| 9 minutes read |
About a year ago in October 2017, I made the toughest decision of my life - I decided to leave the Singapore Police Force (my childhood dream career).
My Career in Policing
Cliche as it may sound, policing with the Singapore Police Force was an ambition that I had since primary school - it was the only thing I wanted to do. I knew that the career would enable me to help people at their worst, attain justice, and prevent, deter and detect crime. My mum, being very traditional in her worldviews, did not agree with my career choice - it was a career filled with risks and she felt that I could do "better". Thankfully, I was more stubborn in my resolve and I joined the Singapore Police Force as a regular Senior Police Officer fresh out of university in 2012.
One of my proudest moments in life was when I graduated from Training Command with the Sword of Honour - an award given to the best Senior Officer Trainee in the squad after 9-months of training and assessments in various aspects (physical fitness, command drills, police knowledge, leadership etc.). My pride did not stem from receiving the sword, it stemmed from my parents' recognition and acceptance of my career choice upon seeing that I had the passion and potential to excel in this career.
Over the next 6 years, I fulfilled my childhood ambition and stayed true to my intent of wanting to help people. I've walked the ground, investigated into cases, been deployed in major events, worked around the clock, met people from all walks of life, looked into the strategic pieces of policing, and learnt how the government and civil service function. I was blessed with fantastic supervisors and worked with the best teams throughout my postings. Most importantly, I've formed lifelong friendships literally through the blood, sweat and tears over the years.
I fulfilled my childhood ambition and stayed true to my intent of wanting to help people.
I am extremely humbled by the experience and I know that I couldn't have asked for a better first job.
Policing is not an easy job. It requires you to put public interests before self; it requires you to deal with people at their worst times in life; it requires you to be away from your family during weekends and public holidays; it requires you to run towards danger and handle stressful situations on a day-to-day basis; it requires you to be accustomed to mayhem so that you can help restore order. Our men and women, both in frontline and staff positions work hard around the clock for a better and safer Singapore - often without recognition from the people we serve. And because I've experienced what it's like first-hand, I'll always hold our officers in high regard.
Leaving the Police Force
Leaving the force was a heart-breaking decision but a step that I felt was necessary to pursue a more holistic self. My wife and I were getting married (ceremonially) and I had to start thinking about our lives together and what that meant. I served my notice and left in February 2018. I wrote a pretty lengthy Facebook post on why I chose to leave my first (career) love and below is a summary of the 3 key reasons:
- Given my personal life, I had found it increasingly hard to maintain neutrality as a Police Officer. I had to make a stand.
- I wanted to challenge myself in the private sector (perhaps start my own business).
- I wanted to have more career options.
Weighing my Options
The next step was deciding which path to take after leaving the Police Force. I was contemplating several highly paid job offers in the private sector, setting up my own business and becoming a Financial Consultant.
Given my financial commitment to my family (I do not come from a well-to-do background, but that's another story for another day), I was not ready to risk my savings in setting up my own business.
It was then between joining MNCs in roles that dabbled with safety and security (where I could implement strategies and policies to increase the level of safety and security in that particular business) or becoming a Financial Consultant (where I could help people to plan their finances and to attain their financial goals).
Taking the Leap to become a Financial Consultant
I eventually chose to join the Financial Consulting industry because I want to help people, not businesses. I felt that I have the right values and my policing experience enabled me to help people preventively. Here are the 4 main reasons that anchored my decision:
From reactive to preventive. In the Police Force, we respond and react to different types of incidents - ranging from domestic disputes to cases of completed suicides. As a Police Officer, I mostly reacted to help after a particular incident has happened. Most of these incidents have a common undertone - financial problems.
As I was deciding on which career path to take, I found myself asking if either career could enable me to help people in a more preventive manner. The answer was very clear - being a Financial Consultant would enable me to advice people on how to plan and secure their finances, preventing lamentable situations downstream.
Being a Financial Consultant would enable me to advice people on how to plan and secure their finances, preventing lamentable situations downstream.
Complementary skillsets. Contrary to what most people thought, I found that my skills and values from policing were extremely portable to a career in the insurance industry. After 4 years on the ground and 2 years battling staff processes and multiple stakeholders in the Police Force, I was trained to speak and listen to people across all walks of life. In fact, I enjoyed having deep conversations with people (even arrested persons) to understand their problems and priorities. As a Financial Consultant, having deep conversations with people is definitely an important skill.
Back in the force, I was also trained to analyse situations and implement solutions in the most efficient and effective way. As a Financial Consultant, these analytical skills are equally important - I should be able to analyse budgets, financial goals and current priorities to device a game plan on how my clients should proceed with their financial planning.
Spreading Important Values. Needless to say, the industry's reputation is tarnished by the black sheep amongst us. There will be black sheep in every industry but it is especially accentuated in the insurance/financial consulting industry because we are dealing with the trust and finances (fruits of labour) of others. These black sheep cannot be tolerated.
The only way to eradicate them is to win over more people (from these black sheep) by consistently doing things right and doing things better. I am grateful to have joined a team of like-minded individuals who are committed to put their clients' interest before their own (yes, as much as we have advised people on the suitable plans and policies to take up, we have also advised people to not take up policies that are not suited for them). It should always be this way in this industry.
Instead of staying away from this career (due to its reputation), I've decided to join it and change the reputation from within. As what Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Enriching my life. My childhood and teenage years were fraught with hardship and financial difficulties. In fighting the every day battles, my parents did not set aside time to plan their finances and did not meet the right financial consultant to help them along. (To clarify, I am not complaining - rough seas make good sailors and I'm immensely grateful for the hardships I've endured as they've made me a better person.) However, this also meant that my family started our financial planning much later (in recent years) and that my brothers and I were constantly worrying for our parents' retirement and future medical expenses.
I knew that being a Financial Consultant would enrich my life as I would be better able to advise my family members on their financial plans. However, I did not fully comprehend the extent to which my life would be enriched. I will pen my thoughts on this in another article but in brief, I have become a more disciplined person, have better social relationships in and out of work, and am definitely more socially and financially savvy. Most importantly, my life has been enriched by adding value into the lives of others - once again, in a more upstream manner.
Building the New
When I made the decision to become a Financial Consultant, I was absolutely terrified. After all, humans are evolutionary coded to fear change. However, I was also confident that I would do my best and that people will value the best I have to give. I wasn't wrong - family, friends and even strangers have rewarded me with their trust and this is immensely powerful in eradicating self-doubt and fear.
At the time of my career switch, I chanced upon this quote by Socrates, "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." And that was my mantra on eradicating fear - to focus on building this new career from scratch, with the right values and in doing things right.
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
I started this new career in late April this year - it's been less than 6 months and I'm still building on the foundations of a lifelong career in this industry. 🙂