What to do if you've decided policing isn't for you

Published on: 15 Jun 2022

For some people, working in the police force is a lifelong vocation. But this isn't for everyone. In fact, there are a growing number of people who have decided that life in uniform isn't the right path for them, and so will be looking for another career.

If this sounds like you, you're far from alone. According to data from the Home Office, the number of police officers voluntarily resigning their position has more than doubled in recent years, from 1,158 in the year ending March 2012 to 2,363 in the year ending March 2020.

Whether you're leaving after 15, ten, or even five years, there will undoubtedly be questions and challenges ahead. Even if you still remember what it's like to be entering the job market, moving from a clearly-defined role in public service into the many opportunities in the private sector can be difficult, especially if you don't have the security of a long-term police pension to fall back on.

So if you have decided that leaving the police is the right step, what can you do to make the process as painless as possible?

Why are people leaving the police early?

There are a number of reasons why some people may feel that policing is no longer for them. For some, dissatisfaction with pay may be a big driver. Like many public sector bodies, salaries have been squeezed in recent years, with pay freezes and a below-inflation rise of just two per cent in 2022. 

According to the Police Federation, this works out to a 20 per cent pay cut in real terms since 2010, so it's no wonder that the possibility of a better salary in the private sector seems appealing to many.

However, this is far from the only reason why some officers may feel the time is right for a change. Other reasons given by officers for leaving early include increased levels of violence and more scrutiny on social media that they feel makes it harder to do their job effectively. Unhappiness with management and organisational culture are also frequently cited as drivers.

Even if you aren't generally dissatisfied with the job, there may be plenty of reasons to seek a change. One in four leavers highlight personal issues as a factor in their decision. Perhaps you're looking for a more regular schedule with no shift work to improve work-life balance, for instance, or are planning a move to another part of the country where there are few policing  opportunities. Maybe you just want to spend your day doing something different.

Overcoming the key challenges ahead    

Even if you have determined to try your hand at something new, actually taking the plunge can be a daunting prospect. You may naturally be worried about whether your skills and experience will be relevant to employers and be unsure about how to go about promoting yourself to recruiters. 

Indeed, assuming that your skills won't be in demand or that employers don't want to hire former officers is a common misconception that may prevent people from taking the next step.

One way to address this is to reach out to former colleagues who've already gone through the process. Professional networking will be a vital part of finding your next position anyway, so connecting with those who know what it takes is a great first step.

LinkedIn is an ideal place to start, but it's also highly useful to meet people in person. Even if you're not sure what role would be best for you, police-focused events such as the Police Resettlement Expo offer a great opportunity to hear directly from recruiters about what they're looking for. This can help dispel any myths that your skills or experiences aren't in demand and give you a great steer on what roles you may be most suited for.

Highlighting your transferable skills

When it comes to finding a new position, having a strong network will be hugely beneficial. But it's also vital you take the time to build a useful, relevant CV that highlights your personal and professional qualities and how they extend beyond policing.

It's essential that you understand how the skills you've picked up in the police will translate to new roles. While it's true that you will have picked up a large number of useful transferable skills in your career, it's not enough to simply list them on your CV and expect recruiters to appreciate them. 

Andy Labrum, founder of Blue Light Leavers, says: "You might be a great communicator, but unless you have evidence that maps across to the role you're applying for, it will mean nothing. It's really important that people understand that they have skills and experience and that's what has to be evidenced, in the context of the role you're applying for."

Ready to take the next step? We have a wide range of security cleared jobs with companies that are keen to hire experienced, trustworthy people such as former police officers.