Podcast Episode 03 – How your age might negatively affect your police application

Audio Version

Brief Summary

Here’s a quick rundown of this episode of ‘Let’s talk police applications’:

  1. Younger applicants generally don’t have the life experience that older applicants would, but it’s not about the volume of life experience, it’s about the quality of life experience.
  2. If you’re a younger applicant and you’ve travelled, you’re involved in team sports, maybe doing part-time work which is customer facing like retail or hospitality, you’re developing skills that will be relevant to policing.
  3. Younger applicants are generally fitter and have less health issues than older applicants.
  4. Younger applicants tend to be tech savvy and pick up new skills and new ideas much quicker than older applicants might.
  5. Older applicants have more life experience, they have more work experience.
  6. Older applicants tend to have more health issues, they’re generally less fit, might be carrying extra weight, might have eyesight issues or hearing issues, might have lower back pain or joint issues.
  7. Ultimately, it comes down to how well you can navigate the application process and how well you can score at each of those steps in the application process compared to other applicants that will determine your chances of success.

Full Transcription

G’day everyone. Russell here from Prime Motion Training. Thank you for joining me for episode number three of Let’s Talk Police Applications. So a few days ago, a 57-year-old female graduated from the Victoria Police Academy. Now, that triggered some commentary around the age of police applicants. So let’s chat about that in this episode.

Minimum and Maximum Eligibility Age to Become a Police Officer

Okay, so first things first, there is a minimum age requirement. You’re not eligible to apply to become a police officer unless you’re 18 years old or, of course, older. Having said that, there is no upper age limit. So in theory, you could be 99 years old and you would be eligible to apply. Now obviously there would be some challenges for someone who’s 99 years old, but there’s also some challenges for an applicant who’s 18 years of age and let’s discuss some of those things in this episode.

Younger Police Applicants

Well, first things first, the younger applicants. Let’s look at some of the advantages of being a younger applicant. Now, we’re talking general terms of course, because there’s a big difference between an 18-year-old and an 18-year-old. And so this is generally speaking, but I think it’s a fair generalisation. If you’re a younger applicant, you’re less likely to have any health issues.

You’re more likely to be of an average fitness level. Your career longevity is a real positive. If you become a police officer at 21 years of age, you’ve literally got a 20, 30 or even potentially a 40-year career if you want it. And on the flip side of that, that’s a pretty good return on investment for the police organisation.

Now, younger applicants tend to pick up new skills more quickly. They tend to learn things easier or more easily than an older applicant might, and they tend to be tech savvy, which is an advantage now given that every organisation and policing is no different, it is utilising technology to be more efficient and more effective in the work that they do.

From a less positive point of view. The big one of course for younger applicants, and I’m sure you’re two steps ahead of me here, is the lack of life experience. Well, what does that actually mean? I mean, there are some applicants that I’ve been working with who’ve got some great life experience and others who have almost no life experience, but it’s really about the volume. If you’re a younger applicant, you simply haven’t been alive long enough to have a lot of life experience, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have some good quality life experiences that are useful in your police application.

So a big part of that life experience can come down to your work history. And if you’ve just left school 12 months ago, you may not have spent a long time in the workforce. So if you are finishing off your schooling and you’re looking ahead to a police career when you’re eligible, getting some part-time work nice and early would be an advantage. Now of course, that’s a challenge when you’re going through Year 11 and 12 and there’s a big study and workload, but the lack of work experience is a big concern for younger applicants in terms of their application being able to be successful.

In fact, some states and territories require you to have a minimum of 20 or 30 hours of paid work as you go through your application process. And look, the reason for that is that they want to know that you’re capable of interacting with other team members, other staff members, with management, with customers. You’re able to be reliable, turn up on time, get reports in on time, follow procedures and so on. All of the things that you’re expected to do in the workforce, really regardless of the industry. So that’s why the work experience is an important part of demonstrating life experience. And of course, we can compare an 18-year-old to an 18-year-old in terms of maturity level.

I’ve had some applicants come through our programme who I’ve had to say, “Look, you’re really not ready for this just yet. Give it a couple of years, get some more experience.” And they’re simply not mature enough to be able to follow through with a career like policing. And some of those applicants at 18 or 19 have demonstrated very high levels of maturity. I can think of three or four young applicants who have really impressed me with their maturity level given their young age. And in a way, that can actually be a big advantage because when a 19-year-old steps into a selection panel interview for a police application, they’ve looked at the file already, they’re probably expecting a typical 18, 19, or 20-year-old. And when what they see is a very mature young person with life experience, good communication skills, and really good composure, it makes a great impression. And when you make a great impression over and above what you’re expecting, it tends to turbocharge that result a little bit. So it can be an advantage if you are a very mature younger applicant.

Okay, now the last thing about potential disadvantages almost ties into the advantage of being tech savvy. And that is a disadvantage could be that you spend a lot of time in social media and that can open a whole can of worms because even though it’s so public, you tend to think that you’re safe and private when you’re doing things online, which is really not the case. So if you’re making comments or you’re making political statements or you’re dealing with sensitive topics, that can cause some issues. So you’ve got to be very careful with your social media if you’re a younger applicant, well any applicant for that matter.

All right, so a couple of proactive things. If you are a younger applicant, try and get some part-time work if you can, or full-time work if you’re already involved in employment where you’re working in retail or hospitality or something where you’re interacting with the public. That customer facing role is important to develop the skills that you’ll need to have to be an effective police officer.

And you have to deal with all sorts of people when you’re a police officer. And if you’re working in hospitality and retail, you’re probably getting the same experience, which is why it’s important that you get some of that life experience. The other thing you can do is volunteering. If you are volunteering, that’s a good sign that you’re someone who is genuine when you say you want to help the community, you like helping people, you want to give back. A lot of applicants say that, “Oh, I want to help the community. I want to help people do something positive, I want to give back.” And the follow-up question is, “When was the last time you did something for your community?”

And then there’s just silence or crickets and they’re not able to back up that claim with some actual evidence of what they’ve been doing to help their community. So volunteering is seen as a very positive thing for any applicant regardless of age. If you’re involved in team sports, that’s helpful. Just having to work together, teamwork of course, and communication skills and following plans, all of those things can be… I mean, we think of team sports, well that’s not a big deal, it’s just playing basketball with three or four mates, but it can be a valuable asset, especially for a younger applicant who’s looking to provide more content about their relevant skills for policing. And teamwork is an important part of that.

Anything that has a responsibility attached to it. So if you happen to be the, I don’t know, the communications officer for a group or you’re the captain of some team or you’re volunteering, again, anything with a responsibility attached is something that you can do from a proactive point of view as a younger applicant.

Older Police Applicants

All right, so let’s move on to the older applicants now. Now, we could almost just reverse some of those pros and cons, but let’s quickly dot through some of them. Life experience, if you’re an older applicant, you simply have more volume. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have better life experience than a 20-year-old. A 20-year-old may have travelled, they may have been involved in team sports that’s taken them overseas. They may be volunteering, they might’ve been school captain for three years. There might be some great life experience that a younger person has had. If you’re an older person with more life volume, but you’ve been sitting in a little cubicle out in the back of the office and never interacted with anyone, but you’re great at crunching numbers on a spreadsheet, I’d take the 20-year-old to be honest, in terms of life experience over someone who’s been doing that kind of work for the last 10 years.

So it’s really, again, about quality life experience. But you generally have more work history because you’ve probably been in the workforce for a lot longer. It could potentially be your second or even third career that you’re looking at if you’re eyeing off policing as another career. Mostly an older applicant, whether you’re in your 40s or even 50s, it’s probably going to be mature and more settled and more composed and they know who they are and what their values are, et cetera, at that age.

And just generally, if you’re a little older, you have a better understanding of how the world works. And that can be difficult to explain to a younger person, well, how does the world work? But as an older applicant, you just get it.

In terms of the less positive things for older applicants, you’re more likely to have health issues, whether it be eyesight or hearing are fairly common ones. You might have lower back issues or some other joint pains. You might have a little bit of excess weight that you don’t need to be carrying, which puts you into a higher risk category for different health issues. So the health and fitness level are generally the things that will be more challenging for older applicants. The fitness level is definitely something that you can address. Some of the health issues may make you ineligible for applying.

So you’d want to be having a look at all of those things and look at the eligibility criteria for the state or territory that you’re interested in and just check their, I guess their health requirements if you like. There are some downloadable documents that you can look at from different states and territories that will let you know, “Hey, look, if you have this condition, here’s how we feel about that. If you have that condition, here’s why it might exclude you,” et cetera. So you need to do some research about that.

From a learning point of view, as we get a bit older, maybe the cogs turn a little bit slower and it’s a little harder to pick up new skills, especially in regards to technology. We’re probably less tech savvy than younger applicants, even if you might be sitting there punching numbers into a spreadsheet all day. So some challenges there for older applicants.

In terms of something that you could do to be proactive about improving your chances of a successful application, get fit. You’ve got to be able to get through the fitness assessments, not only as an applicant, but when you get into the police academy, the training is quite heavy in terms of academic study, but it’s also quite physical as well. It’s quite a good balance as an occupation between academic and physical.

And so getting yourself nice and fit, not just to pass the fitness assessment or the fitness test, but to get through the academy training without injuring yourself because the fitter you are, the less likely you’re going to injure yourself throughout the training. So get fit and try and get yourself healthy if you can. There might be some dietary changes you can make to reduce some of those health risks if you’ve got a poor diet.

Do some volunteer work. Just like a younger applicant, volunteer work is seen as a very positive thing. You’re contributing to your community and that carries a lot more weight than just saying, “I want to do something positive for my community.” So show them that you’re actually doing that and that you mean it.

Some Final Thoughts

All right, so just some final thoughts. There is a minimum age requirement. There’s no upper limit. If you can pass all of the assessments, whatever they might be, and you can score well enough as you pass them when compared with other applicants who might be going through the process at the same time, then there’s no reason why you can’t make it onto the order of merit and then potentially be offered a position to become a police officer.

All right, guys, well as always, thank you for spending some time with me. I hope you found that helpful and I look forward to chatting to you again in episode number four.

Until then, keep your foot on the gas.


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