I spent the afternoon yesterday with a group of eight new dispatchers who are going through the classroom portion of their training. My topic was similar to one I've done for years with police officers in training: how to use the department's information resources effectively.
We barely scratched the surface in four hours, but I hope it was a good introduction that encourages the trainees to continue to explore and learn independently. I was impressed by the group. Working in a public safety answering point (what most people would call a 911 center) is a challenging job. It's one of the few jobs in City government where you are locked to a position, and can't get up for a change of scenery now and then. The shift work, odd days off, and overtime requirements can be difficult. You handle a lot of calls that could be frustrating or even disturbing.
But on the other hand, dispatchers are the front-end of the public safety team, and the job has the incredible rewards inherent in being part of that team: truly making a difference in the safety and wellbeing of the community. Lots of people are going to jobs today that are boring and unrewarding. You never have to worry about that as a dispatcher. You have an opportunity every day to help others and to make a difference. Your days are filled with variety, sometimes dramatic events, but always opportunities to help others. I told the trainees that they will almost inevitably play a role in saving a life in the first few months of their careers, but the the small stuff is the key to feeling good about what you do.
A great example of this happened during the class. Somehow, a call got transferred to my cellphone, which normally buzzes only when there is something quite important that I must answer. The students listened in as I handled the call. It was a person with a rather small problem, who didn't know what to do. I listened carefully, and provided my best advice. Her issue had nothing to do with me, but just by treating her kindly and giving her a good referral, you could tell by her voice that she was feeling better about matters. It only took about 90 seconds.
Afterwards, I told the trainees that this tiny little interruption to my day actually made me feel good. Rather than being annoyed at a mis-directed blind transfer, I got to help someone through a minor bump in the road. If you can take away positive feelings from such things, you can do this work for decades and still enjoy it. The big events will come along as punctuation marks in your career, but the little ones happen every day, several times a day, and your approach to those is the difference between becoming a jaded 25 year old cynic or a fulfilled 62 year old optimist looking forward to the next day.