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  1. #1
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    Oct 2014
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    Departments where a 4 year degree in Japanese could be seen as "desirable"?

    Greetings everyone, first time poster here.

    I recently graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Japanese, and a minor in Linguistics. The Japanese major program included a year of studying abroad at a university in Japan. The linguistics minor was mostly about applied linguistics, or how to teach English as a foreign language.

    My question is: does anyone knows of an agency, preferably in CA, where an applicant with some Japanese language skills could be seen as desirable? I know it's not a very commonly spoken language (there is only one country in the world that speaks Japanese after all), but what do you all think? I know that city of Torrance has a pretty large Japanese population; I emailed them and asked them about it but they didn't answer my question; they just told me they weren't hiring recruits at the moment.

    Otherwise, what are my employment prospects with a decent agency in SoCal? If it helps, my overall GPA in school was 3.18, I can speak Spanish as well, and I also have an associates degree (2 year) in Admin. of Justice/CJ that I got at a Community College before transferring to SDSU and switching majors. Here's the catch though, I don't have much work experience at all besides 6 months as a security guard when I was 18, and two semesters of part time English tutoring in the 2012 school year. I originally intended to do a M.A. in English this fall at Cal Poly Pomona so I relocated to OC with my fiance, but it didn't work out and I dropped while I could still get a refund. I have now decided not to attend grad school and pursue a career in LE instead. I am 26 years old and currently unemployed looking for a job. Is it really possible that any department will pick me up as my first serious job? I can already see lack of life experience being a factor by which I may not make the cut, but the year studying abroad should count for something right?

    For the record, this decision to go into LE was not made on a whim; I have always considered it as a secondary option (from teaching English in Japan) and being a cop was always a childhood dream. Now it has just become Plan A.

    Thanks ahead of time for any responses.

  2. #2
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    Oct 2000
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    7,369
    My advice is to forget about departments that are interested in your specific degree, and instead look at which departments you want to work for and focus on those. What size department do you want to work for? Urban, suburban, rural? Are there specialized positions you want to work later in your career? And of course, who is actually hiring right now?

    You may need to stop asking which departments would be interested in someone with a degree in Japanese, and instead look at it this way: you have a four-year degree AND you have language skills, plus whatever other experience or skills you bring to the table. With very few exceptions, your major makes little difference to most law enforcement agencies. A bachelor's degree is more about having a foundation for critical thinking and basic communication skills, and the ability to learn, than it is about a particular major or minor.

    Language skills on top of the degree are a plus, though you will probably find your Spanish means more than your Japanese to most departments. Japanese is a great language and useful in many contexts, but not necessarily a day-to-day need in most U.S. cities. Certain departments around the country, including LAPD, do have Asian crime units where Japanese language and cultural knowledge might be helpful at times depending on the Japanese population, gang activity, and tourism in those cities, although those are specialized units and usually something you would have to compete for after doing your time on patrol.

  3. #3
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    Oct 2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsedet View Post
    My advice is to forget about departments that are interested in your specific degree, and instead look at which departments you want to work for and focus on those. What size department do you want to work for? Urban, suburban, rural? Are there specialized positions you want to work later in your career? And of course, who is actually hiring right now?
    Hello nsedet! Thanks for your reply.

    Yeah I think you're right, I shouldn't expect that a department would look at my specific degree and consider it as more desirable than other degrees out there. I just hope the opposite isn't true either and that it is seen as a useless major/language to have studied.

    About which department I would like to work for, location is more important to me than the agency's size, but I think smaller is better. I would prefer somewhere in Southern California. But I also know that beggars can't be choosers, and getting into a small department is kind of unrealistic unless you're a lateral. I know that the SDPD is hiring and I have already put in an application actually. But like I asked in my OP, what do you think the odds of getting hired without real work experience are? Other than working some menial job in the meantime, what else can I do to improve my hireability from now to the time I reach the oral interview phase?

  4. #4
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    Dec 2000
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    CA!
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    nsedt gave you some great advice on applying. You really need to focus on where you want to work and what type of law enforcement you want to work. Are you more interested in doing investigative work or are you more interested in being a uniformed police officer or deputy?

    Get a feel for what you really want to do in law enforcement and pursue that. I have known many people who wanted to be investigators who later found (after becoming investigators) they wanted to be patrol officers instead. I know local cops who went to be feds. I know feds who went to be local cops. I also know both sides who jumped to the other and then back to their original type of work again.

    Any language skill is useful. As nsedet already stated... At least here in CA your Spanish ability will be much more useful and used in most cases. Having the ability to speak Japanese or having a degree in Japanese won't hurt you, but overall it probably won't be much of a boost in the inital phases of your applications (other than having the degree itslef and showing you're a college grad).

    The biggest issue you keep keying up on (and I agree with you) is your concern of no real work experience and being 26 and unemployed. The reason most places want you to have some work experience when they look at hiring you is for the background investigation. What kind of person are you as a worker? Having a job or jobs in your past where you actually had co-workers, managers, and other who can be contacted and questioned about your work ethic, how you got along with co-workers, how you got along with customers, are you punctual, were you honest, did you treat everyone the same, etc. etc. etc. is very important in determining your suitability for employment.

    Usually how you behave consistently at jobs will dictate how you will behave in the future. I have done background investigations on applicants and in checking with the last 3 or 4 jobs they held have been told "great guy/gal, just weird sense of humor, always cracking inappropriate racial/sexual jokes". "guy/gal was a jerk, didn't respect anyone at the job and when we wrote him/her up for it he/she just never showed up for their next shift and quit without notice". "had money missing from the register, contacted him/her they became irate and cussed the manager out, could never prove they stole, but before we could continue to investigate, they just quit so the company dropped it".

    I could go on and on with examples from managers, co-workers, and the like from prior employers. Reason employment history is important is it develops a track record. I'm sure you probably couldn't name 3 or more people you had classes with for each class you took in college. Also pretty sure if more than 1 or 2 instructors at college could actually remember you personally or give any specific information on you (hard to get to know a student when they are only in class a few hours a week and most of the time is spent listening to lecuture).

    I would say keep applying to where you want to work, but also get a job in the meantime so you can start building your background and contacts. As for the Japanese language being a useful skill... I know San Francisco PD has a pretty large Japanese poplulation as well as a lot of Japanese tourists. Helpful to have an officer who can speak to these folks (those who don't already speak English which is also rare these days) to provide directions or to take reports when they are victims of crime.

    Same with Honolulu PD. Lots of Japanese tourists. Helpful to have someone with the language to assist. Again most of the Japanese folks I have met in both SF and HI spoke English (even if limited).

    Good luck!

    Kahuna
    Humuhumunukunukuapua'a

  5. #5
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    Oct 2014
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    8
    Hello Kahuna, thank you so much for your response!

    I have put much thought into what kind type of law enforcement jobs I would want to work ever since I was a high school student. Generally I like the idea of being a uniformed officer/deputy the most—which I guess works well for me since that's where you start anyway in a municipal agency. But like I said above, right now for me it's more about getting my foot in the door somewhere, even if it means an undesirable agency/location. I took and passed the (admittedly ridiculously easy) written test for the SDPD last week, but there were over 250 other applicants there. Not only that, but this was just one out of the 10 or so test dates that are having this month. That means easily a couple thousand applicants for a handful of positions. That's why I was asking of anyone knew any department's in SoCal that had some sort of need for Japanese language ability, since I would assume it is somewhat rare for police applicants to possess, and hopefully one that's a little less competitive if that even exists. I do agree that Spanish is far more useful, but bilingual Spanish speakers are also a dime-a-dozen down here, and I could see many latino applicants so I don't think there is any shortage there.

    What I'm trying to say is that things are ridiculously competitive right now and almost any department around here seems hopeless.

    About the work experience though, according to what you're telling me, it is something that would come into play at the BI stage, right? For the department I have applied to that comes after the oral interview. I was kind of under the impression that if you made it passed the oral board, and they liked you there, then as long as they don't find anything too serious in the BI the applicant would be allowed to continue to the next phase. Would lack of work experience be serious enough for a disqualification? Looking at the examples you gave me above, at least if there is nobody there to say anything negative about me then it should be better than having a long work history with a bunch of disgruntled ex-managers etc. Also, I am pretty sure I can get some professors to be references for me as I only graduated a few months ago and they still know me.

    Lastly, I have been looking for a job (might take one at sprint selling phones), but I was wondering if you knew of some kind of job that can be done in the meanwhile, if any, that would give some kind of experience that law enforcement agencies might see as relevant or favorable. 'Cause really I can't think of anything other than something that puts you in contact with a lot of customers and requires social skills. LE is a unique career in that it's hard to get experience unless you've done it already or been in the military (neither one of which I've done).

  6. #6
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    Dec 2000
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    Henderson, NV
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    5,542
    Forget the applicant #. If your 26, in decent shape with Spanish and Japanese, you're going to get looked at. If you can interview well, you've got a strong shot. Many of those other applicants don't have your quals, or are 'considering' the position. Fully agree on major city PDs in CA. . Let us know how you make ou!
    Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!
    Hunter S. Thompson

  7. #7
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    Dec 2000
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    CA!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElSamuraiGuapo View Post

    About the work experience though, according to what you're telling me, it is something that would come into play at the BI stage, right? For the department I have applied to that comes after the oral interview. I was kind of under the impression that if you made it passed the oral board, and they liked you there, then as long as they don't find anything too serious in the BI the applicant would be allowed to continue to the next phase. Would lack of work experience be serious enough for a disqualification? Looking at the examples you gave me above, at least if there is nobody there to say anything negative about me then it should be better than having a long work history with a bunch of disgruntled ex-managers etc. Also, I am pretty sure I can get some professors to be references for me as I only graduated a few months ago and they still know me.

    Lastly, I have been looking for a job (might take one at sprint selling phones), but I was wondering if you knew of some kind of job that can be done in the meanwhile, if any, that would give some kind of experience that law enforcement agencies might see as relevant or favorable. 'Cause really I can't think of anything other than something that puts you in contact with a lot of customers and requires social skills. LE is a unique career in that it's hard to get experience unless you've done it already or been in the military (neither one of which I've done).
    Well I think the work experience certainly plays a factor in the background process. If you do well on the written and oral you would certainly continue on in the process. I wouldn't say a lack of work experience would be in and of itself "serious" enough for a DQ. Having said that, it is hard to give a good background assessment on someone with limited life experience. Not finding anything negative is of course a positive thing, but at the same time sometimes without a lot of tangible things to investigate it's hard to know how an applicant will be once they do get hired into a job and start running into "real life" things. I'll use myself as an example. One of the big issues for me on my background when I was going through a background for my first sworn job was my total lack of credit. I didn't have bad credit, never one late bill, and I owed $0.00 to everyone in the world. I had a small savings (very small, but still a tiny bit of money in reserve) and I honestly felt it would be a huge plus to be debt free with no credit or credit cards and a small savings in the bank. My background investigator told me having no credit or credit history was almost as bad as having bad credit. I was shocked! His basic theory was not knowing how someone will handle credit and debt (since they have really never had either) seemed to be slightly negative in his mind... Not that it would have been enough to DQ me absent anything else, just the fact he mentioned it in my interview caused me some stress and concern.

    Ultimately I applied for a credit card and was approved. I also passed my background and was hired (not to say getting the credit card and getting hired were in anyway related). What I had going for me at the time was a few years of work experience. I had been a police explorer as a juvenile and had several jobs with some fairly heavy public / customer contact for each. Also numerous co-workers I worked closely with in the few jobs I held. That's what helped me more than anything. Nothing better than to have co-workers who you aren't friends with give you a good reference. I had guys/gals who I was professional with, but we didn't really gel well together at work. They said as much to my background investigator, but at the same time were able to honestly provided good feedback on my reliability, integrity, etc. "I'm not personal friends with Kahuna, wouldn't really say we would ever be friends, but he is reliable, trustworthy, etc".

    Again as you mentioned with references... Having no references is certainly better than having many references who all say you're the worst thing in the world... At the same time, have a few references who don't say you're the greatest or worst guy in the world who seem to give a consistent assessment of you even though they may not even know each other is far better than having no references at all (in my opinion). Also using a professor is better than nothing, but again a professor isn't going to be able to relay what they see you do and how you act from a "peer" level. We are all normally on our best behavior when around a supervisor or a professor (or anyone else who has some authority over you and ability to affect your job/pay/grades/etc).

    As dmclark has already said.... You'll certainly be a marketable candidate wherever you apply. Don't worry about beating out a 1000 guys... Let them worry about beating you... Just polish yourself, be prepared, answer questions truthfully, and most of all try not to stress... Sometimes the best jobs or departments we find ourselves working at, weren't even in the top 10 of those we wanted to work at. What you think you may want in a law enforcement career can change as soon as you get in the job.

    Good luck!

    Kahuna
    Last edited by Kahuna5150; 11-13-2014 at 03:23.
    Humuhumunukunukuapua'a

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    Bergen County, NJ
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    1,897
    One caution.

    If you speak a language that is in demand and that is not commonly spoken by many agents, be prepared to spend a lot of time on TDY doing interpreting.

    I once had a direct report whose life ceased to be his own.
    ___________________
    Z! USDOJ Ret.

    The Answer is There is No Answer

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
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    26
    Quote Originally Posted by rzaruba View Post
    One caution.

    If you speak a language that is in demand and that is not commonly spoken by many agents, be prepared to spend a lot of time on TDY doing interpreting.

    I once had a direct report whose life ceased to be his own.
    New guy in my group speaks Mandarin AND Spanish... he got hired right out of college at 23.. if I had a nickel for every minute I have stood there watching as he gets bogged down having to interpret or speak to suspects by people from not only our agency, but the Bureau whenever we go to their building, it's safe to say I would have a lot of nickels.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    8
    Thanks for all the info everyone. I just got assigned a background investigator with the SDPD after passing both written and physical abilities tests. I originally thought an oral interview would come first but I guess it's the BI after all. I asked an officer if he felt that having Japanese was a useful skill to the San Diego Police Department and he told me yes, because of tourists and what not. But we'll see how it goes. I have kept my nose clean so hopefully this process can go by quickly for me. I will keep this thread updated with my progress in the future. Also if anyone else out there is currently in the process with the SDPD or an SDPD officer I'd like to hear from them.


 

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