Would you like fries with that? The hidden strength of your work history.

Have you always wanted to be a cop, but don’t feel like your work history is impressive enough? Fear not! ALL of your job experience is extremely important. When hiring potential candidates, there isn’t any one particular blueprint that will ensure you are hired in law enforcement. We ALL have had those jobs. I have met former construction workers, social workers, bankers, personal trainers, nurses (right!? what are they thinking!?), musicians, cashiers, soldiers, athletes, landscapers, accountants, college students…and yes…fast food workers. Modern law enforcement agencies like to hire from a variety of diverse backgrounds.

Think back on your work history for a minute. Is there one or two that you aren’t very proud of? Perhaps something you think will count against you when you are going through the hiring process? Law enforcement doesn’t actually care what your work history is as long as it is stable and (preferably) steadily increases in responsibility. Take the McDonald’s worker for example. On the surface it seems like this work experience is not conducive to being applicable to a career in law enforcement. However like everything else in the law enforcement world, it is all about how you ARTICULATE it.

Working at McDonald’s, or running a cash register or working construction or any other job you can think of is FULL of readily transferable job skills. Remember your employer is primarily looking at how much RISK you represent. If you come with skills and knowledge that will benefit you as an officer, that is a bonus. What they really want are those infamous soft skills that I keep babbling about.

Here is a brief list of examples of skills and knowledges you can list on your resume regardless of the job.


Do you have a job where you have to deal with angry customers? Ever have somebody go off on you in the workplace? Guess what…you can talk about how you learned to deal with difficult behavior and de-escalate conflict. This is no small thing.

You learned to communicate in a positive manner with fellow employees and customers. You handled complaints in a professional manner and when unable to resolve a complaint you referred the situation to the appropriate supervisor.


Did you have to operate a computer? Handle transactions reliably and accurately involving cash and credit and debit cards? Did you ever have to monitor current inventory and stock ordering? Did you maintain a clean and properly maintained work environment? Did you maintain proper safe food handling standards and seek duties outside of the normal scope of your duties?


Were you ever assigned to show a new guy/girl the ropes? Guess what…you provided mentorship and most likely leadership for new hires! The way a resume works is if you did it once (honestly of course), you can put it on a resume. Were you a senior employee who was in charge when the manager wasn’t present? Guess what…position of leadership and greater responsibility than your peers.


Were you ever recognized by your employer? Win any awards? Did you have a customer send a thank you email, or were you recognized as employee of the ___? You can absolutely put that down!


Remember…a department wants to see what type of PERSON you are before anything else. All the rest is gravy! These are just a few examples. What an agency wants to see is that

1. You have a steady work history.

2. You have a positive outlook about your work history and are able to demonstrate things you took away from each of those experiences…No, not that you can make a mean pizza (Though I can!) or that you know how to hammer a nail or type in a spreadsheet or dig a ditch. They want examples of those SOFT SKILLS you have learned at your previous jobs.

Still not happy about your odds? No worries there are still some very important categories to talk about later, like education and the hidden jewel of resume building…volunteering.

Originally published at So you wanna be a cop?.

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