There’s a saying in the FBI – “Don’t embarrass the Bureau.” The behavior of each special agent is seen as a direct reflection of the agency. It’s expected that everything an FBI agent says and does will project a positive image and mirror the viewpoint of the “front office.”
That’s because agents take that whole Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity stuff pretty seriously. Translated to real life situations those words connote loyalty, confidence and well… integrity. Our training allows us to quickly assess a situation and determine priorities. Even when mission focused, we are trained to be flexible and shift directions if required.
And guess what? All of those ingrained, highly-effective, self-motivated management skills are totally transferable. That’s why retired FBI agents make great second career hires.
Currently, retirement for FBI special agents is mandatory at age 57. But many agents, realizing that they are more marketable at a younger age, leave as soon as they become eligible with 20 years of service, usually around age 50. So, just when an FBI agent is seasoned and experienced, she or he is walking out the doors of the local federal building and into a second career. In Philadelphia, retired agents are senior managers at many major organizations including the Federal Reserve Bank, Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General, National Constitution Center and the Delaware River Port Authority. Former colleagues also run very successful consulting firms specializing in art theft and private investigations, and several are adjunct professors at local universities. Until recently, I had a second career as Director of Media Relations for SEPTA, the Philadelphia region’s public transportation provider.
What the private sector may not know is that working for the FBI requires agents to have an almost entrepreneurial ownership of their cases. Each assignment is like running your own business. Agents must figure out the manpower and resources needed to work their cases. There’s no one standing over them checking on their daily progress. Every 90-days the squad supervisor reviews his or her agents’ case files, looking for documentation that they are pulling their weight. In the end, the statistics tell the facts, how many searches, arrests, indictments, trials, convictions have been logged in since the last file review. It’s a competitive environment. No one wants to be that guy – the slacker, the empty suit. So we work long, hard and steady.
We special agents – current and retired – are a diverse group. We are not the cookie cutter models from central casting portrayed on TV and in movies, but there is an FBI agent “look,” a certain way we carry ourselves. I recall agents who diverted from that image being called in to see the Special Agent in Charge and told to get a haircut, shave off a beard or lose some weight. When you hire a retired FBI agent you know who you’re getting. Someone who’s a team player, furiously loyal and dependable, someone who won’t let you down.
So what does all this have to do with me dyeing my hair blue?
Now that I’m a free agent starting my third career as an author and speaker, I wanted to do something dramatic to signify that after many, many years happily working for others, the only entity I represent now is me. The bold hair color is my way of reinventing myself as a creative type. At this time, the only people I’m embarrassing are my husband and my kids.
But whether my hair is blue, pink or if I decide to shave it off (that’s not happening), I will always reflect proudly on my career as a special agent with the FBI and how, after retiring, those experiences allow me and my FBI agent colleagues to continue to emulate the Bureau motto of Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity.
The FBIRetired website is a great resource for the private sector to be introduced to talented retired agent consultants ready to share their vast experiences and expertise.
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, attempts to relive her glory days by writing crime fiction and hosting FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast available for subscription on iTunes and Stitcher. Her debut novel—Pay To Play— about a female agent investigating corruption in the Philadelphia strip club industry is available at amazon.com.