Police into Private Sector
When we started PiPS in early 2011 the main driver was to respond to the need for meaningful support for those leaving after thirty years, although that was clearly one of our better ideas, we were not thinking big enough and did not have anything more than a suspicion what was coming around the corner.
Now, we work with just as many people who have decided to step away from policing mid service; the idea of a 30-year career in policing no longer being as attractive as it once was.
I am aware that many who have committed to, or long completed, their 30 years remain surprised that anyone would step away – the camaraderie, the sense of working on something bigger and more important than many jobs can provide, the adrenalin and need for rapid response to the unpredictable can be part of the heady mix. Or at least it was.
But now? With the dramatic changes, things just don’t fit quite so well for many people and indeed the idea of many decades in any role can feel overwhelming.
But what to do? Stepping away from a serious and fairly secure, although I think we are now all too clear there is no longer such a thing as a totally secure job, can feel a little scary.
I often advise clients not to get too caught up with the thought of the decision at the end of the process, because of course when you are offered a role in the private sector you are not obliged to take it. Instead, I suggest projecting yourself five years into the future, are you still doing the same thing and still feeling unsatisfied? Might you look back and say “I wish I had given leaving more serious consideration back then”
I suggest that leaving policing, whether at 30 years or 5, should be considered as a serious project. But of course, you did not sign up to policing on a whim; you had to really work at building the right application, fitness and approach. Then you got get through training school and probation. Clearly, you are no pushover and you absolutely know how to commit yourself to a project.
And all that learning and information is useful outside of policing and has helped form your character further and undoubtedly built you confidence. I do get so frustrated when police officers say that their skills are not translatable, of course they are.
Things to consider
If you get professional advice (and clearly, 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 they will mentally fill in the missing parts. This will not help you in the long run.
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 financially and academically, then make sure you go 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. Equally, I am increasingly aware that many companies are feeling overwhelmed by applicants who are supremely well qualified in exams but offer little in experience or application. Look at the companies that interest you and find out what they are looking for, or pick up the phone and ask if the requirements are negotiable for some roles.
Do not take on too much advice – it will drive you quite crazy as everyone now 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.
A word on interviews
So, your brilliant CV has now secured you an interview. By now you might be thinking that the interviews you have had within policing might be different to the ones in the private sector. Yes, they are, but nothing you cannot master.
It may be that you have always done fairly well in previous interviews, you are personable and certainly bright and able. That obviously means your interview style is fine, doesn’t it?
No, not really, because certainly, they are not looking for ‘evidence’ in the way you might have presented it previously. So no amount of rehearsing set evidence will help. The proof of your abilities and experience will come through how to talk on the subject and how it might be applicable to their business model.
If you have reached the interview stage your application has put you in the frame as a strong possibility for the position; they now need to hear more depth in the areas of interest to them and particularly, find out if you will be a good fit for the team.
• Do your due diligence. I trust you are applying to a company you like the sound of rather than a company that has a job you could do, and so you must come armed with a knowledge of their ethos and direction. This is now so easy on the internet, particularly on LinkedIn, to not be prepared on this is a real negative. At the very least the panel have all chosen to work for the company and for you to be less than on message and engaged may be interpreted as having no real interest in the company, i.e. you are just looking for a job, any job!
• Confidence – quiet, calm and clear – is very attractive. Overwhelming confidence is often exhausting and the panel may reflect that you may be tricky to work with. Be yourself and not what you think they want to see!
• From the moment you wake up consider yourself to be ‘on’. Dress, act and think in your new position, you may feel a little silly but it will have a positive effect. Remember the panel want to imagine the person in the available role – be any less and they will hesitate. A very recent story in the press drove this home when a chap on his way to interview, had a negative interaction on a train with someone who turned up an hour later as one of the panel. No, he did not get the job.
• When you enter the room remember this is their game. They hold the power at this moment so please do not stride in and go to shake their hands. If they offer, then of course, respond warmly but on all points here the lead is theirs. The only thing that is yours is the chair, and although this might sound odd, move it slightly – a strong but subtle message to all that you are not intimidated and can hold your own.
• As you sit be aware of your body language. You will probably be aware of this at first but check it after ten minutes – make sure you are still sitting well and not grasping any sensitive part of your body for security (this is a very usual response!).
• Relax and be yourself. They want you to do well; it would make their life easier to find a good fit for the position. There is no point at all in trying to be what you think they want – it will not serve you well to be accepted into a role based on a performance that was not genuinely you. If you can work at being as relaxed as possible you also offer yourself the greatest chance of creative and deeper thinking that will inevitably serve you well.
• Consider that you are interviewing them too. Are they the sort of people you would be happy working with? Even thinking in these terms starts to allow our own confidence to come through.
Above all, turn up as the best version of yourself. Nerves can get the better of us all but know this is not life and death – take a breath and try to enjoy talking to the panel. This will give you the best opportunity to shine.
Needless to say, this is a brief look at interview skills, but hopefully, will offer some food for thought. If you want more detailed support do get in touch, we run a great programme for interview coaching and development.