I originally wrote this article for a police magazine and felt it might be useful to reprint it here.
We have been supporting police officers as they leave policing for eleven years now, having set up Police into Private Sector (PiPS) in early 2011. We had all experienced moving from the singular environment of policing into the private sector as a steep learning curve. Not least because there did not seem to be any available tried and tested guidance that competently met the needs of police officers or long serving police staff. Having realised how little help there was, and now knowing this field from both the policing side and the private sector we set about offering the services we wished we could have accessed.
If you are leaving after substantial service then the resettlement days are helpful. They are useful are helpful at making sure all your financial and legal ducks are in line – and if you go along to any Metfriendly events, I will be there (or online) talking about next careers. But what about if you are outside of that?
What if you are leaving without 30 years’ service, after 15 or five years? What if you need to know the best way to find the right jobs that suit your needs? What if you want to try new sectors for a fresh start?
PiPS are here to help you with the specifics, from CVs and LinkedIn expertise, career coaching and interview preparation.
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, sending a poor account of what you are capable of you will undoubtedly mean being passed over. And when you have that CV where will you send it? How do you find the right roles? How do you make contact with people on the ‘outside’’?
Oh dear, it is no wonder many people feel a real sense of dread mixed with the excitement of a new adventure.
Help is at hand – but you will need to reach out and take action.
What we know after all these years
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 do, how to present yourself successful moves are more than possible.
Challenges (and solutions) for police officers
The culture of “don’t get too full of yourself’ remains in use within policing. Arrogance and smugness are soon challenged and so one steps carefully – how horrifying it would be if anyone thought you were ‘showing off’? Understanding is helped by ‘job’ speak – we often understand who people are by their roles, rank and history. However, in the private sector you need to be able to clearly state the value you bring, otherwise, 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. All too often on LinkedIn, I see comments like ‘looking for opportunities’ ‘open to offers’ or ‘ I am skilled in …… give me a call and let’s talk’ – these are not good messages. They are really saying – I want you to come and find me so I do not have to be bothered looking. How on earth would that be attractive to a potential employer?
Networking is a horrifying concept for many police officers, but don’t worry, we 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 ones you like perhaps. We have a group on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3933192 with over 8,000 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.
Reconnect 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 next to make things happen. 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 former officer 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 a 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 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 demonstrating the value you bring through a well thought out application or CV. Many employers are keen on former officers who are usually, 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) in an 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. Equally please be yourself in the interview, by trying to present what you think they want to see (you will probably be wrong ) you will not secure the right fit for you – a role that suits your skills and style and will keep you happy and engaged.
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 your first application is of the very best standard. If you 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. 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, (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 money, this is about a good standard of living and 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? How long have they been around? 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.
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 amazing at interviews – be authentic and do not overcompensate 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. I would say, however, that I often speak to people who have spent a small fortune on courses that lead nowhere – this is fine if it is to boost confidence but not if the study was solely to improve employment prospects.
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 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 moving forward from a bespoke CV and LinkedIn service to career coaching and interview prep.
Owner at Police into Private Sector