First impressions are key.
Wearing a white dress shirt, navy dress pants, a blue-and-black striped tie and a Thin Blue Line face mask, Jacob Layton clearly displayed his interest in a law enforcement career.
As he arrived at a table in the Seymour High School auxiliary gymnasium, the senior looked Seymour Police Department Lt. Brandon White in the eye as he shook his hand. Then he took a seat for an interview.
While it was a mock interview, Layton said he found it beneficial because he knows exactly what he needs to do to be in White’s position someday.
“Obviously, I can’t go immediately into law enforcement right now. I have to wait a little bit, but I think it went very well, at least get my foot in the door,” the 17-year-old said after the interview. “A lot of seniors have basic entry-level jobs that they really didn’t have to interview for, so this kind of sits you down for your career and they ask questions based on what they need.”
Layton turns 18 this summer and plans to apply for a position at a jail. He already has his jail school certifications from the C4 Columbus Area Career Connection program.
Then he wants to start college to pursue a degree so he’s set to apply for a job as a police officer after he’s 21.
“I’ve had family in law enforcement, so I’ve been around law enforcement my whole life,” Layton said. “I just want to make a difference in my community. I love the community, and I want to make sure the community can look at the Seymour Police Department or even any other department and say, ‘They will be there in my time of need.'”
Layton felt it was important to dress the part for his interview, and it paid off.
“Impressions, whether they are good or bad, they are always important because that’s obviously the first thing that somebody’s going to see or the first thing that somebody’s going to tell someone else when they are asking about you,” he said.
White was impressed.
“I wasn’t that set when I was 18. I was not. There’s no way,” he said. “He is the future of my position, and to see that walk in now, I’m happy to know that torch is going to be carried on by people like that. We have to have people like that.”
White was among 30 representatives from a variety of professions who volunteered their time last week to participate in the mock interviews, which are coordinated by Jackson County Industrial Development Corp.
He interviewed seniors on four different days. Some, like Layton, were prepared with a career choice and path established and dressed for the occasion, while some are still trying to figure out what they want to do.
Growing up with family in law enforcement, White said he initially wanted to stay away from it, so he went to college to study business management.
Two and a half years in, though, he said he realized he didn’t want to sit at a desk, so after talking to family and friends in the field, he went into law enforcement.
“That’s what drew me back, and of course, history has written itself now. Seventeen years in, and I’m still doing this,” he said, smiling.
Being a part of the mock interviews for the first time, White was able to share his personal experiences with the seniors to help them decide if it’s the right career for them or not.
He asked them about strengths and weaknesses they possess and challenges they may face on the job and also what they would do in certain situations.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to sit through some actual processes at the department, so (the mock interviews) give (the seniors) a little insight of ‘Here are some things to work on, to look at,’ and that gives them the ability to use that in the future because that’s what I’m here for,” White said.
Last week, 264 SHS seniors participated in the mock interviews. Jody Deckard, workforce coordinator for JCIDC, said there’s usually 100% participation, but that wasn’t the case this year with some students doing virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said JCIDC is fortunate to be able to offer the program this year since they couldn’t last year with schools closed because of the pandemic. The organization followed health and safety protocols with plexiglass dividers at each interview table and wiping down surfaces between each interview.
With the mock interviews, there are several benefits for the seniors.
“One, those that are not going on to school that want to enter the workforce, they can actually get hired,” Deckard said.
“Two, they learn more about the profession that they are going into,” she said. “They get different perspectives of that profession from different people. … It’s a major eye-opener. I think it’s a great light bulb wakeup call on some professions because they thought they might have been interested in it and it may confirm ‘Oh yeah, that’s really what I want to do.'”
Having the local career representatives involved is key, too.
“If it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t be successful,” Deckard said. “I think it shows a lot of the community supporting the schools, supporting the students, wanting to help the students. It shows a lot of integrity of the program. I just can’t thank them enough.”
JCIDC also is organizing mock interviews on April 20 at Trinity Lutheran High School and May 12 at Crothersville High School.