Asking important questions: what keeps you motivated in your profession?

Author:Thelen, Rory A.
Position:A View From the Line

Someone once said that the greatest reward of suffering is experience. If this is true, then we should all be experts. My own correctional experiences have given me priceless lessons that motivate and energize me every day.

As a corrections professional, I enjoy my job. I thrive on the responsibilities entrusted to me by the community and the challenges presented to me by inmates and staff. I like my coworkers, the camaraderie in the squad room and the "wacked" sense of humor we often develop to get through our daily responsibilities. I am proud to know that even though we don't always agree or get along, when the need arises, we are a team. We respond to each situation as one to accomplish a common goal.

A student's question

A few years ago, I had to rediscover my motivations for coming to work each day. A friend of mine at Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where I was an adjunct instructor, invited me to sit in on his annual workshop for students in the corrections science program. The workshop sought to expose students to representatives from federal, state, local and private correctional facilities in an effort to enhance career interests and opportunities available to them after they receive their degree. As a panel member, I, along with other corrections professionals, shared stories and answered questions. The interactions between staff and students that this panel provided became a valuable learning experience for everyone. At one point in the day, a student asked me a question that cut right to the core: "What keeps you motivated on a daily basis in this profession?"

My initial response was the usual answers: money, prestige, status, the desire to help others. Yet, as quickly as those thoughts came to me, another more important reality popped into my head: "I'm not sure." When it came down to it, I had been running on an illusion. I needed to find what motivated me, not someone else.

What's your journey?

As a result of that question, I started thinking about why I got into this business in the first place. My reasons have changed over the years, depending on specific points in my career, and I've found new ways to motivate myself and keep going, both physically and mentally. My answer to this question depends wholly on these varying motivations, and taking the time to look back has made all the difference. My initial motivation was to be accepted and trusted by my peers. Today, it is to make a difference...

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