Intentionally Creating a Second Career in Midlife

After 23 years with the Queensland Police Service, Investigator, Chris Smith, made the bold decision to intentionally create a second career in midlife, that would allow more time with his family, job satisfaction, and take him through to the end of his working life.

Chris Smith

In this Churchill Education Graduate story, Chris takes us through his policing career, weighing the pros and cons of leaving police to create a second career, and achieving an impressive range of qualifications through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) that became the missing link in launching him into a new career.  

Find out what you are eligible for

Police career

Chris joined the Queensland Police Service (QPS) when he was 23 and immediately pursued an investigations career.

Over the next 23 years he had many different postings to different roles and locations.

Ultimately, the work he found most satisfying was with the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) and other plainclothes roles.

Family & work-life balance

Chris reached a point in his career where his life circumstances had changed – he now had a wife and kids.

While the kids were young, Chris says he had good bosses and colleagues with kids who would all help each other by manipulating shift rosters so that they wouldn’t miss out on important family functions like birthdays.

That worked for a while, but as the kids got older and had sporting events every weekend, Chris was only seeing them every second weekend, missing out on milestones and special time with his family. 

Changes in the job

No longer a job for life

Chris said police had changed too. “It wasn’t a career like when I first joined and we all thought we’d work up to 60 then retire. People were coming in for 5-10 years and then going to do other things.”

Shift work

In his mid 40s, Chris’s roster still included nightshift, and he found he couldn’t bounce back from it like he could at the start of his career.

“When I’m on my days off I’d find myself awake at 3am in the morning, not being able to get back to sleep,” he said.

Lack of support

Chris and his colleagues found that police weren’t getting support from prosecution services.

“We’d arrest someone for an offence, then the matter would be downgraded to get a plea. All that hard work we were doing, locking up these criminals, and they’d be out the next day.”

Why am I missing out on my family life?

With job satisfaction at an all-time low, it put his family into sharp focus, and he realised he was missing out on precious time with the people that mattered most to him.

“I just got to the point where all those factors meant I wasn’t enjoying the job anymore.”

Advice from a colleague

A private sector forensic accountant he’d been working with for some time, and had gotten to know well, asked if he’d ever thought of leaving the police.

“The public sector is crying out for guys like you,” he told Chris.

That planted a seed for a second career

Shortly after, Chris called about a job advertised with the Department of Education, and by coincidence or not, the person he spoke to turned out to be an ex-police colleague.

They got chatting about him getting out, and a long list of others who had left police and were now working in different departments. Chris said that conversation put wheels in motion in his head.

Weighing the pros & cons

A major job and industry change is a big decision to make. Chris weighed the pros and cons with his wife Belinda (also an ex-police officer) and how it would affect their family.

It was going to mean a significant pay-cut initially. But they both agreed that a better work-life balance for their family was worth it.

They also knew that over time Chris’s wage would go up and eventually eclipse his police salary.

Plus, importantly it would mean he’d started intentionally building a second career in his 40s, instead of trying to start something new after compulsory police retirement at 60.

Unsuccessful job applications

Making the decision to create a new career and backing that up with the strength of his conviction was the first step. The next step was applying for jobs.

“I applied for around 20 jobs and wasn’t successful in getting any of them,” he said.

Queue, Recognition of Prior Learning!

Chris knew Churchill Education co-founders, Randall and Tricia, through their tween daughters, who were close school friends.

Chris related his job-change challenges to Randall who told him about his own transition from police and how converting his police experience into national qualifications through the process of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) had made all the difference – to how others viewed his transferable skills, but more importantly to how he valued his own capabilities and worth.

He encouraged Chris to submit his service record so that the Churchill assessment team could let him know what he was eligible for.

Chris followed Randall’s advice and was amazed to receive the news that he was eligible for a range of top qualifications.

Based on his policing career, Chris achieved:

“I wasn’t aware I qualified for all those, I was blown away!” he related.

Applying for jobs with qualifications

“The first job I applied for with my new qualifications, I got! And I have no doubt it was on the back of those qualifications,” Chris said.

Chris’s experience is a perfect example of the value of qualifications that SHOW what you KNOW.

Chris’s experience and skills didn’t change, the ability of employers and recruiters to understand his experience and skills changed – thanks to his new qualifications that speak a language that can be understood across all industries nationally.

That is career gold, especially when it comes to transitioning industries.

Chris has now been out of police for 4 years. In that time, he has worked in 4 different government agencies, progressively stepping up in his career and his qualifications continue to open doors for him.

Advice for others

We asked Chris was his advice would be for others who might want to make a mid-life career change, whether that be from police, defence or any other industry…

“Work-life balance is important. Jobs come and go and one day you’ll retire, but your family is always going to be there. You’ve got to ask yourself, is your job more important than time with your family?

I have police friends contacting me about getting out of police and I always say, you need to get in touch with Churchill Education. I have no doubt that’s what helped me.

You don’t have any idea what you qualify for unless you go and see. I was blown away.”

Great advice Chris! If you’d like to find out what qualifications you are eligible for APPLY HERE for a free appraisal, or give us a call on 1300 793 002. 

EOFY Bonus!

When you enrol and pay for qualifications during June, you will also receive the Churchill EOFY Bonus (valued at $700)!

Turn your career experience into qualifications with Recognition of Prior Learning.  Apply for a free assessment today!

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