Sometimes I wonder why I became a License Professional Investigator. Once people discovered that I was a Licensed Professional Investigator, I received several inquiries a month from retired police officers who are interested in this line of work. I am intrigued by some of their questions, because they do not understand what they are truly getting into. I find that a lot of the time, the aspirant has quite a tilted perception of what a "P.I." actually does, probably from watching too much television themselves.
While television shows you surveillance, which law enforcement officers should be used to, reality is the countless hours of sitting in a vehicle on extremely hot or cold days, (without the engine running; exhaust fumes or a puddle of water under the car from the air conditioning is a dead giveaway) while you freeze or sweat waiting to get a shot of someone who may not even leave the house that day. Most of these portrayals are at night, but I discovered early, that you also need to be a morning person. If you're working a file on someone who is a blue-collar worker, they probably start their day at 5am, which means you start yours at 3am. Your whole day and file could rest on that one opportunity you get to take that shot. Then there is following someone. The classic car chase scenes from television just don't happen in real life. It is not easy following someone, whose head is on a swivel, because he or she thinks there are being followed. Then there is managing your distance along with the traffic lights, and the possibility of them making it through a traffic light and you don't? How easy do you think it is to follow someone through heavy downtown traffic without getting too close so they don't notice you?
Good luck with a social life when you're working a case, and don't know when the file you are on will end and are the busiest when most of the world is not. I thought the Police Department was bad when they called at 2am!
People have asked me if being in Law Enforcement helped me become a better Professional Investigator. Law Enforcement prepared me for the knowledge I gained investigating cases and interviewing people. It did not prepare me for the types of people, both clients and subjects I would be dealing with. Cases involving Matrimonial, Child Custody, and Civil Cases are far more tenuous, because even though you tell a client, "I cannot guarantee success," they become distraught when what they perceive is the truth really is not.
People also expect you to do things, which according to Federal Law, is a violation. Then there are your retainer/fees. You have to negotiate with people who really don't want to pay you what you are worth, and try to bargain their own terms. So there is a big learning curve for ex-police officers to adjust to the private sector. Sometimes you can't teach old dog's new tricks.
In my view, there is no formula that would make a good investigator. There are qualities that they must possess naturally and some they must learn. You have to remain true to who you are, and stick with a plan. There is no room for trial and error and that is why companies are so hesitant to hire/train someone with no experience. It is not enough to just want to be a professional investigator. You have to truly strive to be a great investigator, live and breathe it every day with a full commitment. Otherwise you're better off trying to play one on television.