5 career transition tips from former first responders who have made the move

We spoke with five former first responders who are now working with Fortem Pledge Partner KPMG Australia. Here are their tips for transitioning into a new career after first responder service:

The organisational culture change can be challenging

Moving into a new role after 30 years of policing was a challenge for Myles – but perhaps not in the way he expected.

“The logistics of adjusting to a new firm and a new client environment … there was a bit to get up to speed with, and I have to admit it was a challenge,” he says. “It was quite a steep learning curve to come into that environment: the change in dynamic after being the centre of an organisation as an operational police officer, to being in a supporting role to those operational areas.”

His top tip is to build your awareness of the new culture you’ll move into. He describes the change as a combination of refreshing, challenging and different.

Plan your career change ahead of time

Darren had been thinking of changing careers for a while, but it was more a series of ideas rather than a concrete plan. He admits he downplayed the effect the change would have on him.

“I thought it would be an easy step out, but that day when I walked out the door after 25 years of police service was more emotional than I gave it credit for. I was significantly more institutionalised than I realised,” he says.

The shock of the change has taught him to value the time put into preparing for a change. “There is a process to go through of what you want to do, and how you want to do it. Don’t rush into it.”

Darren’s top tips include:

  • Give yourself a timeframe to work towards
  • Talk to your family, and gain their support for this big change
  • Work with Fortem’s Transition & Employment Program ahead of time
  • Talk to others who have made the transition out of first responder service

Don’t quit your mates

In eight years of policing, Allen became used to the quick bonds he formed with his colleagues. “In policing, you jump into a car with a colleague and you may never have met them before, and by the end of the shift you may have been in physical danger together, situations where your safety is dependent on the other person, and you might know everything about them from how many ex-wives they have right down to their shoe size,” he says.

Getting to know workmates is very different in the corporate consulting team he now works in. “It takes a bit longer to develop those bonds with people. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something to be aware of,” Allen says.

Allen’s top tip is to keep in touch with your first responder friends. “Even if you’re quitting the police, don’t quit your mates,” he says. “For quite a bit of time they might still be the backbone of your social circle. As you transition, make sure that socially it’s not a running leap off a cliff.”

Appreciate your transferrable skills

First responders hold a number of skills that can be used in different environments. The former first responders we spoke to say that these skills include leadership, resilience, verbal communication, good decision making, and the ability to be measured and in control.

James, who spent seven years in the police service, says he downplayed the effect that a career change would have on him. In particular, he didn’t realise the number of skills he had.

His top tip is to become aware of the skills you hold. “It’s only in later years that I’ve really started to appreciate what those skills are that I think most police have and don’t necessarily put on their resumes,” he says.

It’s okay to learn as you go

When Andrew left eight years of service with the Royal Australian Navy followed by 11 years with the West Australian Police, he worried that his lack of formal university-level qualifications would hold him back.

However, he made a move into a forensic risk consulting team in Perth with an Advanced Diploma that he gained through a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process, as well as his hands-on experience and existing skillset.

His top tip is to see the value in the experience you have gained throughout your first responder career, and to learn as you go. “Don’t think that you don’t have the required education or qualifications: learning is done on the job,  and you can do courses,” he says.

Learn more about career transition in our chat with the above former first responders:

Fortem Australia and KPMG are proud to work together in the Pledge Partner program. “We have a first responder friendly recruitment program, and we focus a lot on retention and training opportunities, and how we can provide our first responder community with a safe and supportive workplace culture,” says Fleur Carmichael, National Security & Justice Sector Coordinator at KPMG. “We know that first responders have a diverse range of skills and abilities, and bring great value.”

Fortem’s Pledge Partners are critical to the success of the Transition & Employment Program, assisting clients with opportunities for employment, education, training and more.