Early Career Professionals

My Career Path

Almost 32 years ago, I needed a job. My mom said, “Work for the county. They will hire anyone.” Gee. Thanks, Mom. I had two choices—working in the courts or for the animal shelter where my mom worked. I adore animals, but I had some thoughts about becoming an attorney. So, the court system seemed a good place to start.     

The allure of becoming an attorney faded after working in a courtroom and seeing what their daily grind looked like, but my employment in the court system stuck. During my career, I applied for promotions and was turned down so many times I cannot count. So, I had to reevaluate what it meant to promote myself within my career and to advance my skills. I decided if I couldn’t promote up, I would move sideways.  

I tried it all: juvenile case processing, family law courtroom, juvenile courtroom, supervision, project management, facility management, IT projects, business-processing analysis, case-processing systems, felony courtrooms, collaborative/specialty court management, grant writing, court reporters, family law case processing, security, and finally administration (which basically includes everything).

Working in our industry doing the same job for a lengthy amount of time may not appeal to the newer generations joining our teams. I have seen newer staff members not get a promotion the first or second time around and decide they should go elsewhere to advance their careers. This is a shame because some of them could have been outstanding leaders.

The advice I most often give out to staff newly joining our teams is to diversify. Learning a variety of skills is an effective way to get the attention of superiors. Being a superstar in one role relies on one set of knowledge in the toolkit. Someone with a broader knowledge base has an advantage. Actively pursuing knowledge and skills within an organization by being open to different types of work can develop into a lengthy and rewarding career. I’m living proof.


Tina Mattison is the deputy court administrator for Pima County Juvenile Court in Tucson, Arizona. She sits on the Board of Directors for NACM and is the chair of the Early Career Professional subcommittee.