I originally wrote this article for the Police Resettlement magazine. I happened upon it recently and felt it might be useful to reprint it here.
We have been supporting police officers as they leave policing for over five years now, having set up Police into Private Sector (PiPS) in early 2011. We had all experienced moving from the all encompassing environment of policing into the private sector as a steep learning curve. Not least because there did not seem to be anywhere to seek out tried and tested guidance to meet the needs of the very singular requirements of police officers and indeed police staff. We realised how little help there was, and so set about offering all the services we would like to have used
Clearly, if you leave after substantial service than the resettlement days are helpful, particularly if you have commutation to manage, but what about if you are outside of that?
What if you are leaving without 30 years’ service, after 15 or 5 years? What if you need to know the best way to find the right jobs that suit your needs? What if you want to think beyond jobs using just your policing skills and wanted to augment them with new skills, new sectors for a fresh start?
PiPS are here to help you with the specifics, from CV’s, career coaching and interview preparation and everything else along the way.
You will need a strong CV that will get read and not left in the pile of applications, one that stands out for all the right reasons. You will need to ‘sell’ yourself because if you send a poor account of what you are capable of you will undoubtedly be passed over.
And when you have that CV where will you send it? Where will you source enough jobs to look at all possibilities? How do you find the right roles? How do you make contact with people on the ‘outside’?
And once you get to interview you will need to understand what might be different from ‘job’ interviews. How do you get to know what you need to understand and learn?
Oh dear, it is no wonder many people feel a real sense of dread mixed with the excitement of a new adventure.
Help is now at hand – but you will need to reach out and take action.
What we know after six years in the field
Working with many hundreds of former police officers, including increasingly those who are looking to leave policing early, we understand that although there are barriers to success, once you know what to update, change and modify, they are often quite manageable.
In policing circles, it is almost a proven science that word of mouth is still the favoured way of establishing who is worth speaking to. Which is not a bad thing as there are many people who will jump on what seems like a current trend and end up delivering very little value.
Most of the people we have worked with over the years are recommended via word of mouth. We have been here for over five years now and continue to get people to interview through CV’s that get read, by understanding both policing and the private sector and, of course, in truly knowing and being passionate about the value of police officers and what they are able to deliver.
Challenges (and solutions) for police officers
Clearly the culture of “don’t get too full of yourself’ has a place in policing. Arrogance and smugness are soon challenged and so one steps carefully – how horrifying it would be if anyone thought you were ‘showing off’? This is helped by job speak – we understand who people are by their roles, rank and history. However, out in the private sector if you are not able to clearly state the value you bring, how will anyone know how good you are? There is a need for you to show what an asset you can be to employers, they do not have the time to unearth your skills and general wonderfulness! Make it easy for them to see you.
Understand the value you bring and be sure you demonstrate to potential employers the value you can add to their business. It is for you to reach out rather than waiting (and waiting….. ) for someone to notice you and snap you up for the job of your dreams. Think of the saying – waiting for your boat to come in and add, yes it will, but I may have to swim out to meet it.
A horrifying concept for many police officers but don’t worry, I can take that pain away for you. I have a theory that many years spent being on the receiving of requests from others, many officers can be less than adept at reaching out and connecting with people and asking, appropriately, for support and guidance.
So, here are my tips, tried, tested and successful. Get onto LinkedIn if you are not there already. Connect with people you know and include everyone you have ever met, well the tolerable ones on the right side of the law perhaps. We have a group (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3933192 ) with over 6,500 members who are all former or serving police officers or staff – you probably know quite a few of them already. Go and join if you are not already in there, have a look at the other members and get connecting.
From there connect with siblings, cousins and friends outside of policing. You are looking to diversify and add something new through people already established in other sectors. Then connect with people who you share other LinkedIn groups with. Groups are a great way to learn all about the new sectors you are interested in – what are they talking about? What do the terms they use mean? Almost by osmosis, you will start to understand new industries and that will potentially be invaluable at interview.
And do not forget to get in touch with past colleagues and indeed bosses who have successfully moved on. I would suggest that to make things easier you say from the outset that you are not asking them for a job but can you buy them a coffee and pick their brain on how they did it? What problems did they face? What did they wish they had known?
When you leave or are thinking of leaving, policing, even when you have frankly had enough, there will be a time of transition, a time when you may feel that isolated and miss the better parts of policing. However, you are not alone you just need to connect and build your new world.
You may have thoughts about being the only one not working this out, wondering if you really have anything to offer and perhaps even whether you secure a new role to leave policing or if you will you work again after retirement. These are common reflections and you are not alone in these thoughts, nor are you alone in wondering how you will work out what you need to do. Police into Private Sector is invaluable if you feel a bit at sea, but you have to reach out and connect. You are not supposed to just ‘know’ all this. You have been busy policing and this is an area of expertise you may not have needed to visit before – and now with technology, it looks entirely different year on year.
Beliefs about who would want you
Recently, a client said to me “of course the biggest problem is that people do not want to employ former police officers”. I was astounded – this, I would suggest is an urban myth that may be used to licence the less determined, less capable perhaps, to step away from attempting to secure a move with any real effort. If you are reading this, then that is not, YOU! But equally, I am increasingly supporting officers who felt it would be a breeze and they would be snapped up after just mentioning they were looking for opportunities! Both of these beliefs are imposters – the truth lies in the middle.
It is true that some companies do not want to employ some police officers, but no more than that. Often companies do have problems understanding how policing skills would fit into their business but that can be solved by you making it clear what you can do and demonstrate the value you bring through a well thought out application or CV. Many employers are keen on former officers who are invariably, bright, engaged and keen to work hard.
You have nothing to prove
The good news is that you no longer need to present detailed evidence and proof. Say what you have done and what you have achieved as succinctly as possible, less is certainly more in this case. You absolutely need to mention achievements and be ready to offer more information (but not excruciating detail) at interview. They will ask for more information on what they are interested in and you will not know exactly what they are looking for so do not try to guess by including everything about you in one CV.
How to move forward
- Get a good first start (or make a fresh start if you are not succeeding yet). Be aware that if you send a CV once many companies will not let you send it again. So make sure that first application is of the very best standard. If you really want the job and your skills fit the specifications then make sure you offer the very best account of yourself as you can. Please do not be too cool to express your keenness. Energy and enthusiasm are attractive and often irresistible.
- Start to narrow down the areas you are interested in. Use LinkedIn to look at a few companies or roles and really explore them. You can always expand later or change direction. Just get started by looking around and let it develop – it is absolutely fine to not have a definitive view of your idea role when you start off. Just get started.
- Learn how to use LinkedIn properly – there is so much useful information on the website and, of course, job adverts galore. It is as safe as life is, do not include your date of birth or address (please do not attach your CV to your LinkedIn profile!) and remember it is not social media, it is business media. Behave on there as you would in business and you will be fine. It will act as a shop front for you, a really good profile will show you are I.T. literate and indicate an understanding of modern business.
- Think of your pension (if you have one) as a poison chalice. It can serve as a reason not to push harder – after all with a pension, you will not starve. However, this is more than being just about the money, this is about a good standard of living and about intellectual stimulation. You need to be determined and keen – push on it a little, a bit scary perhaps but isn’t that a fair price for a job that will engage and stimulate you and pay the bills? Perhaps ask yourself what action you would be willing to take if you needed the money to pay the electricity bill?
- Be open minded – you do not have to do what others have done. Think of companies you like the look of and investigate. There is a whole world of opportunities that you can access once you know how.
Things to do right now
If you get professional advice (and we are unequivocally the best for that!), make sure it is from someone who knows what they are talking about rather than just talking about what they ‘think’, find out what they actually know. What is their track record? Who have they helped succeed? How long have they been around? And of course, good old word of mouth. If you are talking to a professional they will not mind a bit, will not be offended and will entirely understand your questions.
Please note that it is a universal truth that your CV read by your partner/mother/best friend will often receive a glowing response. They know how good you are and probably hear of your work in detail and so will mentally fill in the missing parts. The only exception is, of course, if they work in recruitment, as a career coach or similar. Then, speaking from personal experience, they will often be painfully honest – this is good and will save you greater pain in the long term.
Do speak to others who have successfully moved and listen to their story – but know that yours will be different – you have different skills and a different personal approach perhaps. And no, you do not need to be an amazing at interviews – be authentic and do not over compensate and you will shine.
Go carefully on signing up for training courses that promise too much. Assurances that you will absolutely get employment after ‘this’ course make no sense. Look at the qualifications held by those who are already in the roles you are interested in or look at the qualifications requested on LinkedIn and job websites. If there is something there that is within your reach, then make sure you get to a good provider and by all means get learning. All too often I speak to people who have spent a small fortune on courses that lead nowhere.
Do not take on too much advice which is often well meaning but not based on any real expertise – everyone knows a little about a lot. You need to connect with those who know their art and have really hunkered down and understood the requirements rather than jumping on the nearest bandwagon. Quick and easy is often very unsatisfying in the longer term, take this seriously and you will thrive.
- It is never too early to start preparing. LinkedIn is brilliant but takes time. Contacts are fabulous but you need to build relationships before people will be able to help you.
- If you are on LinkedIn join the Police into Private Sector group and get talking and understand your next best moves. Again, lots of shared learning just waiting for you.
- Email us at pips@PoliceintoPrivateSector.co.uk or telephone 01737 831700 and get direct, helpful and friendly support to get moving. We are here, offering all that you need to get started from a bespoke CV and LinkedIn service; career coaching and interview prep.
Owner at Police into Private Sector