tell you how you’d like to work, so you need to go out and find out.