No, this isn’t the synopsis of a new Robert Ludlum thriller, although it may sound like one. But, as you’re waiting for that job offer to come through, spend a little time here ruminating on these observations; it should pass the time whilst those faceless paper-sifters find your undoubtedly amazing CV and give you that job you so richly deserve….

I’m afraid I’m going all literary on you this time around – you had your fun with Your great escape   last time, now we’re going to get a bit more cultured… The original title for this particular post was “The Bennet Legacy” but the thought of Matt Damon in a Regency frock was a bit much for me, so I’m sticking with Mr. Darcy.

Those among you with more than a passing relationship to ‘O’ Level English literature (or who recall a dripping wet Colin Firth, wearing jodhpurs in their living room), will know that the haughty, prideful Mr. Darcy, had to change his worldview – dramatically – to achieve his goal: that of marrying Elizabeth Bennet.

”… any alliance between us must be regarded as a highly reprehensible connection…but it cannot be helped…”

He could not believe that she would reject him and the home truth she affords him: “…you are the last man in the world…”, shocks him. He has to consider some pretty unpalatable facts about himself if he wants to move on.

So, what’s that got to do with you? Well, I’ve been chatting to various individuals who deal with former Officers seeking work. They perceive a commonality between Mr Darcy and some officers… I make no apologies for this, (on the grounds that you should never shoot the messenger – at least not until you know where the bodies are) but Mr. Darcy, in the words of Lizzie, displays “…arrogance and conceit…”.

Ooops… there’s THAT word. Any working copper will have heard it directed at them in the past; sometimes, to be fair, mistakenly, (“arrogance” in place of “confidence”); but often, regrettably, justifiably. It’s a really fine line sometimes….

Assuming that this is a Bad Thing, how, then, can we change? How can we shake off the conditioning imposed by thirty years of the authority conferred by the Office of Constable? How to give an impression of “confidence” instead of “arrogance”? Of “ability” instead of “conceit”?

Prochasta and DiClemente (1986) offer a great model explaining the change cycle. It’s used in everything from counselling to business strategy.

In pre-contemplation you don’t see the need to change: your rejection letters tell you there’s something not right; maybe you’re blaming the faceless paper-sifters for not being able to SEE just how amazing you are. Then, you begin to realize that it might be YOU; at this stage of contemplation you are beginning your change journey.

In each stage, there’s a risk of “relapse”, perhaps the result of one too many rejections, or an interview that didn’t go well; but ultimately, your journey should continue into preparing for change. Learning to recognise “police-speak”, make eye contact, relax and be yourself? Maybe you just need to admit that you may not have all the answers, but that you’ll certainly use your skills to try and find them?

Having begun to prepare for change (by recognising those elements that may be giving the wrong impression), you’re on your way to “action”: changing language or behaviour. If you have moved through the “contemplation” phase, you’ll already be aware of the damage (or good) that The Job has done to you: maybe you’re a little “stiff” in formal situations, or you’re used to being a member of a hierarchy, with senior managers telling you what to do, perhaps you just come across as someone who hasn’t contemplated life outside The Job?

More positively, maybe you’re good at putting people at their ease, a good communicator; perhaps you can blend in, but still remain interesting (without telling war stories), perhaps you can work unsupervised or have an attention to detail that others lack?

The contemplation phase helps you see where your strengths are and allows you to employ checks and balances so you aren’t seen as a “typical copper”. Once you have taken ‘action’ you only need to ‘maintain’.

Mr. Darcy had to look inwardly to examine how he was communicating. He had to realize that humility was a virtue, and that his pride and his prejudice (!) were blockages to his goals.

I doubt there’s a benefit in jumping into the lake at Lyme Park – but you have my permission to try. Instead, try little inward contemplation as you make the transition into your new life.

Move on.

Be deservingly proud about your past service; but don’t let it define WHO you are now. The Office you used to hold is part of what you are, but you can be so much more, if you want to be…

By the way, if you’re retired and still carrying a warrant card/badge around (or still checking that it’s in your pocket, like you used to), that contemplation might confirm that it’s time to move on…. .

Carl Mason