THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Career Makeover

Looking beyond traditional police jobs may lead to career

Walker Farrar Jr. works as an independent constable. He is seeking suitable, stable employment. Walker Farrar Jr. works as an independent constable. He is seeking suitable, stable employment. (Jonathan Wiggs/ Globe Staff)
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Globe Correspondent / October 10, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

It took a lot of courage, but Walker Farrar Jr. walked into state Senator Brian Joyce’s office without an appointment and asked for help finding a law enforcement or public sector job. In particular, Farrar had his eye on positions within the Norfolk County sheriff’s office.

“I explained my situation to his assistant and asked if she could help me in my job search,’’ said Farrar. “I figured, what did I have to lose?’’

The bold networking move yielded letters of recommendation and an interview for a job as a hearing officer for the Registry, but three months passed and a rejection letter showed up in the mail for Farrar, a reserve police officer in Stoughton and a constable for Cambridge and Canton.

This has been the story of Farrar’s job search since being laid off almost 20 years ago when a loss prevention firm closed due to a weak economy. He has been working various jobs, but hasn’t found the one he wants.

At 51, he is above the 35-year-old age cutoff for many police departments, and in other municipalities where there is no age limit, he’s on the bottom of the waiting list for applicants despite a top score on the civil service exam in the last two years. Farrar applied for a Boston Globe Career Makeover, asking for help finding stable, suitable employment, because his current contracting work doesn’t bring in enough income.

“With police communities, there are age limits, residency requirements, and seniority considerations . . . getting a police job is a tough process; it’s not cut and dry,’’ said Farrar, who has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s in theology and also has been doing part-time work as a personal computer support specialist, installing and upgrading systems. “Given the job market, I’m willing to consider any position that uses my various skills.’’

Farrar met with career specialist Kathy Robinson of Turning Point, a Boston-area career and business consulting firm. Robinson applauded Farrar for his thorough and organized job search, which involved looking in the private sector and for community roles, including local law enforcement agencies, campus police outlets, and investigator positions at major retailers.

But she further encouraged him to think through ways to do investigative work that is not police related. Robinson recommended that he look for positions that would benefit from his information technology skills, such as bank fraud investigator, civilian analyst, asset protection investigator, or computer forensics.

“You bring a lot to the table in terms of a diverse skill set,’’ said Robinson. “I think your ability to understand computers sets you apart from other candidates.’’

She also advised that he look for loss prevention roles in regions farther away from Boston, where there might be less competition, such as Worcester, Cape Cod, or Rhode Island.

When looking online for jobs, Farrar should use meta-engines like Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com, but instead of just typing in the title of a position, like “Campus Security Officer,’’ he should use keywords, Robinson said. Typing in “surveillance,’’ “loss,’’ or “fraud’’ might yield buried results, although combing through the findings might take more time. He should also set up alerts so job postings come straight to his e-mail inbox, and check specialized websites such as LPJobs.com for loss prevention jobs and USAJobs.com for government opportunities.

Additionally, although the social media website Facebook should not take up a huge portion of his networking time, Farrar should remain an active member of a Facebook group like Massachusetts Auxiliary/Reserve Police Officers, she said.

“When you first join any social network, you have to participate first without asking for anything,’’ said Robinson. “Listen first, to understand the spirit of what kinds of things the group discusses. Once you understand the tone, you then might be able to post requests, such as . . . ‘Does anyone know anyone who’s an officer in XYZ town that I could talk to briefly?’ ’’

Farrar could also consider specializing and pursing certification, but must carefully research the requirements and opportunities because it could be costly. Emergency medical technician training is often preferred for campus security applicants, for example. And becoming a certified fraud examiner, certified insurance fraud investigator, or accredited health care fraud investigator might lead to a job in the financial, health care, or insurance fields.

Finally, Robinson said Farrar should not think of networking as a formal activity; instead, work it into everyday life. “I knew someone who had a garage sale and struck up a conversation that lead to a job,’’ she said. “Talk to everyone you can.’’

WALKER FARRAR
Goal: Find a job as a security or police officer or as an investigator, either in the public or private sector.
Problem: Working as a reserve officer is not helping to open doors to a permanent law enforcement position.

Recommendations from career adviser Kathy Robinson:

  • Consider large corporations and small enterprises that might have opportunities in addition to focusing on public sector jobs in city, county, and state governments.
  • Widening search beyond Boston area might lessen competition and lead to more options.
  • Type in keywords in meta-engines such as Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com. This might yield more results, although it might require more time to weed through jobs.
  • Set up alerts so job postings come straight to e-mail inbox.
  • Join Facebook groups tied to professional associations.
  • Consider pursing certification, but first investigate requirements and opportunities in the field.
  • Don’t think of networking as a formal activity; instead work it into your everyday life.