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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Qualified? Welcome to ‘The Room With a Queue’

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“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb

Just qualified to Sergeant or Inspector? Congratulations! You’ve taken a significant step to progress your policing career. A lot of hard work and commitment went into that result for sure. It’s a significant achievement and a proud day. With the exam in the bag and under your belt, it’s time for a breather, right?

By all means enjoy a well-earned break, but not too long, because you just entered the room with a queue. Most officers arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed. Motivated, determined and enthusiastic. It’s their first time! Elated at passing the exam, they are full of good intentions and hope for the future.

Most aim to leave this room ASAP and convert their leadership aspiration into substantive promotion success. All know on arrival that:

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning” – Winston Churchill

They know there is more to be done. Much more. A hard won exam result is the end of the beginning.  Although many arrive in the room with a queue, some will never make the jump out of it.


“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry D. Thoreau

Uncertainty about next steps can make the promotion journey seem like a bridge too far. Just thinking about a selection process can be quite daunting, having just ‘surfaced’ from a period of intense studying for your exam. Especially when you consider that different forces have different promotion processes in place, at different times for different ranks. Yikes!

It can be easy to sit and wait, to kick the can down the road, postponing action. An attractive option, a welcome excuse. However as sure as eggs are eggs, there will be a knock at the door. Not opportunity this time, but procrastination asking: “Where did the last four years go?”

So once you’ve had that breather, it’s time to light that motivation touch paper again. Time to recalibrate and refocus, because procrastination is a malaise. It’s contagious and many in the room have succumbed. This is how it starts and what it often sounds like:

  • “I’ll get some acting experience under my belt first.”
  • “There are no promotion boards on the horizon, so I’ll bide my time and react once a process opens up.”
  • “I’m not sure if I’ll be supported, there are lots of more experienced colleagues ahead of me, I’ll give it a couple of years.”

Of course, if this offers an informed choice for you or your personal circumstances, great! More often than not though, it’s a form of stinking thinking that kills momentum.

Yes you are qualified, but so what? Everyone in the room is: It’s a competitive environment and there’s every chance that traction gained may be lost; unless you can shift promptly to ‘now what?’ and develop your growth mind-set,.

So what works?

Get Your Act Together

“Momentum demands that we do what must be done, within the time allocated for it.” – Innocent Mwangi

If you want to leave this crowded room, you’ll need a plot to escape, a plan to jump the queue. The first step is to accept full responsibility for your own personal development, to look for and find ways to improve your skills and abilities on a continuous basis from now on. Self-belief is important.

Qualified? Welcome to 'The Room With a Queue' 1

“If you believe you have what it takes to be successful and that all you need is for someone to believe in you then YOU should be that someone. Never wait for someone else to take the lead in your self improvement.” – Steve Keating

Your next steps from here may involve promotion applications, psychometric tests, presentations, role-play exercises, briefings and a competency interview. Are you ready for this? Get your act together and there’s every chance you could be!

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” – Brian Tracy

By the way it’s a widely held (but mistaken) belief that you need previous acting or temporary experience to be successful on a promotion board, but you’ll see lots of cops achieve promotion who haven’t. That said, bear in mind that developing yourself from where you are now into a good promotion candidate can take time, almost always more time than busy operational cops allow themselves. Don’t look to the organisation to develop you either, it is expected that you will take ownership for doing that. You may have development opportunities provided and you should seize them it remains true that:

“Development is always self-development. Nothing could be more absurd than for an enterprise to assume responsibility for the development of an individual. The responsibility rests with the individual, their abilities and efforts.” – Peter Drucker

So what’s the good news? Well, you can take a step forward whenever you choose to. The College of Policing’s guidance to forces is that any tests used for promotion selection processes should be competency-based.

There are six competencies in the Competency and Values Framework (CVF) used for promotion and wider selection processes, so there’s a starting point right there. What do you know about them?

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it is determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal, a commitment to excellence that will enable you to attain the success that you seek.” – Mario Andretti

If you are focused on achieving your goal of promotion and leaving ‘the room with a queue’, it’s time to get your act together and not rest on your laurels. Here’s a few tips to help with your exit strategy, which you can do right now using my free guide and evidence-building template, ‘Promotion Frameworks Made Easy’:

  • Read the CVF guidance
  • Focus on level 2 and start thinking through and writing down any evidence that you believe you have to make the case for you being promoted.
  • Align it to the CVF competencies.

I’ll leave the last supporting but provocative words to Jim Rohn:

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.”

If you found this blog helpful and you’d like more guidance on promotion, why not download a FREE GUIDE, like ‘7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For’ to help you on your way? You can also use the code POLICEHOUR20 at checkout, to save 20% on any Rank Success digital promotion guides or bundles.

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Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper writes expert promotion content to support the development of UK police officers.

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