10 August 2023

Where are they now? Meet former first responder James 

James worked in the Australian Federal Police (AFP) force for 15 years, building his career through the tactical unit and moving into a role within the welfare department, where he provided support to his fellow officers. Spending many years building a strong career, he wanted to progress into a team leader role. He applied many times for a promotion but found moving up to the next level in his career a challenge. Although he pursued this path for a while, he found himself questioning if he wanted to try something different. When he finally made the decision to pursue a new career path, he found he was left feeling uncertain of his next steps and overwhelmed with applying for new roles.  

“There was a fair bit of uncertainty; the police provide a lot of stability; they offer quite a lot of time off in comparison to external companies. You’re also leaving a big community, everyone looks after one another, leaving that family behind and not knowing if those friendships will last was difficult. The other uncertainty is, are you qualified enough? All my skills and education over the last 15 years were focused on policing. I was an operational safety trainer and I have done roping courses; all things which aligned to the direction I was heading within the police but don’t translate to civilian qualifications.” 

With the idea that he wanted to improve his chances of pursuing his team leader career path, James contacted the Fortem career management team for assistance. 

“I didn’t know how to write a resume. That is where Fortem came in and really supported me.  Helping me with assistance with RPL, translating my police skills to civilian. Fortem led me to Blue Sky who helped me with my resume, made it much more professional, and gave me great awareness of what I needed to put in there and how to maintain my CV. That gave me more confidence in applying for roles.” 

Setting out to achieve his goals, he applied for university to gain his Master of Business Administration, and with the help of some friends he was able to work in a company that led him to own his own business and become that team leader he always wanted to be.  

“I worked for them for 6 months; they were looking to grow their business, looking at acquisitions. I was able to help them as a landscaping business build up their maintenance division. The company was looking for a business to buy; they successfully found a tree service business for sale. It looked good, but they decided they didn’t want to buy it. I asked if they minded if I bought it. So, we parted amicably, and I now own a tree business.” 

James was able to remove himself from his old way of living and take charge of his own path. “Breaking free from that institutionalised mindset, in the AFP there is law but there is also a separate set of rules as a police officer that you must abide. Realising I am not bound by those rules is quite liberating, as is taking the time to consciously realise you don’t have the same governance as the AFP. You don’t have to go through the 6 levels to gain approval for what you want to do; it is quite freeing when you realise, I can do this myself.” 

James offered some advice for those looking to seek help with transitioning out of the police force to hopefully help someone achieve that change that they desire.  

“There is still stigma in the police, and amongst those transitioning out. By meeting other people at Fortem events, we can discuss issues with mental wellbeing and remove the stigma. That normalises the behavior and the person can consider it [transitioning] for themselves. That is where the value in that space is, the other stuff that might seem transactional like RPL, but that was the stuff for me that made a big difference.”