For many people, the word ‘networking’ probably conjures up a mental picture of uncomfortable work-related events where schmoozing and self-aggrandisation are turned up to the max. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all old boys’ clubs and shameless self-promotion over wine and cheeseboards.
Thankfully, networking has come a long way since those bad old days – which is lucky, because it has never been more crucial when it comes to career success. What’s more, you’ll undoubtedly find that if you’re looking for jobs after leaving the police force, you’ll need to do at least some networking in order to forge fresh relationships and get started on your path to a new vocation.
But how can you network, especially if it’s not something you’re used to? Let’s take a closer look.
What is networking?
Networking is defined as the process of interacting with others in order to exchange information and develop contacts. Essentially, it involves meeting new people who might share your profession or interests and making connections with them that are likely to be mutually beneficial.
With a recent LinkedIn survey finding 76 per cent of respondents believe you need to know the right people to get ahead, networking can be used in a variety of different ways to further your career.
For instance, you may turn to networks to:
- Find out more about what it’s like to do a particular job
- See vacancies that are about to come up
- Speak to people about how they have progressed through their career since leaving education
- Learn more about companies and their values
The aim is not to send your CV out to as many people as possible, but to connect, help each other grow and see opportunities that may not have been obvious before.
How to network well
The key thing to remember about networking is that it’s about building trust and a reciprocal relationship built on give and take, rather than just thinking about what other people can do for you.
To do it well, you need to consider what career lessons you have learnt that may be useful to others and be willing to share them. Listening to others and really engaging with them is also key, as this will help them to remember you favourably in the future should they learn of an opportunity that has arisen.
It’s also essential to regularly connect with your network of contacts, even if you’re not looking for a job. Turning up only when you want something will not build a positive impression, whereas being present and assisting others will sow the seeds for them being willing to help you when you need it.
Networking for former police officers
But what about networking for those leaving the police force in particular? Isn’t networking more for those in the corporate game who have come from big business?
Actually, the answer to that is no. Although it might sound difficult to you at first as someone with a career history in the police, meeting people and sharing useful information should come as second nature after a lifetime of interviews and briefings.
However, the key is to make those connections useful and relevant, which you can do by reaching out to individuals who have been in the same boat already (i.e. moving from the force into the private sector). To do this, you might want to take a look on social media sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, the latter of which will no doubt have dedicated groups for your area.
Indeed, looking online and using dedicated apps for virtual meetings could be a great way to ease you into networking without the pressure of real-life gatherings to begin with. After all, the pandemic taught us just how efficient the likes of Zoom can be – some 6.3 million people attended virtual events on LinkedIn alone during the first lockdown of 2020, temporarily replacing face-to-face attendance.
And don’t forget that there are dedicated organisations for police networking outside traditional social media too. The International Police Association is for police around the world to meet colleagues and make friends, and the International Association of Women Police represents more than 70 countries and 27 affiliate bodies.
Police into Private Sector is another project well worth checking out, as it was set up by long-serving officers to help hundreds of people secure new roles beyond policing, while Blue Light Leavers (one of our partners) is also available to provide valuable assistance to anyone looking for new opportunities after the force.
Reach out with careers fairs
Once you’ve built your confidence with virtual networking, it’s a good idea to seek some in-person events to help you forge even more connections. At SecurityClearedJobs, we offer a range of jobs fairs dedicated to this very thing, including our well-established Police Resettlement EXPO that visits venues across the UK.
By seeing prospective employers in person, you might find you get the chance to ask more questions and hold more in-depth conversations with like-minded individuals, which could pay dividends in the long term.
What’s more, they should enjoy the opportunity to see you as a potentially useful member of their company when the time comes to leave the Thin Blue Line behind.
As you can see, there are networking opportunities almost everywhere these days, so don’t waste them by thinking they’re outside your comfort zone – grasp them with both hands and see where they could take you next.