“I love promotion boards! I want to experience as many as I can…”

… said no police promotion candidate, ever!

If you aspire to a formal leadership position as Sergeant or Inspector, I’m assuming you’d prefer to get it right first time. Here’s a quick example of someone who knows a little about that:

Put any thoughts of guarantees out of your head. The concept doesn’t exist, there are too many variables. When it comes to success, the nearest thing you will get to a guarantee of converting your aspiration first time is effective preparation. Imagine that which Felix Baumgartner put in before plummeting to Earth from 128,000 feet, breaking the speed of sound and setting a new world record.

The Clock is Ticking!

“Let our advanced worrying become advanced thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill

Time for promotion!

You can choose to start today, that’s in your power right now. Most police promotion candidates across the UK want to improve their situation, but few take the responsibility for motivating themselves in making changes. Put simply, motivation means choosing to do what you’d rather not.

Success is often determined long before any papersift, assessment test, interview or other aspect of the promotion process. Much like how boxers put in months of training, conditioning and preparation months before they get into the ring for their fight.

Sincere commitment is required. You’ll need to apply yourself to the depth and breadth of (smart!) homework necessary, to deliver the best version of yourself when it really matters.

Confidence is key. The good news is that like other skills, it can be developed; by building knowledge through effective preparation. Aspiring Sergeants and Inspectors already generally have a wealth of experience from their working lives. It’s a simple calculation:


“Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.” – Richard Kine

It’s Hard

Police promotion is tough!

“Every obstacle yields to stern resolve.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

Achieving promotion is hard, for a number of reasons.

Officers don’t generally walk around in a state of readiness to perform well in a promotion process. It takes time to develop, raise awareness and build momentum. Time is a precious commodity, often cited by officers as a barrier to preparing their application or for an interview.

Typically, forces announce a promotion process with tight deadlines. This is clearly part of the test, catching out those who can only react. Individuals with a PDR in place, incorporating meaningful development activity, may be ahead of the curve and better able to respond.

When it comes to time, we all prioritise what is important to us. I speak with lots of different officers who underestimate the time required to prepare for their selection process. ‘Cramming’ may sometimes work for exams, but it’s a terribly risky strategy for promotion board preparation.

It’s hard to fit in the work required around the day job, families, life and of course sleep. 24 hours a day is what each of us has. If you are focused, your time can be used effectively to make yourself more promotable. It is tough; you’ll need to choose where you make sacrifices. For example, some of my clients prioritise their preparation over a night out. Some utilise their commute to work better. Others ditch their favourite trash TV for a while (and they don’t come much more trash than Love Island!).

It’s Expensive

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry D Thoreau

Promotion investmentPreparing for promotion might not just cost a lot in terms of time investment, it can also be a financial expense. Many officers choose to ‘buy time’ with targeted coaching and other support to help them work smart.

Of course, that’s not always the case and by no means has to be. As Michael Cane might say, “Not a lot of people know that!”. There are plenty of free options out there for those with time on their side, be it literature, guidance or information. Options include free subscriptions or access to policing news/editorials, such as Police Hour. There’s a vast array of relevant leadership and management articles on the internet and you may have development support available within your own force.

7 Things Interview

I believe valuable information to help you on your promotion journey should be accessible for any budget, including for FREE. Hence why I write this blog and provide a range of free guides, including the 50-page ‘7 Seven Things Promotion Boards ALSO Look for in Candidates‘. It of course comes with my very best wishes for your success.

Money and time are precious resources. So whether you view effective preparation as a cost or investment to realising your potential, you may wish to reflect on this before deciding your approach.

It’s Emotional

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing.” – Pele

Emotional promotion journeyA promotion interview is a cracking opportunity. Hard won. Putting yourself forward for such a challenge is about your personal growth, career progression and professional development.

Focusing your energy, time and hope on the desired outcome, whilst working shifts around family life, can be emotionally exhausting. Some emotions may feel more prominent, such as anticipation and fear. Strong emotions and feelings are almost always triggered upon knowing the outcome of a process. 

Upon success, there is joy, elation, tears, delight, relief. I will never tire of receiving calls and emails about this; it’s why I do what I do. I’m very proud when my clients share their news of promotion success with me. Their achievements are well-deserved and point to their underlying approach and mindset. Getting it ‘right first time’ is a fantastic return on investment, so it’s not surprising that the feedback reflects these emotions: 

“I’m over the moon.”   “I’m delighted!”   “I’m on top of the world.”   “I’m overjoyed!”

Emotion of promotion

Of course the other side of the coin often features when candidates have simply not put the work in. This might include anger, frustration, or even bitterness, envy and dejection.

However, with a growth mindset and being enlightened to past mistakes, those resilient individuals gain the particularly sweet satisfaction of getting it ‘right next time’! Due to having experienced the lows of previous failure, these candidates are often the most emotional; they knew they had the potential to succeed, but were unable to convert that aspiration without some targeted guidance. For example, Bryan has been on an emotional rollercoaster:

“In my previous interview I was tense, unsure and lacking confidence. I felt lost having failed at my first attempt, but with Steve’s positive, inspiring, coaching I was able to deeply reflect on what really made me a good leader and manager. This gave me the belief and the confidence to present my skills and experience effectively (and successfully) during the board… to have someone where you can totally open up about your fears, concerns and perceived weaknesses and then come away feeling enthused positive and confident… gave me the clarity and focus I needed to be successful in a process which can often leave you feeling uncertain, stressed and struggling to decide how best to prepare and present yourself… inspiring with pep talks and motivation. Thank you Steve for helping me discover that ‘light bulb’ moment and to be the best I can be in such a competitive process.” – Bryan – (Passed Sergeant Selection Process)

Until my next blog, I’ll leave you with the words of ‘Big Chris’ from the film ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’…

“It’s been emotional.”


Kind Regards, Steve

Wherever you are on your promotion journey, www.ranksuccess.co.uk can help with guidance and support.