Throughout my Law Enforcement career, I was always training, learning new methodologies, reviewing policies, procedures, and attending law enforcement conferences to keep up with emerging trends.
No matter what position you currently hold or where you aspire to be within your organization, you must commit to becoming a Life Learner. Even if you are the CEO of a company, everyone, especially leaders, should seek new ideas and develop new strategies to be the best version of yourself. Things are changing rapidly, and to keep up with emerging trends in your industry, you should always think of how you can hone your craft. In my experience, leaders who are successful at being flexible, open to learning new skill sets, and willing to change are usually the leaders whose employees are inspired to work for and are more productive. The importance of having an evolving leader can make the difference in a successful leader and an unsuccessful leader. Leaders that are resistant to change may be left behind.
I consider myself a Life Learner. Early in my career, I applied to attend a variety of Law Enforcement training classes. Although my requests were often rejected, I was not deterred and continued to repeatedly put in for the training classes until I was approved to attend. As I continued to progress through the department and earned more rank, I applied to take more leadership training courses to prepare me for the next position. As a Major, I applied and was accepted to a Master’s degree program. Keep in mind, this was approximately ten years after I graduated with my undergraduate degree and started working as a Police Officer. I knew this would be challenging while working full-time and being a wife and mother, but with my husband and mother’s support, I obtained my Master’s degree with honors! I did not realize it at the time, but I later discovered that by having that degree, it opened several doors and presented many opportunities for me to compete for higher positions.
Over the years, I’ve been asked to speak at numerous events and diverse audiences; however, one consistent question that most participants want to know is my secret to career success. The answer is simple, and I will share my secret with you. I call it my ETC Model.
- C-Create/Capitalize on Opportunities
You must commit to getting a good education because that’s what gets you in the door. I feel it’s an introduction of sorts; A type of calling card. I always encourage my command staff to go back to school to further their education. Some are a little resistant, but I advise that if they don’t want to go, then I can open up the opportunity to the individuals who are ranked below them, and when a job opportunity comes available, the subordinate ranks will be considered for the position. Law Enforcement Studies show that a well-educated officer tends to make better decisions in police work. I believe that is one reason why the former Chief wanted all Supervisors to have college degrees. I know having a degree positioned me to qualify for the Lieutenant, Captain, and other positions. Some say I was a glutton for punishment however, I realized that to stand out among the crowd, I would need to continue my education.
I am a huge proponent of training. Training hone your craft and leadership skills and improves the skills of your leadership team. I would invite leaders to train the entire command staff, including myself. But training does not stop once you get the position; you must continue to keep your level of knowledge current. Take position-specific training, attend industry conferences, or take online continuing education courses. Join organizations such as Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, industry-specific groups such as the MBA association, or position-specific certifications such as SHRM, which is a Human Resources certification. Seek assistance through your organization’s employee development section; they often sponsor free courses online such as Resume Writing, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Interview Prep courses, and technology tools such as Word, Windows, PowerPoint, Excel, and more. Also, take advantage of Tuition Reimbursement if your organization offers it.
Earlier, I mentioned that I signed up for several training courses, and many of my requests were rejected. After being with the Police Department for a while, I had an opportunity to observe the different units that made up the department. The unit that I became interested in was the Criminal Investigations Unit (CIU), better known as the Detectives Division. To become a detective in my department, you had to complete a two-week Criminal Investigations course at the State academy. I applied several times and was rejected each time until I received a divine intervention (you can read all about how the right person was in the right place at the right time to assist me in getting permission to attend this course), which changed the trajectory of my Law Enforcement career. All details can be found in my book: “Becoming Chief- Life Lessons Learned On The Road Less Traveled” on Amazon.com.
As leaders, we must seek opportunities to expand our knowledge and develop habits that will allow us to be a more effective leader. When we expand our knowledge, it will expand our influence, make our organizations stronger, and advance our careers.
C-Create and Capitalize on Opportunities
You must capitalize on opportunities when you find them. Sometimes no opportunities exist, so you must create opportunities for yourself. One example is to volunteer to offer assistance in another area so that when a new chance is posted, you already have the skill set required to do the job. You never know what knowledge nuggets you will gain from a simple assignment that may turn into a more considerable future opportunity.
In College, I signed up for the work-study program designed for students who needed a source of income while attending school. I was assigned to the School of Social Sciences, and my job was to support the Dean and Assistant Dean of the College. I was their Administrative Assistant, which required me to type, organize, order, and pick up supplies, amongst other duties as assigned. When I was hired as a Police Officer, I thought I would use my administrative skills again until one day, I had a Sergeant who I liked working for, and while he was a great supervisor, his administrative skills left a lot to be desired. One day while in the office, I was waiting to have him sign a form for me when I noticed him struggling to type. I could quickly tell that typing was not his strong suit, so I offered to type the form for him. Without hesitation, he accepted my offer, and of course, I finished the form in no time. From that point forward, I became his unofficial Administrative Assistant. Unfortunately, while the command staff was pleased, I received some negative comments from some of the other officers, who began calling me a “Gun-Toting Secretary.” I was not deterred because I wanted to learn as much as I could about the administrative side of Law Enforcement, and taunting would not prevent me from Capitalizing on this opportunity. (Order your copy of my book on Amazon.com today to read all about how I turned Officer taunting into triumph).
My ETC model is not complicated, and it is a model that you can apply to your own lives. You can also have a successful career if you are willing to put in the work, believe in your heart that you can do it, and step out on faith. With this, there are no limits to what you can achieve. Remember to “Let Your Faith Be Larger Than Your Fear.”
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