Former police officer Peter Kelleher offers a personal reflection on preparing yourself for life after the job.
When you are thinking about retiring or leaving your job for other reasons it can be difficult to know what to do next.
There is a world of possibilities out there but the choice can seem bewildering.
Unless your leaving is approached as it would be if you were, perhaps, planning a proactive operation, the experience can be frustrating and disappointing.
When I was leaving the police after 30 years service I was excited and nervous in equal measure.
I had joined the police cadets straight from school at the tender age of 16 and, from there, had progressed into the police proper.
I just didn’t know any other way of life. All my adult life had been spent working within, and mainly socialising with, the police family. As my 49th birthday approached, I considered what the future might hold for me.
I had worked really hard for 30 years and, looking back, those years had gone by in a flash.
I took the (slightly morbid) view that I had about another 20 years left working, a further 20 years left living, and that would probably be it for me. And that was the best possible option!
As we know, a lot could happen in the intervening period and I was determined to make the most of what came next.
But what was “what came next” going to be?
And how would I know if I was making the right choices or not?
I felt that one of my key responsibilities was paying the mortgage and making sure my family had sufficient regular money coming in to run the house and the car and take an annual family holiday.
To help figure out how much this was required, I carried out a stock-take of what was coming in and what was going out of the family finances.
What could I drop if I had to?
What future financial changes were in prospect once I had finished my police career?
Fortunately, many forces still provide access to resettlement courses that address some of the financial issues – but if you are looking to leave earlier than retirement and aren’t able to access these helpful training days, then what?
In any case, the final decisions are always up to the individual concerned – there is no-one else to blame!
I also wanted to do something that I enjoyed and, having been involved in the family businesses over the years running alongside my police career, I felt I knew enough about this aspect to consider whether it would be right for me.
However, even with my 25+ year knowledge of what worked and what didn’t in the small business sector, I took the opportunity to obtain significant training to help me on this course.
Even so, it’s not been without its ups and downs. As I hit the two year (end of probation!) mark, I reflected on the journey so far. There have been some fabulous successes (winning a business award, getting my first book published) but also some awful lows (those 3am doubts and worries, wasting time, money and energy on projects that seemed right but just weren’t!).
Ultimately, in your own business, all the decisions are yours. That’s great if you are fed up with taking orders and instructions from people, but it can also be quite lonely.
It’s useful to have someone to bounce the ideas off, but, at the end of the day, success or failure is simply down to you, your efforts and your decisions.
While this course of action may not be for the faint-hearted, it can be very rewarding and offers great flexibility.
And with advances in modern communications technology, any product or service that doesn’t need providing personally (for example, hairdressing) can be delivered from anywhere in the world!
Another aspect that you may wish to consider is your sense of purpose.
What are you here to achieve?
What have you got to offer the world?
Now I recognise that some of this stuff may be a little “left-field” or “woo-woo” for practical, hard-nosed crime fighters, but hear me out. Many people I speak to who have left the police service feel, particularly at the start of this new chapter in their life, a little lost.
They are, perhaps, well-used to the camaraderie, kudos or status that comes with their career so far, and it can be an unforeseen consequence of leaving that all this is suddenly gone. This point can also touch on why we joined the police service in the first place. In your role, whatever it is (or was), you had a subconsciously-defined sense of purpose; a reason for getting up and coming to work each day. You may need to replace that with something new, perhaps as a school governor or a trustee of a local charity, particularly if that sense of belonging to something bigger than just you is important to you.
So have a think about what you want to achieve.
When you are old and grey(er) and you are, perhaps, sitting side-by-side with friends chatting and reflecting back on times past, what does a life well lived look like to you?
What achievements would you like to look back on with a satisfied smile?
Why not go to work today to write your list of things you want to do in your life and work out a plan to begin to achieve them?
Life’s too short, after all, to let time slip by or be stuck in something you no longer enjoy. But tread sensibly and cautiously and map it out and life may just turn out for you in the way that you have planned (but maybe with a few interesting detours along the way!).
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.