10 Ways to Successfully Transition from Law Enforcement to Corporate Life


Joseph Agins, CFE, Director, Ethics & Compliance Investigations
Apollo Group, Inc. 

Throughout my career in the corporate anti-fraud profession, I have had the opportunity to work with many former law enforcement professionals who transitioned into corporate security, fraud or investigative roles. Of course, there are many corporate roles where the training and skills gained in a law enforcement career are relevant and oftentimes desired. Often former law enforcement officers (LEOs) make a seamless transition into their new corporate roles and achieve much success, but not all seem to fare as well. I have witnessed the latter more times than I would ever have expected to, and I have long thought about why this is. Why is it that some seem to succeed and transition so easily and others don’t? I’m not sure I necessarily know the answer, but exposure to this for the last 16-plus years has given me some perspective. Here are some observations and tips from colleagues who have successfully made the transition to help you make yours.

  1. Conduct an honest and detailed assessment of your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) to determine if the KSAs are at the appropriate level for a role in the corporate sector. Some people think that just because they are in law enforcement they can make the jump to the private sector. That may or may not be the case. An objective assessment of KSAs should ideally be done several years before your separation/retirement date to allow for filling any identified gaps, including advanced college degrees, certifications and presentation skills.
  2. Do your homework about a particular role and the company.
  3. Speak to people who have made the transition to learn from their successes and failures.
  4. Be prepared to relocate for the best opportunities, but also make sure you want to live in that area. If you are accustomed to living in NYC, will you be happy living in Arkansas?
  5. There is a false belief that life is better in the private sector. Determine why you want to leave law enforcement. If you are not happy in your current role, what makes you think you will be happy in a new role?
  6. Do not leave until it is a “stomach-heart-mind” process - in the “gut” (worn out, lost interest), you feel it (this is the right thing to do), and you think it through (you access the fiscal, lifestyle and other cost/benefits).
  7. Expose yourself to the corporate world before transitioning.
  8. Develop a strong résumé and/or curriculum vitae.
  9. Embrace change and keep up with technology. Former LEOs who I've seen fail have been those who think they know all there is and do not make learning a continuous activity.
  10. Do not jump to the first private sector opportunity just because it is the first job offer. Step back and fully assess if the new opportunity is best suited for you. Understanding that one size does not fit all is critical.

There will always be those who have a hard time adjusting to change. So, “law enforcement” and “corporate roles” aside, this is all primarily about understanding and successfully dealing with change. The change will be there regardless. It won’t be easy, and you will either get on board or you won’t. Those who refuse to accept the change and make necessary adjustments will have a tough road to hoe, while those who understand, expect, prepare and embrace change will have a path of much less resistance.