If you’re coming upon retirement and want a second career, or if you’re interested in a new job outside of law enforcement, here are five important action items to do as you consider leaving your LEO career to move into the corporate or government worlds:
Know Your Value
No matter your rank and years of service, you will likely question how your law enforcement experience will be valued in the world outside of your agency. How do you translate your time patrolling, arresting, testifying, supervising, making drug busts, etc., to the private and public sectors? And what about the hundreds of training hours, how do these apply to the corporate world? What value does your experience, training, and service bring to job sectors outside of law enforcement?
Be assured, your law enforcement career makes you a tremendous asset to employers. Here’s an exercise to showcase your valuable strengths: make a three-column list: in the first column list your job duties (investigations, unit supervisor, marksmanship, etc.); in the middle column list the skills it takes to do them (time management, detail-oriented, management skills, etc.); in the third column list the personal characteristics you bring to successfully fulfilling each duty (integrity, focus, team-player, etc.). In addition to this being a tangible list of your skills and experience which you can use for your resume, this exercise is also a terrific way for you to acknowledge your attributes, strengths, and value.
Organize all of your performance evaluations, training certificates, commendations, and complimentary letters from citizens. Separate them by type, with the most recent on top. (If you don’t have copies ask your commanding officer or human resources department.) These will be of great use to you. For example, you can use the positive words on your performance evals in the profile and skills sections of your resume. Likewise, your training certificates are important too. On your resume you will create a call-out section for training. You do not need to include all training in your resume, just the most relevant to the position you are applying for. You will also make copies of your training certificates and commendations to include in a portfolio which you will bring to a job interview and give to the hiring recruiters.
This is the fun part. Look up companies and organizations for openings in the private sector. Search city, state, county and federal job Websites for openings in the public sector. Make a list of the places you are interested in and keep a log of pros/cons of how each one suits you. Search their job openings. Read their Websites, press releases, and employee bios. Look up their competitors. Get a snapshot of their culture, and the experience level of their people. Keep in mind, even if there aren’t any job openings that fit right now, this doesn’t mean this company/organization is closed to you. You can still reach out to HR with your resume to get on their radar for future openings.
In addition to online research, do personal research too—follow up with your brother-in-law’s mention that his firm may be hiring someone with investigative experience. You bump into your retired former lieutenant and she says the company she now works for wants to add more staff; reach out to her for more information. What about that county position you’ve been keeping an eye on for a while, maybe there’s an opening now? Friends, friends of friends, family, and neighborhood acquaintances can all be great resources. Also, take advantage of opportunities on social media. Search Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for opportunities to reach out to people. You should also create a profile on LinkedIn. It’s a valuable way to connect with your former colleagues to see where they are now. They can make an introduction for you on the site, share your resume, or give you advice. In addition to listing your work experience, it’s also where you showcase your skills and work achievements. Additionally, LinkedIn is a hotspot for hiring managers to see your profile and contact you directly.
Build Your Resume
Figuring out how to structure your resume is often the most intimating part of this process. Some common questions include: what should be in your profile paragraph? How much information should there be in the experience section? What about skills and training, how are these listed?
Don’t get bogged down by trying to adhere to a specific way of writing your resume – your first task is to make a draft and organize all your information. Open a Word document and make bolded sections: Profile, Skills, Experience, Training, Volunteer Experience, and Education. These are the core sections on a resume. Then, add more sections specific to your career. For example, if you are a commanding officer create a section titled Leadership Experience. Now, fill in each section with information. It doesn’t need to be perfect, this is only the first draft. Look up many different resume templates for ideas. Keep in mind, simple is best. Use a standard font and size. Expect to write many drafts. Your resume is also a living document. You should edit and tweak it to fit the job description of the position you are applying for. Also, make sure there are no spelling or spacing mistakes. In addition to editing it on your computer, print it and read it out loud. It’s easier to catch errors this way.
Bonus Tip: Be Positive!
Having a positive attitude will motivate you to do the research, networking, organizing, and resume-building work needed to begin the transition from law enforcement into the private sector or public sector. Be positive and be confident that your skills and experience are valuable, important, and will be an asset in another job or career.
Kristina Kolerich is LEO family; her spouse is a retired Washington State patrol sergeant, and she was raised in a police family in Chicago. She is a veteran communications executive, business writer, and network news journalist. She founded Sheepdog Resume, a resume service and career counseling company, to work exclusively with law enforcement officers wanting to move from policing into the private and public sectors. She can be reached at [email protected] Visit: SheepdogResume.com.