Careers & Education

Your handwriting: All this pro needs to gauge who you are

BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Career & Education editor williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 19, 2012    

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FROM the examination of the slants, size, spacing, speed, and pressure of your handwriting, these professionals can give you insight into your personality — knowledge that can serve you both professionally and in your personal life. They're called graphologists.

Related to the work of these pros is that of the forensic document examiner — the specialist with the ability to deduce the authenticity of documents.

Career & Education talks this week to Beverley East, one of the few people who practise in both fields. A graphologist and forensic document examiner for more than two decades, she is president of her own firm called Strokes and Slants.

With offices in Kingston as well as London and Washington, Strokes and Slants provides a wide range of services — from handwriting analysis for a variety of purposes, to forensic document exmination, to training.

East is, in fact, currently training members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force — one of her many clients — for the new Forensic Document Examination Division.

Her work recently blew the murder case involving the alleged leader of the Stone Crusher gang wide open as she proved that a dead eyewitness' statement had been falsified.

Meanwhile, East has in the past provided her services locally to companies such as Red Stripe, Jamaica National, Jamaica Money Market Brokers, First Global Bank, and a slew of law firms.

In the UK, her clients have included private investigators, the London Taxi Finance company and Alpha Omega Associates Limited, Legal and Judicial Law Services Limited, and the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People.

In the United States, they have included the US Postal Service, Miller Brewing Company and several law firms.

Despite her success over the years, East is the first to admit that her journey has been long and characterised by hard work and dedication to perfecting her skills in both fields.

A graduate of Kingsway College in London where she studied languages — French, German and Italian — the graphologist also holds qualifications in marketing, public relations and advertising from the College of Distributive Trade. With a master's in graphology from the International Graphoanalysis Institute in Chicago, East is certified in questioned document examination (QDE) through the National Bureau for Questioned Document Examiners and lectures through the Forensic Document Examiners Inc.

She is also a member of the National Association of Document Examiners and the best-selling author of Finding Mr Write: A New Slant on Selecting the Perfect Mate and Reaper of Souls, a novel based on the 1957 Kendal train crash in Jamaica.

Who is a graphologist and/or forensic document examiner?

A graphologist is a person who analyses handwriting, identifying personality traits through an individual's handwriting. A forensic document examiner is a person who examines documents that are under question. These documents could be altered, typed, forged with a signature or disguised handwriting. Most common documents [include] wills and testament, cheques, insurance documents, medical records, time sheets, ransom notes, and other anonymous letters, etc. Graphology is stroke analysis [while] document examination is stroke comparison.

What is the value of the work that you do?

As a graphologist, my work assists many [to] understand more about themselves and persons they work with. Graphology is used often as a tool for the [employee] selection process, profiling with the police and psychological testing. The work I do as a document examiner assists those in fighting fraud and crime; assisting banks with training tellers, and police [and] individuals who may have been victims of identity theft or fraud within their own family or personal relationships.

What was it that prompted your entry into the field?

I was in working in London in human resources as a head hunter for a recruitment agency and they had a graphologist on staff to assist with personnel selection. I was chosen for my job based on my handwriting. When I found out, I wanted to see my report. I was astonished [at] how much of my personality was revealed and accurate — the good, the bad and the ugly. I wanted to know who did the report. I asked so many questions, the consultant suggested I study it. I originally began studying graphology to do my own job better, but the more I studied, the more I was fascinated and drawn to the subject and realised this was what I wanted to do full time. While studying my master's in graphology, certain aspects of forged signatures were revealed to me. After completion of my master's, I continued to study more on QDE (questioned document examination) by joining the National Bureau of Document Examiners and studied and apprenticed with the world-renowned Felix Klein. I am now a member of the National Association for Document Examiners.

What are the academic requirements for getting into the field?

You should have a first degree in a subject that is related, [whether] psychology, any area in criminology or social behaviour. However, you are accepted with degrees outside of these areas. [Of note is that] for most people in this field, it is a second career.

What other skills and/or competencies are required for entry into the field?

You really have to be patient, with a good eye for detail. The initial studying is tedious; the learning of both graphology and QDE is tedious because a lot of measuring has to be done at the beginning to arrive at the foundation for accuracy, your background has to be spotless, [and] a clean record as most of your past will come and haunt you as a QDE if you end up in the courtroom. No criminal record, not even a ticket for speeding, drugs or drunk-driving. The judge won't accept you as an expert if the opposition side finds something from your past. Just because you are qualified doesn't automatically mean you are qualified to testify in court. Each judge examines your capabilities different. I suggest to new recruits, hold back on going to court until you have a few years under your belt. I waited nine years before I testified. I did not want to be kicked out of court and then have it on record because I was inexperienced. Most Graphologists do not like this aspect of QDE and stay in the safe zone of Graphology.

What do you most enjoy about the work that you do?

Every case is different, intriguing. No two people write the same so every case is handled with a clean slate. I get to meet and work with a lot of interesting people. I find my work fascinating. I love training bank tellers and others interested in becoming examiners. I love examining documents. I love profiling people — an occupational hazard. I [also] enjoy giving presentations on handwriting analysis; it's fascinating and I usually have everyone on the edge of their seats.

What are the challenges you face on the job?

The challenges I face are: it is a closed network, an 'old boys club' (middle-aged white males — usually ex FBI agents); they really don't want you in. There are less than 1,000 qualified and practising questioned document examiners and qualified graphologists. Most of them live in the US and most of them work for the FBI or Scotland Yard. Being a woman — a black Caribbean woman — has been an upward climb, but I have not allowed it to deter me. My marketing background aided me to brand myself and my company. In both areas as a graphologist and document examiner, no one seems to really take you seriously. They think it's some kind of fortune-telling method that takes five minutes to do. When you establish fees, people are reluctant to pay. With several investigative TV shows, such as CSI, document examination has received a little more credibility. But it takes years to become a success. Those choosing this type of career need to be prepared to be in the trenches and slog a little. Unfortunately, everyone wants instant success.

Trained as a graphologist, with expertise as a forensic documentary examiner, what sort of employment options are open to you?

You have to create you own niche if you are self-employed. That is the hardest part of being self-employed. There are very few jobs available unless you [get into] law enforcement.

Why would you advise anyone to get into this line of work?

As a document examiner, it is challenging and rewarding work once you are established. Unfortunately, crime doesn't seem to go away so there is always plenty to do.

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