Entry into the puzzle-solving enterprise

An Australian is on the verge of becoming a true Charlie’s Angel after the COVID-19 pandemic turned her career in the beauty industry upside down.

Grace, who didn’t want to reveal her last name due to the nature of her work, was forced to find a new passion when constant lockdowns and severe restrictions brought her beauty therapy business to a halt.

Having extra time on her hands, her talent for problem solving, her willingness to help others, and her determination to try something new inspired Grace to pursue a career as a private investigator (PI).

Although she’s always been fascinated by mysteries, Grace told news.com.au that it was the case of missing 18-year-old backpacker Theo Hayez that drew her to the PI world.

“Theo went missing at Byron and it was a really fascinating case with a lot of mysteries. Just being able to do some research as a local sparked interest,” she said.

The young Belgian tourist, who was on holiday in Australia for six months, disappeared after one night on May 31, 2019.

Australian Grace is learning the art of private investigation from the comfort of her own home and was inspired by Theo Hayez’s missing person case.via news.com.au

Reports suggest an allegedly drunk Theo was thrown out of the Cheeky Monkeys bar before CCTV footage caught him walking alone before disappearing from the picture, never to be seen again.

Months later, mobile data recovered from Theo’s phone showed the tourist following a disorderly route before falling off the grid.

Theo’s body has never been found and although police believe he drowned, his family hopes he is still alive.

A desire to provide answers to loved ones of missing people fuels Grace’s passion for her new venture.

“It’s about taking care of people and giving them something they need but don’t have yet, which is often a degree or whatever you can provide,” she said.

Gregory Lamey is Founder and CEO of the Professional Investigators College of Australasia and also works as a Employment Investigator.Gregory Lamey is Founder and CEO of the Professional Investigators College of Australasia and also works as a Employment Investigator.via news.com.au

Grace is currently enrolled in a Certificate III in Investigative Services at the Professional Investigators College of Australasia (PICA). When she graduates, she can apply for a full PI license.

Gregory Lamey is a workplace investigator and the founder and CEO of PICA. He said there are more than 350 students nationwide enrolled in the Cert III course, which includes 16 study units.

Lamey told news.com.au there is more to being a private investigator than what is portrayed in films or the media.

“The traditional view of an investigator is just someone chasing cheating partners or trying to convict shady workcover applicants or maybe driving a red Ferrari like Magnum,” Lamey said.

“This is still the case, they are called surveillance investigators, but a modern investigator has a wide range of responsibilities across many different industries. For example, investigators work in government, in private companies, and privately for clients.”

Grace is now pursuing a career in private investigation after COVID-19 restrictions hit her beauty business.Grace is now pursuing a career in private investigation after COVID-19 restrictions hit her beauty business.via news.com.au

Once a student has completed the course and received a full PI license, there are a number of research avenues they can pursue and additional courses a student can take to help them get started in the desired field.

“There is a wide range of specialized investigative roles such as cybercrime, open source intelligence (OSINT), HR investigations, anti-money laundering, fraud, bullying and harassment, as well as a number of specialty areas,” said Lamey.

Grace has her eye on skip tracing, which involves looking for someone who disappears on purpose.

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“The ‘skip’ part refers to someone who disappears or ‘skips’ the city on purpose. The ‘trace’ part is about tracking or tracking someone’s location,” Grace said.

“This could include locating a long-lost family member or friend, serving documents for debt collection or child support matters. It’s interesting to me because it involves the same investigative principles as missing persons.”

Grace had the opportunity to work with a PI firm while in college and says it’s a path she’s considering once she’s qualified.

In the meantime, she plans to complete her studies in the next few weeks and is looking forward to immersing herself in the industry.

“Hopefully I can make it and apply for a license that lasts six weeks.”

Lamey said those thinking of becoming PIs need to be curious, detailed and knowledgeable when it comes to their work.

“Women, in particular, make great investigators because they are generally detailed, task-oriented, highly organized, and have excellent written and verbal communication skills,” he said.

Lamey says those who are curious and pay attention to detail can make great PIs.Lamey says those who are curious and pay attention to detail can make great PIs.via news.com.au

“It’s also an option for someone looking for a part-time job. It can certainly be a very interesting career, full-time or part-time.”

Depending on experience, type of work, and who you work for, PIs make an average of $69,440 per year. Meanwhile, self-employed investigators can make up to $173,600.

For those interested in a career in private investigation, Lamey recommends taking the course alongside their day job, but also gaining industry experience by becoming a subcontractor for some of the country’s largest firms.

“Start with a few jobs and see if it’s something that fits your lifestyle. The pay rates for entry-level PIs are pretty low, $17.36-$41.66 an hour, so you’ve got a throwback. Once you become known in the industry and prove yourself, you become a very marketable and sought-after investigator,” he said.

Lamey also recommends joining professional organizations such as the Australian Institute of Professional Investigators (AIPI) and sectoral organizations such as the Australian Association of Workplace Investigators for workplace and human resources professionals.

“The modern private investigator is no longer the trenchcoat-wearing, cigar-smoking ex-cop. In fact, those who want to become private investigators do not need to have any law enforcement training or experience at all.”

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