Advance your career on purpose – Natural Self Esteem

When young cadets first enter the academy, their main thought and focus is simply to complete the academy; successfully complete and earn their badge. Once they graduate, they enter this field training portion of their education and all they focus on is being successfully “unleashed”. If you think about it, almost the entire first year of an officer’s career is devoted to training and simply becoming a police officer licensed to work alone. This does not include a probationary period, which may begin after graduation from the Academy and which extends beyond the duration of their field training program. But what happens afterwards? Where is the training or discussion about career planning?

Depending on the officer’s motivation and desires, they may aim to achieve the rank as quickly as possible. You could only dream of being in SWAT. They may wish to earn a place in the Motor Corps or the Mounted Unit. Maybe they dream of being part of a harbor patrol unit. All of these can be rewarding law enforcement jobs, but how long does an officer stay in one? At what point do you hinder your career by “getting stuck” in a specialty?

The urge to level up as quickly as possible can be seen as admirable or as arrogance. The 35-year-old corporal, who is being monitored by the 30-year-old sergeant and then further by the 28-year-old lieutenant, may not have much innate respect for either of them. Finally, how does her experience compare to his? How do you rate being promoted if he wasn’t?

Most agencies of any significant size have a promotion process that includes time at the agency, time at a particular rank, eligibility for promotion, minimum education requirements, examination for promotion, and oral panels. If you want to advertise, you must first and foremost participate in the program; Align your career goals with the process; Know the standards for promotion and achieve goals on a pre-planned schedule.

If your goal is to rise through the ranks, you know the boxes to tick on your resume to pursue each promotion. Know the fitness standards (if any) and make sure you exceed them. Find out the minimum education requirements for each rank and take courses to stay ahead of them. Know your time requirements for both agency and rank, and take the testing process for each rank at the earliest possible time you qualify.

Realize that both reliability and motivation are required for promotions. These two work characteristics are measured throughout your career as part of your day-to-day job performance and should be noted in any annual or semi-annual performance reviews you receive.

Each officer starts with a patrol. Find out what performance standards you want and make sure you’re meeting or exceeding them. Look for opportunities to take on extra responsibilities – special responsibilities – and not just when it’s great overtime pay. Look for opportunities that will allow you to impress your chain of command and stand out in public.

Remember that the best thing you can do is make yourself as promoteable as possible, but that doesn’t guarantee promotion. There is almost always competition and the verbal bodies also influence the decisions of the command. All you can do is the best you can.

Then comes the question: What if I really like the job I’m in and don’t want to promote it? This is a reality happening in many places. The corporal who’s with SWAT and knows that if he gets promoted to sergeant he’ll go back on patrol – so he doesn’t even test for promotion. He stays where he is on purpose… and that’s perfectly fine as long as he makes that conscious choice. Many officers do this with special forces such as SWAT, harbor patrol, mounted and more. And when they’ve been at the agency for 20 to 25 years, and 15+ years of that in the special forces they love, they decide it’s time for a promotion so they can top up their retirement checks. This is your last piece for promotion planning: Understand the relationship between your rank at retirement, your time at that grade, and the impact on your retirement checks.

When planning your career, you should know your goals in advance and act accordingly. Don’t be the 35-year-old corporal complaining that he wanted more rank or thought he was going further; who says someone held him back. Be aggressive in your quest for promotion, but don’t be arrogant.

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