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So what do you do if you can’t be a cop?

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  • So what do you do if you can’t be a cop?

    No, this isn’t my problem, but on another of the boards which is restricted to answers by LEOs only a young man (assumption) facing rejection by the agency of his choice has basically wailed, “Now what do I do with my life?”

    I can’t answer that question for him. I can only pass on some answers which I have seen around me.

    My father was born in 1932; during the Great Depression his father had supported the family by driving nitroglycerin. It was dropped into wells in the oil fields to break up the underground rock formations and coax the oil to flow more freely. These days nitroglycerin is considered too dangerous to transport; if you are going to use it you have to actually manufacture it at the point of use. But back in the 1930s the labs which produced it were back in town, and the professional drivers would take it by truck out as far as where the paved road ended. That’s when grandpa took over. He would take their truck and drive that ticking time bomb out over the ruts and cow paths and fields to where the rig stood and turn the load over to them before driving the truck back. For risking his life he was paid the princely sum of fifty cents a day. Dad grew up in a canvas tent and eating vegetables which his parents planted in their garden. He didn’t know he was poor; that’s just how people lived.

    My father graduated from high school in 1949 and was the first of his family to go to college. He had always done well in math and science and had his heart set on becoming a nuclear physicist. It didn’t take long at LSU in Baton Rouge before he learned that, good as he was, he just didn’t have the chops for nuclear physics. So he enlisted in the Air Force and while there qualified for pilot training. He had been selected as a fighter pilot, but this was during the transition from props to jets and his training base had a shortage of jet trainers. There were few billets for P-51 pilots, so he volunteered for helicopters (his words: “If I was going to fly slow I wanted to fly REAL slow!”). He became a rescue helicopter pilot in Korea and rescued at least one downed aviator from behind enemy lines that he still talks about (“He never let me buy a drink the rest of the time I was there!”). Upon leaving the Air Force and returning to LSU with real-world experience he became an aerospace engineer and eventually ended up helping to put men on the Moon and fly the Space Shuttle. He recently celebrated his 88th birthday; he has 8 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with more sure to come. Not a bad life.

    My brother-in-law was born with cerebral palsy. For the first seven or eight years of his life the doctors said he would never walk. He eventually proved them wrong, but he still walks with a major limp. He went to Texas A&M and eventually graduated with a civil engineering degree; it took him about nine years. During that time he met my sister, married her, and began raising eight kids (I’m still single…). He’s done everything from selling guitars, teaching guitar, and currently works as a mortgage broker helping people buy homes. They’ve never had anywhere near enough money, but they’ve home-schooled all eight of their kids all the way and raised them to where they all truly love each other. You might point to his income or bank balance and smirk, but he’s an unqualified success as a father. What really matters in the long run?

    I had the kind of performance in junior high and high school to make people think that I was the next Thomas Edison. The difference is, Thomas Edison had a work ethic and, at least back then, I didn’t. Still, I enlisted in the Navy, made it through Nuclear Power School, and qualified for the Naval Academy. I washed out after one year; personality conflicts with the upperclassmen. Still, I returned to the enlisted ranks and completed my six years of service, in the process becoming pretty damned good with boilers, steam turbines, pumps and the like. When I completed my service I briefly considered law enforcement but realized that I just didn’t have the skill set for it; one of the reasons I ticked off my seniors at Annapolis was that I had a very hard time remembering names and faces. I might have done better in the fire department—if every Marine is a rifleman, every Navy man is a firefighter—but I found that people were willing to pay me for taking care of boilers, air conditioning systems and pumps. I’ve been a building engineer in large commercial facilities for nearly 30 years now. I’m not rich by the standards of Wall Street, but I sleep each day (night shift!) with a clear conscience. I don’t regret any of the choices which led me here.

    After nearly thirty years dealing with outside contractors I’ve come to realize how very wrong it is to focus on ‘me, me, me.’ Our schools are training kids to believe that even the marginal ones should go to college, and the colleges are largely churning out graduates with worthless degrees. I was talking with a senior manager of one of the plumbing companies we used for a major project a couple of years back. His company was crying to find high school graduates who could pass a drug test and show up on time on a regular basis, who had enough math to compute ¼ inch per foot and enough English to read and fill out a job ticket—and they couldn’t find them! He told me of one of his plumbers, a lady who had been a school teacher with a master’s degree. In her second year as an apprentice plumber she was already making more than she had teaching school—and with more job security.

    Don’t turn up your nose at the trades. Yes, they can outsource my job—and they have, fairly regularly—but they can’t offshore it, not as long as they want to keep the lights on and the A/C running. If you can run a pipe or pull a wire you will likely always be able to find a job. Remember what the Master Carpenter said when you are considering your choice of a career: “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. (Mark 10:44, KJV)”

    Just a thought.

  • #2
    I went to high school in the 80's; even back then my guidance counselors pushed college, college, college. Honestly, I was never very interested in 'shop' classes, but any of my friends that tried were strongly discouraged from that path. Later in life -- as a homeowner, car owner, yard owner, motorcycle owner -- I have many times wished I established at least a basic understanding of those skills. After 30+ years of trial-and-error, I've acquired some of these skills, but learning them in school would have likely saved me lots of time, expense, and frustration.

    Now, Child #2 is 3 semesters from graduating college. He just returned from a military deployment and is waffling about finishing. In his words, "I could make more as a plumber or electrician than with a college degree." As a parent, I'm really torn. On one hand, he's so close to completing his degree, I really want him to finish it. Then, if he wants to pursue something else, at least he has the degree to fall back on. But another part of me believes it's stupid to invest the time into the degree (expense is less of an issue, thanks to his GI Bill and National Guard tuition reimbursement), if he has no intent on putting it to use.

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    • #3
      I live on a cul-de-sac with an HVAC guy (owns his own business), a general contractor (family business), a landscaper (own business) and an electrician (union job).

      We always (half) joke that I'm the only guy who doesn't have a "real job". There's a lot of bartering and helping each-other out, but as a cop, I'm of limited value: "Dude, you can't even get us out of a parking ticket."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by orangebottle View Post
        Now, Child #2 is 3 semesters from graduating college. He just returned from a military deployment and is waffling about finishing. In his words, "I could make more as a plumber or electrician than with a college degree." As a parent, I'm really torn. On one hand, he's so close to completing his degree, I really want him to finish it. Then, if he wants to pursue something else, at least he has the degree to fall back on. But another part of me believes it's stupid to invest the time into the degree (expense is less of an issue, thanks to his GI Bill and National Guard tuition reimbursement), if he has no intent on putting it to use.
        You didn't ask for my opinion, but I'll give it. If he's three semesters away and can complete his diploma with no debt, I'd recommend that he do so...and THEN look for a "real job", as not.in.MY.town said above. If he has the education and then adds real-world skills to it he's very likely to be groomed as a manager or even an executive.

        But if completing his degree means taking on even one dime of student loan debt—and if he has a genuine interest in looking to work with his hands in some tangible field such as plumbing, electricity, or HVAC—then he should leave college immediately (on good terms—see below) and invest about $2500 in a top-quality set of hand tools for his chosen profession (check with one of the apprenticeship programs; they'll give you a comprehensive list). Begin working as an apprentice, earning as you learn, and when he gets enough time under his belt to have a "feel" for his job duties and demands, then complete his degree at night school (which may be day school if he gets a job on the graveyard shift, like I have!). The degree will be just as good; even better, actually, because he will have that real-world experience that you just can't get in a classroom.

        Just MHO.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by orangebottle View Post
          Now, Child #2 is 3 semesters from graduating college. He just returned from a military deployment and is waffling about finishing. In his words, "I could make more as a plumber or electrician than with a college degree." As a parent, I'm really torn. On one hand, he's so close to completing his degree, I really want him to finish it. Then, if he wants to pursue something else, at least he has the degree to fall back on. But another part of me believes it's stupid to invest the time into the degree (expense is less of an issue, thanks to his GI Bill and National Guard tuition reimbursement), if he has no intent on putting it to use.
          Just curious what the degree is in?

          Right now he may not intent to put it to use, but he should be thinking long-term. The combination of practical skills and that piece of paper can open many doors for him in the future. As he gets older, he might not want to (or be physically able to) climb ladders, work in crawl spaces, or whatever the case may be. Having that piece of paper may just help him make good money while others do the heavy lifting (figuratively and literally).

          My neighbor has an electrician friend who started working right out of high school. He put in long hours and made a decent living while working for others. Later started his own business and made a good living while having others work for him. Eventually he decided to take the time to get a degree. Fast forward several years...and the guy made a small fortune planning and executing all the wiring and lighting for some fancy building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
          Last edited by not.in.MY.town; 09-09-2020, 12:59 PM.

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          • #6
            I can't tell you what I would have done if I didn't get into LE as a career. That was my desire out of the USMC, and that's what I did.

            We can offer advice to those who can't get into the field, but not knowing the person, it will be very general. Some of the officers who have left my department over the years, some on their own terms, some not, became realtors. One guy became a security officer at a hospital, and another became a teacher.

            My advice to the younger crowd is to get a trade like aircraft/boat mechanic, HVAC, plumbing, carpenter, etc. Fireman/EMS is something that doesn't appeal to me in the least, but they are great services to the community.

            I just remembered, a guy I know couldn't get on the PD because of his color blindness so he became a federal prison guard. He didn't like that so he then became a nurse. I haven't spoken to him in years, but I wouldn't doubt he's still at it unless he has already retired.

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            • #7
              You take the easy path to employment, drafted into the service, be blessed with two tours, a long time ago. Leave the service gaining employment at a powder plant, ultimately operating a gelatin mix house in a short time, that's an interesting skill set that can't be applied anywhere. I could operate the heck out of a Bi***i nitrator though and that skillset can be utilized, although illegal outside of a certified plant. If I recall, there is one powder plant left in the U.S., if that. You can't make many mistakes and survive with that one. Take every public safety test out there and gain employment on the fire side. It's been an interesting road.
              Last edited by retired137; 09-19-2020, 12:30 AM.

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              • #8
                I'll stick to stripping.

                Comment


                • Sackett
                  Sackett commented
                  Editing a comment
                  My stripping job involves going out into public, taking off my shirt, and people pay me to put it back on.

              • #9
                I tried the stripping part, unfortunately, I had to pay them. They said I had noassattall.
                Last edited by retired137; 09-19-2020, 11:43 AM.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Just curious what the degree is in?
                  The degree he's been pursuing is in communication (like marketing/advertising, not radios). I don't think it's out of any particularly strong interest in the field, but because -- like so many of us -- he had no idea what he wanted to do for the rest of his life when asked to choose a field at 18 years old.

                  I've encouraged him to review his school's offerings, to see if there's something that interests him more. A change in degree choice was a game-changer for his older brother, who is now very happy in his current career field. I myself never enjoyed school until I went to the academy in my 30s. It was the first time I actually looked forward to going to school.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    While I was in 9th grade, I had a history teacher who told us... "Plan ahead". Where do you want to be in your life in 20, 40, 60 years. I figured it would be good to have a skill, something I could do with my hands. I took Masonry at vo-tech. Two years. During it, we had what I like to refer to as the "work release" program... where outside contractors would come to the college and take the better students out for OJT. I learned a wealth of knowledge from those guys. Even had my own business for a while between school and the Army. Did 5 years in the Army, taking every school I could that was offered and I was interested in. After the Army, I returned to the masonry trade. Thought about the fact that the guys I learned from were old WW2 vets, who were still doing masonry into their late 60s... I didn't want to be humping those 12" blocks when I was 65, so I started looking for something with medical, vacation, retirement... that I didn't have to put away for myself. Came across an ad for the PSP in the paper. Most of my "friends" at the time told me not to bother, as that was all political, and no one could get in without "knowing someone". I didn't know anyone, but passed all the tests, vet credit, got in and retired a while back.

                    The thing in all that is... don't limit yourself to one goal in life. Get skills, then see what's out there for you. Focusing all your efforts into one career field, especially one as selective as LE... is a mistake that can lead to disappointment. There were over 3k applicants when I tested. I was in a class of 46 that graduated. That's a lot of disappointed people.
                    As far as "rights" are concerned; I look at them this way... I don't tell you what church to go to, and you don't tell me what kind of firearm I can own...

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                    • #12
                      grog18b's comment reminded me of someone I met back in my 20s. He was probably in his late-40s. He operated on philosophy that most people will accomplish 90% of what they're capable of in a chosen career field within 10 years. So his goal was to spend no more than 10 years in any job. He began life in construction. Then he moved to sales, followed by project management. When I met him, he had just begun work as a paramedic. He was always smart with his money and didn't have to rely on a pension for retirement. He figured he could squeeze in 1 more career before retiring to a beach somewhere.

                      I recalled that conversation a lot as I considered (and ultimately made) my late-in-life switch from corporate work to full-time law enforcement.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        So what do you do if you can’t be a cop
                        Law enforcement is my retirement job. I retired from the US Army, goofed off for a while then became a jail deputy.

                        If I couldn't put on all this heavy, hot sweaty gear and drive around worrying if somebody was going to shoot me in the head while I wasn't looking, when I walked up to a traffic stop or knocked on their door... gee, I don't know. Sit at home in my underwear, play video games and eat Cheetos?

                        To be honest, knowing I don't HAVE to do it is part of what keeps me doing it.
                        "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

                        "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

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                        • #14
                          If I had the need to do something else I would learn to weld. Hot, dirty work but a good certified welder can make all the money they will ever need.


                          I graduated college in 1976 & had a couple dozen applications out for police work throughout the state. None of them were biting. I had a part time job working in a grocery store that I could pretty much have continued working for as long as I wanted & could have been full time.

                          Instead I started working for a construction company that built grain storage elevators. I became quite adept at using a cutting torch & worked closely with the welders. One of them was VERY good and VERY experienced. He had worked on the St Louis Gateway Arch.

                          He offered to teach me how to weld but quite honestly we were working 12 hr shifts and I didn't' have the time to "learn" I have always kicked myself in the rear for not taking the time.

                          Later when I worked at the Penitentiary we had a welding shop where prisoners made metal furniture for schools, hospitals & government offices. Some of those guys could really weld..................torch, mig, tig and even one who was fantastic with welding aluminum & stainless steel. The guy could have made a fortune on the streets (except for the life sentence)

                          My small town has TWO large welding shops...................and many other small mechanics that will weld things

                          Originally posted by ehbowen View Post
                          Still, I returned to the enlisted ranks and completed my six years of service, in the process becoming pretty damned good with boilers, steam turbines, pumps and the like. When I completed my service I briefly considered law enforcement but realized that I just didn’t have the skill set for it; one of the reasons I ticked off my seniors at Annapolis was that I had a very hard time remembering names and faces. I might have done better in the fire department—if every Marine is a rifleman, every Navy man is a firefighter—but I found that people were willing to pay me for taking care of boilers, air conditioning systems and pumps. I’ve been a building engineer in large commercial facilities for nearly 30 years now. I’m not rich by the standards of Wall Street, but I sleep each day (night shift!) with a clear conscience. I don’t regret any of the choices which led me here.
                          As I said I worked at a Penitentiary ................be had BIG boilers & turbines ..................Our boiler people were almost all Ex Navy boilermen
                          My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Here is my advise for younger people starting out in life and the same advise I gave my son who is now 20 years old. Do not be a cop! Although I love it and have been doing it for almost 14 years now, it is not a career for the faint of heart. Not just anyone can do it. I always told my son to try and find something he was good at, hands on wise, and pursue a career that caters to what he enjoyed doing and was good at.

                            Anyway, join the military. Do your four years, get the GI Bill so you got some serious money to go and get a degree or attend a trade school. My son was always good at taking things apart and figuring out how things worked. He was also good at putting things back together. I advised him to join the service and get some kind of engineering job that required him to take things apart and put them back together.

                            He ended up joining the Air Force and now works on the electrical system in fighter jets. He works along side active duty, reserve and Boeing civilian contractors that do the same job he does. He loves it and he's already being recruited by those same Boeing civilian contractors to come and work for them when his enlistment contract is up.

                            He's looked into the job Boeing is recruiting him for and it starts off at $90,000 a year. My son will be 22 when his contract is up. Crazy, imagine making 90k a year at 22 years old, doing something you are good at and truly enjoy.

                            So, join the service, it opens up so many opportunities. Do a job in the service that requires some type of skill, such as, engineering, electrical, plumbing, welding, diesel engine work, etc. You will be setting yourself up for life.
                            Last edited by SOCAleo; 10-03-2020, 10:26 AM.

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