Leaving the Police: Your Questions Answered
Last week, I invited social media questions on anything to do with leaving the police. I got a huge amount of messages, so I've grouped my answer into 5 points rather than try to answer every single one - there are some big themes.
Also, this article will only scratch the surface of a huge topic. As always, feel free to comment, challenge, agree, disagree...
What's the first step?
Should I write a CV first, or find the right role then tailor the CV to the role? I'm going to be slightly annoying here and say: a bit of both. Your CV should be seen as an evolving document, not just because each role will have a slightly different angle, but also because your thinking will change the more you look at roles, go to interviews etc. You will, inevitably, need a CV for purely practical reasons - whether you apply online, network face to face etc, there will come a point where you will be asked for a CV (or at least a formatted online version). The other reason for getting a strong CV together early is more personal - it will help you refine your understanding of your skills and value. It will help you develop a compelling and concise pitch that you can hone as you go along, so that when you are standing in front of the person(s) with the power to hire you for your ideal role, you know exactly what to say and how to say it. It should act as a foundation for you to come back to when mapping your skills against a job spec.
In short, the two should go hand in hand.
Before any of this...I can't overstate the importance of investing serious time and effort in working out what you really want (and don't want) to do. See this as a positive opportunity to do something better - not just jumping aimlessly from something that is making you unhappy. I can say this as someone who resigned from the police without a plan beyond the belief that as sh*t as things were, they wouldn't always be that way. Yes, to some extent it worked out, but I made it very hard for myself in both practical and emotional terms.
How do I translate my skills?
Great question. In short, make them relevant, make them interesting, make them clear. Hint: they will be interesting and powerful, so they don't need to be overdressed or overly complicated, but they do need to be understandable to someone in your target industry. Are you applying to go back to a police force as something very specific? If so, of course it makes sense to explain your skill set as a firearms instructor/AFO etc - if that's the role. If you're applying to be a project manager at a financial services company, AFO or L1 driver aren't transferable skills as (last time I checked) banks don't do pursuits or hard stops...
Think deeper.What actually makes you good at your role? Take away the subject matter - what do you actually do? Why are you successful at it where others wouldn't be? Research the language used in your target sector. Yes, "Account Management" might sound odd, but what if I told you it's about being a reliable link between two parties, identifying opportunities to perform better and solving problems as they come up... sound like something you could do?
Here's two real-life examples from my clients. Firstly, police dog handler to regional sales manager for a household name company. We identified that the one thing that was critical to both roles was the ability to talk to people - influence, negotiate, build rapport. People buy from people. We also evidenced the ability to think fast under pressure, make autonomous decisions, solve problems, go the extra mile to get the job done. When it came to the final interviews, the company hired this person because they wanted his people skills. They could teach the specifics of their industry - but sometimes personal attributes are unteachable.
Secondly, custody sergeant to project manager. Look at the components of a project: time constraints, risks, milestones, regulatory limits, unexpected issues, budget, people... Now, in a custody suite those all exist: we just call them PACE clock, warning signals, reviews, detainees and so on. Every single shift as a custody sergeant is itself a project to manage - and I would say a very challenging and risky one with no resources!
Reality checks and persistence
None of this is easy. Like the rest of life, nothing is guaranteed, but it does come to those who plan and take action. There are people who get the first thing they apply for, but it's rare. Don't be disheartened by what you see on social media and think that you're the only one finding it hard. It is hard, but it is also doable. You only need to be successful once! If you keep working, keep learning, keep asking and keep taking consistent action - the right door will open. When it does, you'll be ready to walk through it confidently and show them what you can do. Along the way, if you meet people who don't see your value, that's fine - they are not your people.
Pitching at the right level
This ties in with some of the points above. It's just as ineffective to pitch yourself too low as it is to pitch yourself too high. So self-belief is important - as is being able to see where you fit in the market you're approaching. See yourself as an experienced, skilled person who is bringing value. You might not be applying to be CEO, but that doesn't mean you're competing for entry level roles. Even better, can you do some research and quantify what you're bringing? For example, you are going to improve the way a logistics firm operates efficiently which means they'll reduce wastage as well as increase productivity... put a percentage to it, look at their recent figures... give them a concrete idea of your value!
Think like a snooker player
I used this analogy recently and I quite liked it, so you're stuck with it now. Ever played snooker or darts against someone really good? The reason they are so good is not just skill, but thinking ahead. Not just aimlessly potting balls/hitting trebles, but always setting up the next step (and several after that). So, when you see someone who is 2 years out from the police and doing great, remember they often took a sideways move for the first year - gaining experience, retraining, getting a foot in the door. Enabling them to then be on a faster pathway and be one of those people others discuss wistfully in police stations saying "oh he landed on his feet". They almost certainly planned it - or at least put themselves in the right place to grab their goal. So, don't just look at your first move - what's the move after? What interim steps could you take to get closer to your ultimate goal?
That hopefully covers the main questions/observations I received. I will no doubt revisit this, so keep the questions coming - we can all learn from each other and harness our collective experiences and common bond. I'm off to practice hitting that treble 20...