There are plenty of good reasons to become a police officer, but a time might come when an officer decides to move on.
Finding a new job or branching off into a different career can be challenging whether you've spent a year or your whole adult lifetime working in law enforcement. But it can be as easy as pinning down exactly what you've become good at over the years, then matching those skills to a career that interests you.
Use Your Unique Skills
Former officers should take an inventory of the skills they've acquired during their law enforcement careers. Look for areas that translate well into civilian positions.
Think about the job functions of police officers: They make arrests, resolve disputes, identify hazards and potential problems, and they often seek to head off hazards and problems before they get worse.
They write reports, maintain records and files, and adhere to a chain of command. All these functions and more require the application of skills that are vital and valuable in the private sector.
Law enforcement skills translate well to positions in the private sector such as private investigator, cybersecurity specialist, or firearms instructor.
Police officers often underestimate their sales skills, but officers "sell" things that no one wants everyday, from handcuffs to court dates and traffic tickets. Officers don't get into altercations every day even in the toughest precincts, but they do issue tickets or make arrests just about every shift.
Law enforcement officers have a vested interest in peacefully accomplishing these tasks. They want to avoid complaints and to avoid getting hurt or having to hurt someone else. They recognize the importance of community-oriented policing and of fostering trust and respect among the citizens they serve.
All these things create incentives for officers to hone their sales skills very quickly, and most become very effective at it. Not many salespeople can issue someone a $300 speeding ticket to have the recipient say "thank you" after the stop. It's an art, and yes, it's sales.
Consider working as a loss prevention specialist to combine your investigative skills with the world of retail sales.
Officers must be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of individuals if they're going to be effective at their jobs.
They learn how to communicate with people in a variety of ways and in a variety of situations. Perhaps more important, they develop vital interpersonal communication skills, including sympathy, empathy, and the art of listening.
Possible positions that would utilize this skill as well as law enforcement training include bodyguard, mediator, journalist, victim advocate, or a position in corporate security.
Police officers are certainly accustomed to people doing what they tell them, but leadership has less to do with barking commands and more to do with learning how to effectively influence other people's behavior.
All officers, regardless of rank or responsibility, learn valuable leadership skills early on in their careers.
Consider going back to school if necessary to teach criminal justice and law enforcement at the post-secondary school level.
Few people are able to work out problems better than law enforcement officers. They're often forced to get creative in solving all sorts of problems on their own due to their independent work environment.
From working around a vehicle or an emergency light malfunction to providing feuding neighbors with ways to help them get along better, officers are masters at coming up with solutions.
You might consider a second career as a forensic accountant to make the most of these skills.
Police officers have to think fast on their feet and make snap judgments, including some that literally mean life or death. They must quickly and accurately assess situations and devise tactics for dealing with those situations as a normal part of their day-to-day job.
They must also be able to adapt quickly to their environments and to other people's actions. Identifying issues and developing a workable course of action is an almost hourly occurrence.
Emergency management might be a possible career choice for those with strong skills in this area.
Emphasize Your Strengths
You can better market yourself to private employers by focusing on your strengths and evaluating your critical skills and abilities. The most important key is to realize that what you do day in and day out actually does translate into valuable and marketable job skills in numerous fields.
Officers making a career change should learn to articulate exactly how their skills are a good match for potential employers to overcome the perception that law enforcement skills are unique to the police profession.
Life After Law Enforcement
You might tire of law enforcement for any number of reasons. Officers should accentuate their positive traits and make it known that they're exactly the people employers are looking for in order to make a successful transition.