Former police officer, Peter Kelleher, suggests a method for helping to decide if leaving the police service would really be the best option for you.

I thought about leaving the police a few times during my career. The grass can often seem greener on the other side. Looking back, these were times when I was bored or unsettled in some way.

The first occasion was, surprisingly, when I had only a few years in. I had been posted to what I regarded as a sleepy backwater and, for someone in their early 20s, that can have a real impact on your outlook and attitude for your future career.

I guess I had been lured into the job by the promise of action and excitement only to discover that this wasn’t always the case in some of our outlying districts. I was bored and listened intently to tales from one of our ‘senior’ PCs on the team who had travelled the world with the British Army before joining the force.

I wanted some of that excitement and so, having seen an advert, applied to join the army. After much from-filling, an initial interview and a steer towards the Royal Tank Regiment, I found out what the pay was (this was in pre-internet days).

Needless to say that the difference between an entry level squaddie and an entry level PC, even in those days, was significant. My salary afforded me a house, a car and a motorbike back then (you can probably guess that I was single) and I simply wasn’t prepared to give up my creature comforts and go and live in a tank!

So instead, still in search of excitement, I joined the police Territorial Support Group and never looked back at the army, remaining instead within the police service and moving every few years to different roles to learn and to keep my interest high.

Why am I telling you this tale?

Well if you are thinking of leaving the police service, there can be a number of conflicting thoughts occupying your mind. You may be unhappy with your workload, the endless shift adjustments may finally be getting to you or the changes to terms and conditions may be making policing a less appealing profession. You could have been overlooked for promotion (I was – on a number of occasions) which is making you unhappy.

However, you still need a certain amount of money to survive and pay the bills, you could be concerned about flexibility to fulfil caring responsibilities or perhaps you joined to do good in the world. How will whatever occupation comes next fill whatever needs you have? And how do you identify and assess what these are?

Well for those who have hung around with crime analysts for a while, you may be familiar with the concept of “mapping”. Be it crime families, crime types or to demonstrate the extent of a criminal network, those big A3 charts were a convenient way of expressing the links and connections between different subjects, ideas or associations. And this concept can be brought to bear on our own personal situations too.

The master of “Mind-Mapping” is Tony Buzan and, if you have never read any of his books, I can heartily recommend them for their clarity and simple explanations of complex techniques. And you can adapt his ideas to suit our own purposes whether it’s trying to memorize important information, prepare a presentation or even give a speech.

Put simply, in our context, the technique is a way of getting information out of our brains and down onto paper in a way that makes sense and can be reviewed, amended and added to easily as other thoughts occur. It’s not linear, it’s pictorial and it helps when life is full of confusion, and our thinking is whizzing all over the place, to get some structure and get it down on paper (or an iPad) as it saves us trying to hold different ideas in our minds and think about them at the same time.

 Let’s look at a simple example:

In our diagram, the central question is “Should I leave?” The factors that affect our decision are placed around – and linked to – our central circle. In this example there are four primary issues that we need to consider; there could be more or less for you depending on your own individual circumstances.

You would then take each topic in turn and map out from that particular circle, the issues that you needed to consider in respect of that topic.

For example, for Financial commitments you might have surrounding circles entitled: Survival Budget, Future Changes, Pension arrangements, Life insurance, Contingency Fund, Savings and/or anything that impacted on your financial commitments and needed to be thought about on those dull train journeys or when you are stuck on a crime scene at 3am.

You deal with each of your topics in turn, drawing out as much as you need to think about with regard to that particular issue.

You put the image down for a time and come back to it a little later. This allows our subconscious to do a load of work while our conscious brain is doing whatever else it needs to. You will often find that new ideas pop into your mind as a result and you may even “see” something that you hadn’t previously considered. In this way you can build up a whole ‘spider’s web’ of thinking and this has a number of benefits.

Sometimes when we have some big decisions to make, we can feel overwhelmed with the amount of material our minds have to process. This helps to get it out of our brain and into a diagram.

Thoughts can lead quickly on to other thoughts and this is a way of catching them as they fly past so that you don’t have to concentrate on remembering everything but instead can “go with the flow”.

With a big decision like leaving your job, you will want to be assured that you have thought of everything and there is nothing that you have missed. This technique helps “surface” those thoughts that can be hard to find and pin down.

And there are many other benefits too.

So give mapping a try and see if it works for you in untangling some of your thinking and laying out the issues that you may need to face when making big life decisions. Once you can see the whole situation on a page it may not look so daunting. And you can get to work to deal with one chunk of it at a time, which makes life so much easier too.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it. We have got loads of great information on the ‘Advice and Guidance’ page of this website, or simply get in touch and we will be very happy to help.