This article is part of In Public Safety’s September focus on career transitions.
By Brian Meek, alumnus of American Military University, M.A. in Intelligence Studies
After a 24-year career in law enforcement, I am looking toward retirement and the prospect of starting a second career in the intelligence field. My ambitions to start a new career path has required a long-term dedication to ensure that my skills and experience as an officer—coupled with a Master’s degree in Intelligence Studies—can get me into this new field.
Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to transition to a new career in intelligence.
Understand Your Passions
The first and most important step is to conduct a self-assessment. You must determine what drives you and what you’re passionate about, so you can figure out what an ideal job looks like. What do you enjoy doing? Recognize what motivates you and think of how you can apply that to a new career.
I have always been interested in finding hidden connections, uncovering criminal organizations, and trying to understand the reasons people do things. As corny as it may sound, I have a passion for justice.
When I looked inward and thought about the things I enjoy doing and learning about, the field of intelligence came into focus. At its core, intelligence gathers information, evaluates that information, and determines what that information means. The intelligence process provides guidance about what needs to be done to protect the nation.
[Related Article: The 4 Core Abilities Needed for a Career in Intelligence]
Law enforcement is the domestic intelligence tip of the spear; it uncovers new and unexpected information that is tomorrow’s intelligence. Police officers are often the start of the intelligence cycle and have the opportunity to identify important information. Additionally, officers often carry out the action in actionable intelligence that policymakers have deemed tactical and/or strategic.
Invest in Yourself
Take steps to further your education, both through formal education and advanced training.
Investigate different resources that can help pay for training, whether it’s through government agencies or private organizations.
[Related Article: Intelligence Career Options: What Degree Should You Consider?]
My department has a certain amount of money that individuals can spend on training, and I take advantage of that resource and then some. I’ve paid out of my own pocket for registration fees and I’ve taken vacation time for training. Consider education and training to be an investment in yourself.
Even if specific training doesn’t translate directly to your career goals, it will make you a well-rounded person both personally and professionally. I have found that training is often applied later in a career, whether it’s learning about the latest trend for terrorist financing, transnational crime, or simply ways to help citizens in your community bring predators to justice.
If you are interested in an intelligence career, start attending courses or training in:
- Intelligence analysis. This provides information about how to extract information from raw data, how to be a critical thinker, and tools to understand relationships between people.
- Detective and new investigator training. This isn’t just about the rules of evidence, but also about gathering information, whether it’s from static crime scenes, interviews, or interrogations.
- Foreign and domestic terrorism courses. It is important to stay abreast of new and evolving tactics of terrorists.
- Gang training. This ties into the concepts of insurgency, sociology, psychology, and human intelligence (HUMINT).
- Open-source investigation training. This is a crucial skill both for investigation and personal defense.
Promote Yourself and Connect with Others
Think about what you can do within your own agency. Is there a specialty detail you can go to and receive specialized training? Always look for ways to make yourself more useful to supervisors and peers, which often means learning more about something that excites you.
Let others know about your interests and your desires to grow. Seek out people who have moved from law enforcement to the intelligence community. Others can help you identify training opportunities as well as provide insight about what it’s like to actually work in that field.
Social media offers an opportunity to easily expand your network. LinkedIn is a great tool for making connections and learning about others and their training and experience.
If you are an AMU student, reach out to Career Services. The university wants you to succeed, and they have a variety of tools and resources to help with your job search or career transition. Most importantly, staff members have always been positive and motivated to help me when I’ve interacted with them.
If you want to be successful in transitioning to a new career, you must spend time gathering information and talking to people who work in that field. Every step you take in learning more about your second career will lead you one more step closer to landing that desired position.
About the Author: Brian Meek is a patrol officer and an intelligence officer for the Phoenix Police Department. He has had assignments as a field training officer, a background investigator, and a vice detective. Brian is entering his 24th year in law enforcement, having worked for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Gilbert Police Department before joining Phoenix PD. He has a B.S. in Sociology from Arizona State University and graduated in June from American Military University with a M.A. in Intelligence Studies. He is on LinkedIn and is looking to transition into a position in the intelligence community where his passion will continue to flow.