23 May 2023

From flight attendant to Corrections Officer


Going from being a flight attendant to a Corrections Officer might not be a career change that people would expect, but it was a leap that Carlin, now a Senior Adviser to the Prison Director, decided to take. 

Carlin had been working for Air NZ for seven years, serving both domestic and international flights, when the pandemic hit in 2020.

Unexpectedly faced with a redundancy, he needed to find a new career. A career at Corrections wasn’t really something that he had considered before, but a love of the TV show Wentworth and a grandfather who was a police officer was enough to spark some curiosity in a Corrections Officer position.

“I actually used to be a huge fan of Wentworth, the Australian Prison show, and after watching that, I was curious to see if it's really like what's on the TV shows.

But also, my grandfather was a police officer for 47 years and I've always wanted to venture down the government service pathway.”

Carlin says that he didn’t know what to expect from Corrections, so he just went in and started the job with an open mind.

“I promised myself that I wouldn’t set any expectations and would just take each day as it comes. And ever since I set my mindset like that, it’s worked really well.

I was afraid of making such a huge change in my career.

But in reality, when you look at the transferrable skills between Air NZ and here, it’s just people skills.”

Adjusting to the role of a Corrections Officer

Starting out on the floor at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in September 2020, Carlin soon got his answer on whether prisons are like the TV shows.

“Obviously TV shows are very, very dramatised. There are some aspects of the job that are similar like, you know, there are sometimes arguments between prisoners and wheeling and dealing, but it’s not really like that. I guess we're sort of coming from more of a rehabilitation stance than ‘just lock people up and keep them contained until they're released’”.

He describes transitioning from Air NZ to Corrections “as putting away the glamourous and getting ready for the rough and tumble.” Making the adjustment wasn’t without its challenges, but Carlin says that as you get more experience and practice, your confidence grows.

“In this particular job, knowledge is power. The more you know, and the more experience you get, the easier your job becomes.

An example is de-escalation. Starting this job, you’re taught de-escalation techniques and things to help you along your way. When I was first in the Corrections Officer position and trying to de-escalate a situation, it felt unnatural.

Then with time it became obvious to me that the more I did it, the more natural it was becoming, and the more authentic it sounded.”

Similarly, Carlin says that after spending time in one of the more challenging units, he noticed his skills had grown.

“When you do the hard yards in one of the more challenging units, you find that your skills have really, really improved.”

While the role of a Corrections Officer isn’t for the faint of heart, Carlin says that there are moments that are really rewarding.

“I think one of them, which has always stuck with me was we had this one particular prisoner who I had a really good rapport with and he was going to alcohol and drug (AOD) treatment.

When he was about to graduate his AOD program, he invited me to his graduation. That was a big moment for me because it was like ohh, I've actually made a difference. You know, I came into this job thinking if I can just maybe change one person's mindset a year, then I'm happy with that. I've made a small difference. So having that within the first 12 months of me being in the job was huge.”

Moving into the Senior Adviser position

Currently Carlin is a Senior Adviser to Spring Hill Corrections Facility’s Prison Director. He still works within the prison, but his role is more to help ensure the site runs smoothly.

“I see my role as taking away some of the noise from the Prison Director - whether that’s by answering emails or doing some background investigation into a property claim or something that gets escalated to him.

It’s also just also building relationships with key stakeholders like the Inspectorate, the Ombudsman, internal and external stakeholders, and just sort of being the one point of contact for the site for outside organisations.”

He says that his experience working as a Corrections Officer was helpful for his current role, as he’s built strong relationships on site and knows the correct channels to go down for enquiries. It’s different to being on the floor, but Carlin says he’s enjoying getting to see another side to the prison.

“I feel like this office is a whole other world to what happens out on the floor and out in the units. There's a lot of background work that goes on here to keep everything else ticking along the reasonably smoothly. I mean, sometimes it doesn't always go to plan, but just how many background processes that we have in place to keep this place operating safely is really interesting to me. It's really enjoyable.

It's challenging as well. Like sometimes I have things come through and it’s like what do I do with this, but then you find a way. It keeps me really engaged.”

Carlin says that for people considering a new role – whether they’re currently at Corrections or weighing up the move to join – to believe in themselves and just go for it.

“That was what I needed to do for this job. I saw an email from the prison director promoting the opportunity and it sort of stayed in the back of mind.”

Carlin said he wasn’t sure at first if he could do it, but he took a leap of faith.

“If you see anything that you think that you would be good at, or even you'd be good at half of it, definitely go for it, cause what have you got to lose?

There’s such a broad scope of jobs at Corrections and different avenues to try… whether someone wants a break from the floor or want to go into something corporate.

There are so many different opportunities that are coming up all the time.”

Ready to make a move?

Start your journey - check out the a list of our current opportunities then apply online today!