Beginning a law enforcement career is very exciting. What other profession allows you to drive fast with lights and sirens blaring, carry a gun and arrest the bad people in the world?

But what happens when you are faced with the fact of ultimately leaving the profession?

We all know, or should know, that anything can happen, and it often does unexpectedly. Are you prepared? Really think about that for a moment. If you must think too long then you are not prepared, plain and simple.

My advice to you is to start thinking about the “what if’s” going forward.

You don’t have to lament on this every day, but too many times we think nothing is going to happen to us. You might be thinking “I have a very secure job” or “everyone loves me.” My personal favorite is the line of thinking that some have adopted which is, “I am indispensable to this organization.”

Let me fill you in on something … everyone can be replaced. No one is indispensable. Yes, even you.  What would happen if you were injured and you couldn’t go back to work? What would happen if you were fired, or your career ended due to other reasons?

Like I said, anything can happen. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself.

Make yourself as versatile as possible

A long time ago I learned the value of versatility. I knew that someday I would leave the profession that I had spent most of my adult life building and I wanted to be as prepared as I could be. I am not trying to imply that some of you are not preparing for that day, but I would bet that most of you are not. I sure was not.

Make it a priority to become more versatile. The more talents and abilities you can begin cultivating now, the more successful you will be in the future.

Embrace education

After the military, I came back to Colorado to start a career in law enforcement.  About a year after I accepted my first law enforcement job, I went back to school to better educate myself. I knew that education would assist me greatly in my life, and I eventually obtained graduate degrees in business and in organizational leadership that have served me well and helped me obtain a variety of teaching assignments. I am a big fan of lifelong learning and I would encourage you to do everything you can to learn something new every day.

If you look at most progressive police agencies many of them require higher education to progress through the ranks if that’s what you want. Investing in yourself will always pay off.

Just do it

If you have a venture that you want to start, then do it. It’s not going to start itself. You have the power and ability to do anything you set your mind to. Yes, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true.

I know many officers that always talk about starting that business or writing that book but never take the steps to get it started. Maybe they are afraid that their peers or others will make fun of them, or they fear failure.

Growth and failure go hand in hand. These are the same brave souls that would run into an active shooter situation or any other critical incident, but they don’t want to look foolish. You are foolish not to try my friend. Have an exit strategy.

You can always make more money, but you can’t make up for lost time. What will you do when you leave the profession, or the profession leaves you?