Not long ago, I had a trainer colleague call me for some career advice. After a lengthy phone conversation, I could not help but wonder if others are not having his same career questions. So here is the question, you are very happy in life, job is going well and all is happy in your world. Now the promotion announcement is posted. Several co-workers and supervisors are encouraging you to take the test and go for it. What to do?
There are several ways to evaluate this situation. A close retrospect of you, your current situation (family, lifestyle, financial) and life goals are in order. This is not an easy question to answer and I have seen a few missed chances and few regrets of others along the way. If nothing else, do the old pro and con column on each question. Also consult your best confidant, one who can give you the real answer and not the one you want to hear. Let’s go through a few talking points…
First of all, are you honestly and truly real sergeant material? I know many officers who came on the job to become an officer or deputy. Not in their wildest dreams did they ever fathom that they would even take on a higher position and there is nothing wrong with this. Most of us come on the job with the same dream, to be a cop. A few do state that they would like to become a detective, motor officer, SWAT operator but few say I want to be a police sergeant or chief of police. Now if being a cop was in your DNA, what about being a supervisor? It is not for all and certainly not for the faint of heart. You must answer this question to yourself. Before you answer, what have you done to prepare yourself for this career move? Have you taken courses and challenges to prepare you? Have you assumed other leadership roles such as instructor or FTO? Just to think that this is a cool idea is one thing; reality orientation should have directed you towards preparation for this. Far too many wait for the announcement before they ponder preparing for this process.
What is your personal-family station in life now and can it withstand a major change in it? For instance this was the plight of one officer I knew. He was a corporal with seniority and primo days off that suited his life. He had an off-duty employment that was lucrative and all was well in his world. He would have made a top notch sergeant and most all wanted him to take the test, he refused. When I sat down with him here was the reality. A new sergeant would mean that his days off would change to midweek. Seniority as a baby buck sergeant now would be in the basement, so vacation picks would be the less desirable. His time off with his family was important to him. Plus, the change of days off and schedule demands (Sergeants had to attend Comp-Stat meetings) would mean dropping the off-duty gig, which added up to less take home money. So he passed the opportunity and completed his career happy and with honor. After hearing him out, he made the right decision for him and others, if anyone lost out it was his department for he would have been a fantastic sarge.
What was important here with my corporal was that he took stock of all of the other things in his life that mattered, not just a set of stripes. He valued his own time off, time with his family and had earned the better perts of the job (valued days off and seniority). Of course, some question the off-duty verses the increased pay that accompanies the rank but it was his choice, what he enjoyed and his overall happiness with life. Quite frankly I have known several who have mourned over the rank quest and the stressors and impacts it made on their lives. What is important to your overall well-being and not stripes is what you should weigh.