Webinar presenter Jonni Redick answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Five Ways to Survive the Promotional Preparation. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Some officers and other professionals feel like you have to ‘check all the boxes’ on the job description in order to get a promotion. Do we always need to wait until we’ve checked all those boxes, or even exceeded all of those requirements to be considered?
Jonni Redick: Absolutely not. I mean, we don’t even have to go into that in some long dissertation. But there is research that shows that women will wait till they have absolutely all of those boxes checked before they will put in. But for all of us, male and female, absolutely not. That’s what that inventory assessment is, and your readiness is really to be able to determine if you are ready to apply for the position or entry into the examination process. So, I had a hard question asked of me when I was in the examination process for lieutenant during the oral interview. I had been a sergeant for only a couple of years. And I decided to take the lieutenants test and the HR, female, I can see her face looking at me, and said, “I’d like to ask you what makes you think you’re ready to be a lieutenant?” Because I was competing with people who had maybe 5 or 10 years as a rank as a sergeant being a lieutenant, and I just shared with her. “I have 15 years on the California Highway Patrol. I may have 2.5 years in rank, but I have 15 years of experience. I also have an educational background. I also work in the community. I’ve also gone and done some other webinars and seminars on leadership. I’m a part of this committee. I’ve done this.” So, it’s how you assess yourself and your readiness versus what an application says that you need. Now there are required things, like, if you need to have three years as an officer. Yeah, you should have three years of an officer. But the rest of that stuff, it’s how you’re going to explain your leadership, your readiness, and your knowledge. And that takes practice because most of the time I find it’s simply a mindset with most people on how you see yourself. They may look at their resume or work experience and not see much but when I look over it, I see a lot. It’s all on how you are able to convey your collective experience in the examination process or any interviews. So, no, you don’t have to check all the boxes, but you need to be able to cover them all when you’re going to explain yourself and why you’re ready.
Audience Question: You talked about the promotions process for law enforcement. But could the same basic preparatory process framework that you just described, could it be used by any of our criminal justice professionals?
Jonni Redick: Absolutely. So, I try to do it in the mindset of almost like a class. So, in any class we take, when we’re going to take an exam, we have to study and prepare. What changes class by class, is the material on which we’re studying, right? So, if you are going to be studying and you’re in another classification, like court services or any of those others, you know what’s required of your exam. So, for example, I sat on our Associate Government Program Analyst, AGPAs, on their oral panels for them. And so, their exam preparation process is different. For example, they need to understand project management, deliverables, bill analysis and have other skills and knowledge within their classification. And so, their study is going to be different. What they need is to have a disciplined structured study plan, right? They still had to sit before me on an oral panel and be able to tell me what they were going to do and answer the questions. It may not have been an officer-involved shooting, but they had to tell me how they were going to work through this project or lead other people. And so, yes, it applies absolutely to everybody in any classification. It’s just what will you be studying, will be different. And you need help with that, right? And so that’s when you go to your HR people, or your supervision or managers, or you seek mentors, coaches, or other people to help you to figure out and determine what that is.
Audience Question: What if we like being a leader but don’t necessarily want or need the title right now? How can we get more experience of being a leader without having a title?
Jonni Redick: Absolutely, I believe everybody is a leader, at any level of the organization, and whoever asked that question, that’s phenomenal. So, these are the things that I would recommend. Don’t wait for somebody to ask you to be a part of something. So, it was probably my seven-year mark that I really started getting interested in promoting, and so, at my local level, I asked what I could be a part of. So, I became a part of the audits and inspection team. I asked to go out to community outreach events, asked to work with the public affairs officer. I asked if I could be on small working committees. And then, as I moved up in the ranks, it was the same thing. I just got on bigger committees. I became the lead on different projects. I wanted to be a part of the officer-involved shooting team, so I would do those investigations. I wanted to get EEO counselor training and then become an investigator because that is all leadership. Leadership just doesn’t have a leadership title in it for the training. All those collective things that you do, demonstrate your leadership, but also your contributions to your agency, which are going to be huge for somebody who’s not doing those things.
Audience Question: Do you think a person has to have a degree in order to be promotable? If so, what level do I have to have a master’s or something to be promoted? Or does it matter the types of degrees that we get? So, does it have to be criminal justice? Could it be leadership? What’s your advice around that formal education process?
Jonni Redick: Well, I strongly believe that education is extremely important, and only because it grows our broader understanding of what’s going on outside of the silo that we work in. But I’ll be in full transparency when I came on the California Highway Patrol requirement was a high school education. I nailed it. I had a high school education, and I had a couple of units of college, and I got on the department, and there was no requirement all the way to the commissioner for you to have any education higher than a high school. When I wanted to promote, I realized that I wanted, and needed, to grow my written communication skills and decided to go back to school. I didn’t get my AA until I was a sergeant and then went back to get my bachelor’s several years after I had already become a lieutenant. For my master’s, I didn’t finish until I had retired. So, you can decide if it’s not required then maybe you don’t need to, or you can consider how it might be helpful. But if you want to improve you, if you want to invest in you, then this is where you stop, and you decide, how do I fit that in? Because it’s going to help you to problem solve, it’s going to give you critical thinking skills. You’re going to be able to understand, emotional intelligence better, especially in the industry that we deal with, which is people, right? Because our personnel become some of our biggest challenges and our biggest rewards. We have to know how to nuance that and be able to understand those new strategies and leadership concepts. And so that’s where we get that, is if we grow our education. It is not required if your agency doesn’t require it, but it builds you to be the better leader, and it also helps you to be competitive against those that will be in the process or looking to seeking the same assignment.
Audience Question: This feels like a whole bunch of hoops to jump through. Why does it have to be so complicated? Is there any movement afoot in the agency or industry to rethink the promotions process to make it a little bit more user-friendly?
Jonni Redick: You know, I’m with you. I’m with you because it becomes a promotional dance, and it becomes this marathon when you start any of these processes. But it’s really difficult too, depending on if you’re a state agency or large agencies to create a fair and equitable process that people can compete in, and not feel like they are not being seen or if there’s some discriminatory thing in the process. They haven’t come up with something that I’m aware of that’s universal. The size of the agency will create some variances with smaller agencies operating a bit differently. They are all often an assessment center, examination process with an interview and the police chief can often choose from the eligibility list based on a rule of three, two, or basically who they want sometimes. I do wish there was a better process and it was easier for the people who are going through the examination process because it’s very stressful. And it’s heartbreaking when you don’t make the list and don’t understand why. The panels are able to give you any real tangible feedback because of confidentiality. All of it is so frustrating. A very good question and I’m hoping someone is working on better solutions for selecting future leaders.
Audience Question: What if our employment record isn’t perfect? Like, we have a write-up or some other black mark on our background? Should we even bother with applying for a promotion?
Jonni Redick: Yes, you should definitely bother with applying for a promotion, because I think I mentioned we are imperfect people, right? And we make mistakes and we do have those conduct issues. And, for me as a chief, when I was looking at people for assignments or any of those things, it was really about what lessons have you learned? Have we not been doing that anymore? And what skill sets and leadership and unique qualities, do you bring? And it’s really in the confidence, but it’s also in the humility that we have. I know a lot of individuals will get defensive and they get pissed off because they’ve gotten this black mark or bad thing in their record. But when you really step back, is there something you could have done differently to avoid whatever just happen to avoid you getting that, and that’s what I’m looking for, is for that change of heart in people, and that humility when you move forward. And to me, that’s a game-changer. So, yeah, keep yourself in the game. So, apply and put in.
Audience Question: Should a person discuss their union labor experience during an interview panel?
Jonni Redick: I would need more context for this question. But when you’re sharing this part of your experience, do so in a way that shapes your understanding of the relationships that are needed and the collaborative work that goes into accomplishing the outcomes. When talking about wages and work conditions, and all those nuances, it’s how you weave your knowledge and experience into the context of the question. But also remembering what is important about this experience toward the position you’re actually going into. How does it correlate? Think of it with the lens of how it’s going to help you have a more robust response to the question but also show your broader perspective that you’ve had this experience. You just have to make sure to give it context and it correlates.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Five Ways to Survive the Promotional Preparation.