By Chris Podolinsky
I wrote this article for those who sit on the fence as to whether to join POAO – those who, in MI terms, are ambivalent. I understand where some of the ambivalence may lie; there are many ways to spend $200. In these trying times, as we witness the erosion of our buying power, it is imperative that we get value for our money.
So, regarding joining POAO, you may ask: “What’s in it for me?”
Over the years POs and PPOs have joined the Association for a variety of reasons. If members were polled as to why they joined the Association, common themes would arise. But within that common theme, the number of nuanced and varied responses you would receive would grow in direct proportion to the number of members asked. In my opinion, no one can answer the question for you. The only one who can answer the question of ‘what’s in it for me?’ is you.
Nonetheless, allow me to talk about how and why I became a member. Simply put, someone told me to. Early in my career I was fortunate enough to work in the same office as Darlene Humeniuk. Darlene was a paragon of our profession; she was the finest example of what a Probation Officer could be. She was active in the union, lived and breathed POAO, and most importantly, had a full and amazing life outside of work.
At Darlene’s urging, I became a member and started to attend branch meetings. On one occasion, there was a vacancy for the position of branch treasurer. During the meeting, she turned to me and said, “I think you’d be good at that.” Ten minutes later I was the branch treasurer.
At that time, I had only been in the profession for about three years, and “knew nothing about nothing.” For me, it was very impactful for someone of Darlene’s calibre to suggest that I could be good at something. She encouraged me to do more, and to be more. Since that branch meeting I have steadily increased my involvement in the Association, trying to elevate myself to the high standard that Darlene showed was possible.
As far as the benefits of being a member, two come to mind. First, on a practical level, I have been able to increase my skill set. I knew that if at some point if I wanted to move up in the Ministry, I had to acquire more skills. POAO has been the vehicle for me to do that. I have had the opportunity to lead, to work collaboratively, to make tough decisions, to build a larger network, and to gain financial skills. Many of these skills will come in handy in future interviews, should I choose to pursue a different path. The upper levels of corporate are populated with many former POAO board members, who continue to believe in the Association and support our goals.
The second benefit ties into the idea of community which, in a way, acts as a buffer against the trauma we accumulate over the years. How many people outside of our profession truly understand what we do? POAO allows Probation and Probation and Parole Officers to connect with others who share similar experiences and can relate to each other’s struggles.
One of the great benefits of attending the annual Symposium, besides the workshops, is to simply talk to other POs and PPOs. How do they deal with tough clients? What can they share that will help me improve my work? At Symposium, there is a palpable sense of community, and camaraderie, made possible by being part of something larger.
PO week is coming up! Contact your branch chair to find out what is going on in your area. Attend an event. Find out for yourself if there a sense of community.