Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Occupation: Parole Officer
Overview: A parole officer monitors offenders after a release from prison after serving part of their sentence but are still on probation, ensuring they have registered with the local police, have undergone drug testing, reports to an officer at appointed times and follows all restrictions and conditions of their parole. Parole officers explain all the conditions of parole, the rules clients must follow, and will also make sure offenders are enrolled in rehabilitation and job training programs as determined by the court. (A Parole officer is slightly different than a Probation officer, who monitors those who have been sentenced to serve probation rather than a jail sentence.)
Parole officers handle a large caseload and keep detailed records of of each client (where they live, friends and family contacts, employment records, and the parolee’s progress). They will make planned visits to the home of the Parolee, talk to family members, neighbors, coworkers, employers, and if applicable, will use community associations and religious groups the offender may be affiliated with to check on the offender’s behavior and ensure they are following all conditions of their parole. Ultimately they decide if an offender is rehabilitated and integrating back into society appropriately or if they need to be returned to jail.
A parole officer’s work is challenging as they are required to work a variety of hours (some in an office setting, some in the field, often in higher crime locations) and talk to people who are resistant to working with anyone in the justice system.
Necessary Training: Generally characters in this field have a bachelor’s degree and have completed a program in criminal justice, social work, and/or psychology. They may be required to take a state-sponsored training program, and a certification test. Often they are required to be certified to use a firearm, must pass background checks, and be trained to perform drug tests. Parole officers should be astute at understanding body language and behavior and be excellent communicators.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, blending in, empathy, enhanced hearing, enhanced sense of smell, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, making people laugh, mentalism, multitasking, photographic memory, reading people, self-defense, sharpshooting, strategic thinking, writing
POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, analytical, cautious, confident, courageous, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, efficient, honest, honorable, just, meticulous, observant, organized, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional, responsible, sensible, supportive, tolerant
NEGATIVE: controlling, inflexible, stubborn, suspicious
Sources of Friction: working with volatile clients (who probably should not have been released), safety concerns for clients who traded information on others in exchanged for a lessened sentence, traveling to high crime neighborhoods and the dangers they pose (muggings, car theft, retribution attacks), burning out because of the job stress and high case load, false accusations from vengeful clients who have been returned to prison on the officer’s recommendation, a client discovering one’s personal details (home phone, address, the school where one’s kids go) and trying to use it to intimidate or as blackmail to look the other way, being unable to monitor all clients as much as they should due to an impossibly high caseload, economic shifts and government cutbacks that reduce the programs and services available to help offenders succeed out in the world, problems at home due to long hours and job stress
People They Might Interact With: criminals, community and religious groups, police officers, undercover detectives, psychologists, family, friends, co-workers, and employers of the client, people within the justice system (for approvals, reporting, tracking down information about a case)
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: A character who once was on a dark path but had a mentor early in life that helped them change their course may be drawn to this profession out of a desire to do the same for others. But if they started seeing their clients consistently returning to this dark path, the character may question their own abilities and suffer a crisis of faith.
- Esteem and Recognition: A character may struggle in this profession because they will largely be looked down upon by a segment of society–often people they are working to help but who don’t appreciate having Big Brother watching, judging, and ultimately, choosing whether one may remain free of not.
- Love and Belonging: The long, sometimes irregular hours and job stress could lead to relationship problems or even a broken marriage.
- Safety and Security: Having to do home visits and check-ins will place this character in harms way due to the higher crime locations they must go to, and they may need to engage with other criminals to fully monitor the client.
- Physiological Needs: Death threats or a violent altercation with the criminal world could place the character in mortal jeopardy, especially in the case where a client is well-connected with people who do not fear the law and are willing to do anything to get their hooks into the client once more.
Common Work-Related Settings: Alley, backyard, big city street, cheap motel, coffeehouse, community center, construction site, convenience store, courtroom, diner, emergency room, empty lot, fast food restaurant, homeless shelter, hospital (interior), hospital room, hotel room, living room, mechanic’s shop, office cubicle, park, parking garage, parking lot, police station, prison cell, rec center, run-down apartment, salvage yard, shopping mall, subway train, taxi, therapist’s office, trailer park, train station, truck stop, used car dealership
Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.