Since leaving my job as a police officer just over two years ago, my life has changed quite a bit. From the country I live in, the sports I’m involved in, and of course my career path. This was sort of an odd anomaly in my mind, but after looking back on it and thinking more about it, I thought it would be valuable to share my job hunt experiences for anyone who might be leaving their past job as a police officer or another first responder field.
Here’s a bit of info on me, to help set a bit of context. I graduated my undergraduate degree approximately 7 and a half years ago and was fortunate enough to have been hired onto the Edmonton Police Service within weeks of finishing classes. Of these 7 and a half years, I worked as a police officer for 5 and a half years, was unemployed for 3 months after I left, and have been working in digital marketing for the past two years in the same job. Lately, I started feeling as if I had gotten everything I could out of my job, and started my hunt for the next opportunity. When I updated my resume, I initially assumed the obvious, and that was to include my 5 years work experience as a police officer on my resume. However, I eventually made the shocking discovery that it was, in fact, better for me NOT to include policing on my resume. And I’m going to share some of my thoughts about why.
There is an absolute boatload of information out there right now about how to perfectly craft your resume, how to write a cover letter that stands out, and other best practices when applying for jobs. What I have found in the past and continue to find is all the information contradicts itself in so many ways. I’m not shocked by this at all. After all, there are so many different types of companies hiring people, so while the big corporate jobs might want your I’s dotted and T’s crossed, a fast growing startup might be more interested in learning about your personality and whether you will fit into their team. There are also so many different types of people, so while some might comfortable sharing personal information, some might simply want to keep work and personal life entirely separate.
Should I Include Police Experience On My Resume?
When I left the police service, there were so many people who said “now you have a good 5+ years of professional experience, which will help no matter where you go.” (These were the supportive ones, and for that I’m grateful!) In one sense they were right, but it wasn’t quite that simple. When I began my job search recently, I decided to include policing in my work experience with a good amount of detailed points around what I did and how it can help me in future jobs. Don’t get me wrong here, I read dozens of articles and guides on how to craft a well-polished resume, so I wasn’t way out of line here in something as simple as a poorly written description of job experience.
If someone was asking me today “should I include policing on my resume?” I would likely tell them it depends on what area you are looking to find a job in. If it’s something related to police work, like security, military, even companies that offer supplies or otherwise service the police niche, then absolutely. If you’re pivoting career paths into something entirely unrelated, then I wouldn’t be so quick to say include it. I’ll get into WHY below.
Why I took policing off my resume?
It’s quite simple really. I decided to take policing off my resume because I received a better response without it. After I began my search, I had spent about a month applying to just over 20 jobs that I was quite well suited for (at least in my opinion). Of those 22 or so, I received 2 replies back that were simply a canned response saying they were moving forward with someone else. Even after consistent follow-up, I never heard a word from the others. Honestly speaking, I was a bit confused, and whole heartedly feeling a bit incompetent. Why was I having almost no luck at this? I wasn’t aiming for things way out of my league like the CEO of Apple or anything.
I talked with Melissa about removing policing off my resume, and like we’ve learned in just about everything in life, she said to test it and see what happens. If things go better, you made the right move. If nothing changes, that’s likely not the issue. So I decided to get rid of it.
Let me be quite clear here. I did not delete the entire section from my resume. I simply renamed the position, changed “Edmonton Police Service” to “City of Edmonton”, and re-wrote all of the bullets below to come across more as a municipal employee, rather than a cop. Like my co-workers had said before, I still agree that this was professional work experience, and I needed to include something for what I was doing for 5 years.
The results were pretty dramatic. After making the changes, I applied to 6 different jobs in the next few weeks. Of those 6, 4 replied back, 3 set up interviews, and one landed me a job offer that I was happy to accept. Strictly looking at the metrics, I would have to say that taking the title of “Police Officer” off my resume made a significant improvement in the success of my job hunt.
Working at a coffee shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with an Affogato on the side!
What do I think changed?
I’ll never know for 100% certain whether seeing or not seeing Police Officer on my resume had an influence in whether I was considered. It’s pretty probable, though, based entirely on the metrics I mentioned above. If I had to take a stab in the dark as to WHY I had better success without policing, this is what I would say.
First thing is, in this day and age, policing is a sensitive issue. Police are always in the media, and unfortunately, it’s often making them out to be the bad guys. There are lots of viral posts on Facebook about PTSD becoming more prevalent than ever in military and law enforcement. The simple topic of police can provoke a wide array of emotions in people, and you have absolutely no control over whether those are supportive or resenting emotions. Can this play into a recruiter or hiring managers opinions? Sure the ethical answer is no. But in the same way that you’d likely lean towards the well dressed, well spoken and well-prepared candidate, over the guy who’s wearing dirty clothes, smells of weed and brought a sub to eat during the interview, it’s very well COULD play a role in the first impression that the hiring manager gets. So right off the bat, having ‘police officer’ on your resume might be putting you at a disadvantage.
Second thing that seems possible in my opinion, is that they simply don’t know what to do with it. When you say you were a great investigator, or you wrote very detailed warrants, or you supervised a squad, or just about anything else that uses very different context from the business realm, there is a very good chance that things get lost in translation. Not only is it possible that the reader of this doesn’t understand what exactly a warrant is, or how many people are in a squad, or any other detail that they’ve never been exposed to, but even if they can decipher the message, it’s causing them to think harder about that part of your resume. And if you are applying for something along with 2-300 other applicants, the last thing you want to do is make things difficult for the hiring manager to understand.
One of the supporting reasons why I feel these types of superficial obstacles were responsible, was that during most of my interviews, when the topic of my work with the “City of Edmonton” came up, I straight out told them I was a police officer, and on several occasion and in severals ways the person interviewing me expressed very high interest. Some commented on how that experience must have helped me handle stressful situations, some even applauded me for having the courage to stand up and leave something that didn’t fulfill me. In all situations, I didn’t detect any type of negative thoughts or feeling towards my policing experience, if anything it was a strong asset, but I think this was highly due to the fact I was able to word it in a way that would display the skills I developed or the lessons I learned in my own words. I was able to paint the entire picture, rather than let them draw conclusions or assumptions from a few words on my resume. And of course, I was crafting them to be as relatable to the position I was applying for, which further worked in my favor.
I think both of these quite possibly played a role in why I had such drastic differences in my success rates in applying for jobs. Which is why I thought it would be valuable for others who are thinking about leaving their policing careers
or have recently left the police to know about these possible obstacles they may face when looking for new work.
"Wearing the Badge" Ebook
Read Jonathan's in depth story about why he left policing, the realities of the job not often talked about, and where he is now today.