Julie Clegg, author of How to Become a World Class Investigator, is a licensed investigator with more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement and professional investigations. If you live in the UK, you probably known Julie as an intelligence expert on the reality TV series, Hunted. She’s taught investigative skills and procedures in more than 20 countries.
The era of the lone wolf private eye is over. In this episode, Julie illuminates a new path to success in this exciting and rewarding field, all while debunking the culture of secrecy that’s always pervaded the industry. Few careers offer the challenges of investigative work, and fewer still offer the opportunity to make a real difference.
Julie Clegg: The story of this book begins about 25 years ago when I was a teenager—and I was a very studious teenager. Academics did not come easily to me. I struggled in school and I had to work 10 times harder than anybody else to get the same results.
I was passionate about learning but it just did not come easy. Memory retention was never my strong point. I would study very hard, I would read voraciously. I was always reading, and I was determined to be a journalist.
That was my dream job. It was my passion. I consumed articles and newspapers and books all through my teenage years. That was my passion and my goal. I love to write, and I love to read. I used to seek out little old book shops that I could go to.
“My collection of books was bigger than anything else that I had, even as a 14 year old girl.”
Then, when I was 17, my life changed completely.
At Christmas time, I was a victim of a very serious assault, during which I almost died. In the days and weeks in the police station and going through that investigation afterwards, there was one detective called Diane Watts, who basically saved me.
She comforted me, she was there for me, she helped me through the investigation, she supported my family, and she was the one that got me through.
I knew what my life’s course was going to be. I knew I wanted to be a police officer. It was all because of that experience that I had been through.
I tried to join the police. They rejected me the first time, I didn’t have enough confidence, I didn’t have enough life experience. So I went out and I got the job that I knew would make me grow as a person the most.
I lacked confident interaction with people, so I went and got a job in a night club in this city part of Bradford in the north of England. I spent the next two years breaking up bar fights and dealing with the police, dealing with gangs and drug dealers and all of those nefarious characters so I could build that confidence and I could build those communications skills. I could lose my fear of violence and fear of confrontation and aggression.
Three years later, I went back and applied for the police again, and I was accepted. That was my path in to the police, and I stayed in the police for 10 years before I moved out to Canada to work more in the technology field.
I wanted to work in internet investigations because I’m also passionate about technology.
I did that for the last 13 years, and then I just had this need, this desire to get back to frontline investigations.
Two years ago, I made the decision that I was going to leave the training business, which is what I got into. I was training police officers and government and military personnel how to use the internet as an investigative tool.
“I decided to leave all of that behind.”
It was a very difficult decision, but I had to get back to who I was inside and what was important to me and that was actually helping people on the front line.
I returned to investigation and it hasn’t been an easy path but along the way, I’ve learned so much, and that’s what this book is about.
It’s about taking people along my journey and the struggles that I’ve had and the things that I’ve learned and just getting that across to new people.
One of the things that prompted that was doing the TV show and the increased publicity that comes with being on television and doing the role that I don’t that show is a—I’d had people contacted me all the times saying, “How do I do what you do? How do I get into this field?”
Discover Your Strengths First
Charlie Hoehn: Beautiful, thank you for sharing that origin story. Let’s talk about the book, How To Become a World Class Investigator. What do you mean by discovering who you are as a human?
Julie Clegg: One of these things I first ask people when they ask me, “How do I get to do what you do?” Well, who are you as a person?
If you’re not self-aware, if you don’t understand what drives you, what motivates you, where your morals and ethics sit, what your passions are, what your experience is…the first part of this is really a deep dive into yourself.
Who am I, what do I want to do, what’s important to me, what causes are my passionate about, how have I been influenced as I’ve been growing up?
Because we all have this very unique path that we’ve lived—this unique set of influences and biases that form who we are as individuals. Whether its’ a result of our education, our religion, our family background, everything that we do, every person that we talk to, every experience that we have shapes who we are as a human.
I think to know who you want to be as an investigator, first of all, you have to understand who you are as a human being and what’s most important to you. Where are your passions, what’s really important in your life and in your philosophy and in your morals that’s going to drive you to do or not do a certain kind of work?
Without that assault that I experienced, I wouldn’t have grown. I would have had empathy but not the degree of empathy that I was able to have for victims of crime. I may not have gone into the police. It certainly wasn’t on my radar at that time.
I thought I was going to leave school and go to university, maybe be a journalist.
Maybe I would have ended up in some investigative role eventually, but I would certainly not have gone down that path.
“That incident shaped my life.”
It shaped who I am, who I’ve become as a woman throughout those intervening years.
Even though I didn’t stay in law enforcement, that was not because I didn’t love law enforcement. I did. I’m also very entrepreneurial, and I felt like I could make more of a difference in the ways that mattered to me on the outside of the police services instead of the inside.
We don’t like such things in our lives. We don’t like adversity, we don’t like challenge, we don’t like change. We certainly don’t want to be the victim of a serious crime. But if we are able to turn that around and take the good from it, take the lessons from it, then I think it can be life changing for us in a positive way. Although it can take a long time to see that.
Charlie Hoehn: I find that’s so common in whatever profession that you’re in that it’s often the hardest challenges you’ve been through ended up serving you and giving you some sort of super power in some way.
Julie Clegg: Yeah, it depends on your perception. So one of the ways that Diane helped me after that incident—and also one of my character traits anyway—is that I refused to ever see myself as a victim with a negative connotation.
When that assault happened, and it was a very serious assault, I did not internalize it. I refused to accept any responsibility for being a victim of an assault, I was purely a victim. I did not cause that situation, I did not create it, I did not antagonize that person, I was not responsible for what happened during or after that situation.
“I already built that barrier around myself.”
Diane, the detective, helped to reinforce that. That’s not to say that it wasn’t traumatic and it’s not say it didn’t affect the course of my life and my emotional wellbeing for certainly a couple of years afterwards.
But because I didn’t allow myself to be pulled down, I didn’t allow the victimization to define me.
I think I was able to pull out the strengths of it and to use it going forward. Every day as a police officer, I thought back to myself as a 17 year old girl every time I dealt with a victim and remembered how I needed to be treated in that moment. I used that to make myself better.
Are You an Investigator?
Charlie Hoehn: Let’s talk about you as an investigator. Now, becoming an investigator, I would imagine is not for everybody.
Julie Clegg: No, but interestingly, there are more people that I consider to be investigators than they probably would themselves.
When I think of an investigator, I think of anybody that really finds directed information, or finds information in a directed way, specifically because you’re looking for something.
This can be anything from people in the banking industry, the insurance industry, you know, this is not just law enforcement and private investigators but this can be, you know, everybody at some point or another is an investigator.
Charlie Hoehn: An Instagram stalker for instance.
Julie Clegg: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, people that you know, marketing, people that are in marketing and in public relations, definitely investigators, people in the TV industry that create documentaries—these are all investigators in one way or another.
So we don’t necessarily think of ourselves like that. But one of the things I talk about and one of my philosophies around you as an investigator is something that I call finding your purpose point.
“Your purpose point is the intersection between your passions, morals, and skills.”
Let’s say you’re a student in high school or in university and you want to become an investigator or you think you feel like being an investigator would be a good job. I would say, okay, you need to figure out where your focus is going to be.
You’ve already looked at yourself as a human. You’ve got an idea of who you are, where your morals lie, what kind of things you’re interested in. Now look at where those things intersect.
Let’s say that your passion is selling, I don’t know, used handbags on eBay. You’re really interested in fashion, you’re really interested in shoes and purses. So you’ve developed a little bit of a sideline in University selling purses and shoes on eBay.
Right there, you’ve already got skills because you’ve learned how the internet works, you know how market plays on the internet work, you know how to price things, you know how to find things, you know how to look for information, you’ve got a basic understanding of technology.
But you’ve also got deeper skills than that.
You’ve also learned about things like supply chains potentially. You’ve learned about online currencies potentially. Maybe even cryptocurrencies. You’ve learned about the online community, different environments and cultures within that online environment, and then you’re also feeding your passion. Your passion is sourcing out new things to buy and sell. You know, this is something that’s really interesting to you.
Then that just leaves morals and this comes back to you as a human so what is important to you? If you want to be an investigator, what kind of investigator do you want to be? Do you want to be the kind of investigator that works with people or do you want to be the kind of investigator that works in say, financial crime or something like that.
This comes down to your morals and your own biases, your own desire. Okay, I want to help victims of crime, I want to help people that have been involved in domestic violence.
In this scenario that I’m painting here—this was a real scenario with a young woman that I spoke to. After having this conversation with her, she said, “I really want to help victims of violence, particularly women and children. So I said, “Okay, well let’s look at your passions, your morals and your skills.”
As we kind of thrashed all this out. She was the one that liked buying and selling clothes on eBay.
I said, “You know, you’ve got this amazing skillset, this amazing trifecta of passions, morals and skills that would actually serve you very well in the field of modern slavery and human trafficking. You’ve got this online knowledge, this global reach in retail. If you follow products back to the point of origin, then you’ve got fairly in depth knowledge potentially of supply chains. If you’re buying and selling goods online, then you’ve got a fairly good radar or some experience for counterfeit goods, who is buying and selling shoes that are pretending to be converse but they’re really a knockoff. This is a great way to get into that.”
She was so excited because she realized that’s not something that she would have thought of, but it completely aligned with her morals and her passion and her skillset.
It led her in to the investigation world in a way that she actually felt like she had some valuable experience and some valuable knowledge to bring.
Even though she didn’t have the background in law enforcement, it gave her a bit of a path and a direction where she felt like all of these things that were important to her could also be useful and also could be monetized to meet into a business.
That’s really what I talk about. You as an investigator is finding your focus, intersecting those three key things—your passion, your morals, and your skills. So all the things you discover about yourself when you look at yourself as a human, and then how do you bring those together to turn them in to something that you can see in yourself as an investigator.
The Mindset of an Investigator
Charlie Hoehn: Part two of your book is the making of an investigator and we start here with the world class investigator’s mindset. Now, is the mindset a learned skill or is this something that’s sort of innate, are there people who are naturals at it?
Julie Clegg: I think the mindset can be learned but I do also think there are certain people that are more predisposed to an investigative mindset than others. It also depends on the types of investigations you want to do.
I mean, accountants are investigators but they’re also not the kind of investigators that are going to necessarily want to go and sit in a surveillance van for 24 hours and go buy ramen noodles.
I also believe there are fundamental qualities and traits that most investigators have. I get asked this question a lot—what are those traits?
To me, the biggest most important trait of an investigator is tenacity, is that ability to keep going.
“It’s not even having patience. It’s more than that—it’s determination.”
It’s this desire to actually find answers and find the truth, even if the truth leads you somewhere that you don’t want to go. Because we all have confirmation bias.
Even now, when I have a client come to me, the client will tell me their story and already, they have the answer in their mind. They know where they want to get to, and a lot of the time, they’re not looking to you to do an open minded investigation. They’re looking to you to tell them that they’re right about what they think.
That’s not to take anything away from that person. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be right at all costs, but they are the ones with the instincts about what’s happened to them.
Often they’ll say, “I’m being stalked and I believe it’s this person,” you know, it’s my ex partner or it’s my ex partner’s new girlfriend or whatever it is.
Charlie Hoehn: How often would you say they’re right. I mean, confirmation bias exist for a reason, right?
Julie Clegg: Yes, in a lot of cases, they are right. In many cases, they just don’t know, particularly if it’s a stalking case. If we’re dealing with missing people then quite often, you exhaust all of the possibilities fairly quickly. The police do that. I’ve been in search and rescue for the last eight years, so one of the things we do is go to the places where this person is most likely to be.
So you exhaust those possibilities first, but when those things are gone, then that’s when the investigation really starts.
This is a big part of police work. You’re often digging around when a crime occurs, there’s something that’s usually very obvious. You have a crime scene or you have a witness to something, but then, the answers are not always obvious.
Having a mindset of an investigator basically means having the determination, the creativity, the ability to follow every single lead, think outside the box, recognize your biases and realize that I’ve got to follow every single thread of this investigation until I’ve exhausted that one, then I get to start on the next one and I exhaust that one.
Then I get to start on the next one.
Quite often I see investigators, particularly newer investigators, that will go to a certain point and an inquiry and then get stuck or get lost because they don’t yet have the knowledge or experience to understand that you could actually go further with that because we don’t know what we don’t know.
We tend to go to the edge of our own skills and abilities and then stop as opposed to recognizing that there is further that you can go.
Find a Mentor
Charlie Hoehn: That sounds like the distinction between a typical investigator and a world-class investigator, and the way to bridge that gap that you talk about in the book is through mentorship.
Julie Clegg: Yeah mentorship has been absolutely key for me. It is having a mentor that has gotten me over every single hurdle in my career, even if at the time I didn’t realize that that person was a mentor or I didn’t like the fact that they were telling me I was doing something wrong.
We don’t necessarily have to like these people. We don’t have to even necessarily feel an affinity with them. But I do believe that certain people are sent to give us what we need at certain times, and I think that that’s relevant in our career.
There’s a number of people that have helped me in my career at the time. Like they were there just to block me or to stop me doing a certain thing that I wanted to do. They diverted my whole career or my whole path in a completely different direction.
I realized afterwards that wow, that person was an amazing mentor to me. I couldn’t have broken through to that next level of where I wanted to go without that person at the time.
I did not want it. I did not like it. I did not see why these people were trying to tell me what to do when I thought I knew what to do.
As it turned out, some of these people that have become and have been my greatest mentors in my life feel like a gift.
“Those are the people that I call accidental mentors.”
So people that come along and disrupt our path, ultimately are usually for the greater good. I mean I’m sure I’ve had people disrupt my path for reasons that haven’t been good either way.
I don’t keep hold of that stuff. I only keep hold of the ones that I know have been beneficial but then there are the intentional mentors. So these are people that we go and seek out because we need a certain piece of information or because we’re stuck, because we need a little bit of help.
The people that reach out to me and the people that I mentor, those are the ones that recognize that there are certain points and they are not sure how to get further.
So they will seek somebody out that’s an expert in their field or somebody that they respect or whose life they want to emulate and ask them to mentor them either for a short period of time through a certain specific problem or in the longer term to guide them in their career until they are at a point where they can confidently go forward by themselves.
Life in Investigative Work
Charlie Hoehn: So let’s talk about some of the wild stories that you’ve experienced over your career as a world class investigator. What’s one that you typically share with people who are eager to know you are having drinks or something and they’re like, “Tell me about your life?”
Julie Clegg: So I have this conversation with my daughter all the time. My daughter is 17 and she wants to go into law enforcement. She is going to be a police officer, she’s in her final year of high school. So this has been her question to me my whole life, whenever she has friends for a sleepover whenever after diner she’ll say, “Mom tell my friends your cool stories.”
So yeah, I mean gosh I have dealt with so many different things, but there are certain cases that have stood out to me.
I’d say probably the case that has had a very profound impact on me, and again, I don’t want to give too much away from the book but this feeds through the thread of my entire life. It is a very important story.
So the lady that I mentioned, the detective Diane Watts, she is still instrumental in my life right now. From being a 17 year old girl, she was the one that helped me, then as I joined the police, I ended up working with her as a detective, and before I moved to Canada, Diane and I worked a case together.
And it’s the only case we’ve ever worked together side by side, and it was just the most incredible time and the most incredible case. Here I was with this woman 10 years after she had rescued me, working alongside her on this incredible case.
It was a missing person, a guy called Michael Alison who was missing. I was pregnant at the time with my daughter. Long story short because I don’t want to give too much away, we ended up finding Michael.
Some of his family members gave Diane and I a gold bracelet and a teddy bear. They gave me a teddy bear for my baby because they could see that I was pregnant so they wanted to thank us.
So they gave me this teddy bear which I called Michael, and I gave it to my daughter when she was little and then as she has gotten older and it doesn’t really have that meaning to her, she gave it back to me, and now Michael sits on my bed every day.
I’ve got this teddy bear that was given to me almost 20 years ago now as a reminder of who I am and why I do what I do and this incredible woman who was being this guiding light throughout my life.
Interestingly, I’m just about to start working with a charity Embrace in the UK and Diane is also involved in that charity, so I’ll be working with her again.
Charlie Hoehn: You have an announcement coming up with the release of your book. Tell me about that.
Julie Clegg: I am excited. In October—I’ll be talking about various new projects that I have coming out but the one that I am most excited about and the one that I am most proud of is I am going to become an ambassador for Embrace, which is a UK charity that provides support for young victims of serious crime and their families. It is something that is very, very important to me. I’ve always tried to be an advocate for victims of crime.
And the ability to work with Embrace and to support the work that they do, particularly given that I myself was a young victim of crime…It was the people around me supporting me. It was team, these incredible people that got me through that in such a healthy way and really allowed my life to move forward in it whether it did.
To be able to turn that all the way around and start to do the same for other people is hugely meaningful to me. So I am extremely excited about that.
Myths about Investigations
Charlie Hoehn: Just for fun this first one is what are some of the I guess myths or misconceptions that people have about what it’s like to be a world class investigator that you can lay the truth on right now?
Julie Clegg: I guess there are quite a few myths around investigation generally and around what it means to be a detective, what it means to be an investigator.
t is interesting, because it’s given me again a real insight. I have done the TV show now for the last four years. We’ve got two celebrity versions of the TV show out as well.
So I filmed six seasons of the show, and what I would say across the board in all of these things, whether it’s investigations at a very high level—I mean I deal everything from international organized crime to rescuing people from cults to all kinds of international child abductions, all kinds of files that I deal with. And then of course I’ve got the TV show and do all of these various things. But it is not glamorous.
People look at your lifestyle, they look at what your lifestyle must be, and they think that yeah, it’s all parties and it’s all drinking in wine bars. But in actual fact, being an investigator whether it is on a TV show or whether it’s off, whatever kind of investigation you are doing, it’s really, really hard work.
It is tiring and it’s frustrating. It can be really challenging dealing with victims, trying to help people.
Desperately trying to help people, being invested, trying not to get emotionally invested in the cases that you are dealing with can be difficult—particularly when it is something so important to you.
“All you can see the distress of the victim or the person that you’re dealing with.”
You really just want to help them and the other thing that I think is the other myth is that I would say probably, I don’t know, 30 to 40% of the work I do is beyond what I am getting paid for.
I always work way beyond what I charge or way beyond what people pay me for because I am so passionate about what I do. It is a trap that it is easy to fall into.
The danger of aligning your passions and morals and skills is that you are bringing so much of yourself as a human to your work.
This again, world class investigator as opposed to somebody that just does this purely for their job and they’re not particularly passionate about it. One of the dangers of that is you do pour your heart and soul into your cases.
“There’s a line between being emotionally involved and caring.”
I have one defining moment in my career, I have one regret. I don’t tell this story to anybody but I feel it’s important if I am being honest and I am being authentic. One incident changed everything for me.
When I was a brand new probationer in the police and I think it was only gosh, probably my third or fourth day in the job I was still terrified of everything.
I had no idea what I was doing. I was under the tutelage of somebody else.
So our job that day was to police a bus lane. So this was to stop people driving in the wrong lane on the road so that we could keep that lane clear. We were pulling vehicles over that were driving in the bus lane, and I pulled over this old man.
I mean nobody likes getting a ticket. Everybody is upset. You have some people are belligerent, some are angry.
But this man just looked despondent.
He looked dejected. So I wrote the ticket out. I talked to him, wrote the ticket out, and I said as I handed him the ticket, “Are you okay?” and he said, “I am on my way to the hospital. My wife is dying of cancer and I have to get to the hospital to see her. That’s why I am in the bus lane because I have to get around all this traffic.”
My biggest regret in my entire career is that I did not take that ticket away from him.
I did not tear it up. I did not use my moral courage or my empathy or my humanity. What I would have done now is I would have given him a police escort to the hospital and made sure he got there. I would have stood up against my supervisors who said, “We have a zero tolerance policy on whatever.” I would have done whatever needed to be done to help that man.
“Back then, I did not have the moral courage to do that.”
I have never been able to forgive myself for that. It is one of those things that is a defining moment in your career.
When I talk about figure out who you are as a human, it is moments like that that define you and so that had a massive significant impact on me and I have never forgotten how that felt and I have used that.
I have used that regret and I have used that knowledge of my lack of empathy. My lack of moral courage, particularly.
I have used that in everything I have done ever since, to make sure that I never subject another human being to the way that I must have made him feel that day.
Connect with Julie Clegg
Charlie Hoehn: What do you feel is the best way for our listeners to connect with you, follow you or just watch your show?
Julie Clegg: The show is only in the United Kingdom right now ,but you can watch it certain clips on YouTube and things like that. You have to go to All Four, which is a channel for website. The best way to reach me is probably on Twitter. A lot of people communicate with me on Twitter, and my name on there is Hunted Julie. So you can reach me there.
I am also on LinkedIn.
I respond to as many messages as I can.
I have a couple of websites actually. So I’ve got the main place where I talk about all of the different things I do is on my Juliecleggofficial.com website, and then I also have a website for my new brand which is World Class Investigators.
So you can reach me at worldclassinvestigator.com, and then I have my investigations business which is human-i.org.
So yeah you can reach me in any of those places. I am also on Instagram, I am all over the place. I am not difficult to find online.
Charlie Hoehn: Beautiful, wonderful and then the final question is give our listeners a challenge. What is one thing they can do from your book this week that will have a positive impact?
Julie Clegg: So the biggest piece of advice that I would give to people, and this is not just investigators but everybody, is reach out and connect with people in an authentic way.
One thing that I’ve really learned is that it is very easy to create a persona on social media that falls in line with an impression of yourself that you want other people to see. I think when you connect with people honestly, when you have gone through this process of knowing who you are and who you want to be, there is set level of pride in that.
“You actually know yourself.”
Wherever your moral compass falls, wherever your skill level falls, have pride in that and see value in that. More importantly, reach out to others connect with as many people as you can, and you’ll find other people like you or people that commend to you or people that can be part of your network or your community. That could help you in your path but just reach out. Just connect. You are going to get rejected sometimes. You are going to get knocked back, but you also are going to find some amazing people that think like you do.
So that would be my piece of advice. Just connect. Just reach out to people.