Safety is the biggest reason my (new!) hubby told me he didn’t want me to become a private investigator, even though it has been a goal of mine for several years. He thinks I would never really be safe, and that I would have to carry a gun, even though I told him many private investigators choose not to.
Then there’s the surveillance issue.
I took a great introductory class last year that was taught by a seasoned investigator and he was completely blunt: surveillance is long, hard and boring. As proof he showed us examples of devices you can use to relieve yourself during a long assignment.
Why Don’t PIs Always Carry A Weapon?
Yes, it would seem unusual and even dangerous for a woman with no law enforcement, security, martial arts or weapons experience to become a private investigator. But for the most part, in talking with PIs, they don’t normally feel unsafe or threatened. Often they would be bothered by the police or nosy neighbors, but because they did their jobs well, the job was never unsafe.
I have applied for jobs that requested I get a concealed weapons permit and martial arts training for safety and insurance purposes, but I think those cases are the exception and not the norm.
So, yes, the above photo is more like something out of a movie and not reality. The majority of private investigation involves surveillance and report writing, with some interviewing mixed in.
Having What It Takes
What I love about this industry is that it encourages people with varying skills and backgrounds to try it. Yes, in my research over the past several years, the most successful PIs that I have admired were former law enforcement or military officials. But the industry is open to those with a keen mind, an ability to think effectively and, of course, be a savvy businessperson.
Here are the traits I am honing that make for a good investigator and the roles you or I can play despite a lack of experience.
- Excellent written communicator – a lot of PI work involves creating reports that are used to give to clients. Sometimes these reports are used in criminal or civil investigations and must be of the highest quality. A background such as mine in creative writing makes me a shoe-in for this.
- Excellent verbal communicator – asking the right kinds of questions in the right way are key in putting together a strong investigation. Since my background is in journalism, being a great reporter can mean being a great investigator.
- Excellent administrator – most PI firms that you see in your local yellow pages or investigative association are one-man firms. There have been issues with the lack of regulation of the PI industry. Here in Alabama, it simply requires applying for a business license. There is currently legislation being created to correct this in order to ensure quality investigators. With that said, being great at running a business is vital to being a good PI. So having a background in administrative assistance or business are great traits to possess as well.
So to stay safe, here are a few career paths that use some of the same techniques as investigators, but don’t require training in hand-to-hand combat. 🙂
– Administrative assistant to a PI, which is what I’m doing!
– Paralegal – another potential career path for me that involves writing, working with the community and the law
– Insurance claims auditor – investigating the reasoning behind insurance claims is a great alternative to being a PI
What do you think makes for a great PI? How do you feel about investigators carrying weapons? Is safety an issue? Talk to me.
Like what you’ve read here? Are you a PI in need of an administrative assistant? Contact me about a free 30-minute consultation.