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Interviewing is one of the most effective tools to collect qualitative data. Informational interviews can help identify major peculiarities of a profession and evaluate its advantages and shortcomings (Crosby, 2010). I interviewed a probation officer who had been in the profession for six years. This probation officer (in this paper, also referred to as Ann) has been working in a local probation office since 2011. Ann was very helpful as her detailed account can help me understand some peculiarities of the profession.
Time and Date
The interview was held at the weekend as Ann did not have time during her working hours. We met in a local park. The time and place were quite appropriate for the interview as it was characterized by a friendly atmosphere. Ann was willing to share her ideas, which made her responses valuable and relevant. There was no haste or interruptions, which had a positive effect on the quality of the interview.
Before asking any questions, it is essential to make sure that participants agree to take part in the study and understand the purpose and outcomes of the interview (see Appendix A). As for the major findings of the interview, it is clear that Ann has chosen this profession since she has always wanted to help people, which may mean that Ann is an empathetic person with a positive view of people (see Appendix B). The major tasks of the probation officer (as seen by Ann) include the provision of probation services to clients (consulting clients on several areas) and the collaboration with courts. The probation officer helps clients to find a job or receive some training as well as meet certain probation requirements that often involve drug testing. A probation officer should have a bachelor’s degree in such fields as criminology or sociology. Some mandated training courses may be required in some states. No working experience is usually required.
As for certain characteristics, Ann states that the probation officer should be patient, attentive, and supportive. According to Ann, the probation officer should always self-develop. It was quite expected that Ann liked the profession as she was able to make a difference and improve other people’s lives. It is noteworthy that the profession implies making decisions daily. The probation officer makes decisions concerning training and educational, as well as employment, options for the client. This professional also decides the possibility to change sentencing.
Ann notes that this profession has certain issues that make some employees less motivated. One of these issues is burnout. Ann stresses that the number of clients to coordinate is increasing, which means that probation officers have rather limited time to invest in each case. According to Ann, the profession is changing and becoming more flexible and evidence-based. Technology is transforming the field making it more flexible. As for the leadership styles to be used, Ann claims that it is critical to be supportive and empathetic to be an effective probation officer. It is also vital to encourage and motivate clients to make decisions rather than making them do some tasks. Finally, Ann provides her advice and stresses that the probation officer should be a lifelong learner who tries new ways and methods. According to Ann, it is essential to support clients rather than judge them.
It is necessary to note that the interview is not the only tool to use to collect qualitative data. Maxfield (2015) notes that focus group discussions can be another effective method. The researcher adds that these two tools are often combined. Focus group discussions can be more informative as the perspectives of many people can be examined as compared to a limited number of interviewees. There are chances that the issue mentioned in the interview could be regarded as less serious by some participants. Salyers, Hood, Schwartz, Alexander & Aalsma (2015) note that burnout is one of the reasons for poor performance. The discussion of the issue could unveil different aspects to take into account. During discussions, more qualities and characteristics could be identified and analyzed.
If I could change the method, I would choose a combination of several interviews and a focus group discussion. This strategy would help me collect more data and more diverse perspectives. At that, I would still focus on the areas outlined in this interview.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the interviewed probation officer has a positive view of the profession and claims that the most important qualities to have are being patient, empathetic, and flexible. The interviewer stresses that she likes her job because it enables her to make a difference and help people succeed in life. This interview helped me understand that my decision to be a probation officer was right. I share the interviewee’s ideas and think that I will help many people to be a part of society. I am willing to enter the profession and make society stronger.
Crosby, O. (2010). Informational interviewing: Get the inside scoop on careers. Occupational Outlook Quarterly, 54(2), 22-29. Web.
Maxfield, M. G. (2015). Basics of research methods for criminal justice and criminology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Salyers, M., Hood, B., Schwartz, K., Alexander, A., & Aalsma, M. (2015). The experience, impact, and management of professional burnout among probation officers in juvenile justice settings. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 54(3), 175-193.