Technically, you have been preparing for this position since you were first sworn in as police officer. Remember how each year your supervisor gave an annual evaluation or performance report and the results of that evaluation were, hopefully, discussed with you? If they were not discussed, set up a meeting with your supervisor and have them explain what process they used to evaluate you and if you have questions or disagree with their evaluation, now is the time to discuss it with them. Normally, you are told of your strengths and weaknesses and areas in which you can improve. Your evaluation should be used as a training tool and with that in mind I know that you have taken the advice from your Supervisors and developed your career accordingly. That is why you're now ready to proceed in moving up the ranks of your department.
We know that you started to prepare for this promotional process by education, research, reading, and discussing evaluations with your supervisors. So what can you possibly do next to improve yourself? Since we have just started, you must realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg; you have a lot to accomplish before you are ready for your promotional exam. There are two areas of concern that I feel are extremely important, and necessary for achieving a successful conclusion to this process. One is getting physically fit; the other is becoming mentally tough.
Prior to participating in any physical activity, consult your Physician. I'm sure as a police officer you try to keep yourself in decent physical shape, but now it's time to make sure that you are receiving proper nutrition as well as continuing your weight training and aerobic training. A properly balanced diet will help you think on your feet while under stress, especially during this testing process. There are numerous books on this subject. Two that I particularly enjoyed are Keep the Connection by Bob Greene and Dr. Bob Arnot's Guide to Turning Back the Clock by Robert Arnot. M.D. These books will describe how weight and aerobic training, for example, will help you get into better shape and feel good about yourself.
The reason I push getting in shape is: If you look good, your clothes fit properly, you feel good and an air of confidence develops, which can give you an edge during this competition and as you know every little bit helps.
So, think about your diet and exercise program, and remember to get a proper night's sleep. These three essentials will not only make you feel better but will assist you in gaining the confidence and stamina you will need throughout the testing process.
Remember: When you walk through that door, you only have one chance to make a first impression and believe me, the raters will take into consideration the way you look and carry yourself. You must demonstrate that you care about yourself, while looking professional at all times. Think about it: If you feel good, look good, and have a great command presence when entering the room for your Oral Board or Assessment Center exercise, you start off in control of the situation.
What do I mean by becoming mentally tough? You'll find during this promotional process that it is a very draining experience, both emotionally and physically. Therefore, what I am suggesting is that you make yourself as tough as possible to face this experience so that you will be able to handle any situation that may arise. One of the first things about becoming mentally fit reverts back to the prior section of becoming physically fit because, basically, it all has to do with how you feel about yourself - the way you look at yourself in the mirror each morning. I believe, if you are physically fit and feel very good about yourself, then you are stronger mentally.
For example, when I was preparing for advancement, I would place myself in the position of the rank I was attempting to achieve. Let's say I was trying for a sergeant's position (this would also apply to a detective, senior officer, lieutenant, or captain's position... well you get the picture). The first thing I had to do mentally was develop a mindset that I was in fact a sergeant. I would start by placing a set of sergeant stripes on my bathroom mirror, so that those stripes would be the first thing I would see in the morning while getting ready for work. This would give me a mental edge; it was helping me feel like I was a sergeant. Remember, this is not a situation where you wake up one day and say, "Today I wish to be a supervisor," and a wand is waved over your head and presto you are one. No, this is a position that you should have been preparing for since the start of your career. So don't take it lightly. What we are attempting to do now is develop a mental attitude that will give you the advantage over your competition. So, you put the sergeant stripes on the mirror and each morning as you prepare for work you constantly look at those stripes as positive reinforcement and you start thinking like a sergeant.
Part of being mentally tough is knowing who you currently are and who you want to be. What you have been doing for several years, whether you realized it or not, is grading how well your supervisors fulfill their responsibilities. In other words, how do your supervisors actually supervise? Remember when you were a rookie police officer? You would always observe the best officer on your watch and try to emulate their actions. You would observe the way they approached a scene, handled a field contact, and how they interrogated or interviewed suspects and witnesses. Then you would try to utilize those techniques and eventually developed your own style. On the other side of the coin, you would also observe officers of lesser quality and analyze their approaches and procedures to insure that your style of enforcement did not parallel theirs. The same is true in developing yourself as a supervisor. Throughout your career you've been watching your supervisors and how they operate out in the field and with other personnel. You made assumptions regarding these supervisors: likes and dislikes regarding their techniques; how they treat their subordinates; how they respond to emergency situations; how they present an aura of calm when everyone else is falling apart; command presence, and how they are professional with high integrity; they just bode confidence in whatever they do. This is the type of Supervisor you enjoy working for and want to emulate.