BE THE CHANGE
It is harder now than it has been at any point over the past 15 years for prospective operators looking to gain work in the security industry. And it's not just new entrants who should feel concerned as it becomes more difficult for seasoned veterans to stay employed on the circuit too.
Getting your CV on the right desk, at the right time, and read by the right person has always been something of a dark art or extreme fortune. The general consensus has been that it’s more about whom you know, rather than what you know. Some people would even say that who you know is even more important than how well you perform. That's open for debate, but change is afoot and now more than ever, there is a heightened and equal emphasis on what you know, whom you know, and how well you perform.
9/11: War Time Boom Begins
The events of September 11th, 2001 precipitated a global expansion of the security industry, the likes of which had not been seen, perhaps since the Second World War when private contractors spotted an opportunity to provide security to support the massive US industrial infrastructure. Catalysed by the terrorist incident 9/11, the UK and US have been called to action on several frontlines. As a result, they have been at the forefront of supplying security and manpower to meet the demands of war. This hunger and demand for competent and experienced personnel created a goldmine of opportunity. Past and currently serving members of the armed forces were well positioned to plug the gap with huge wages paid to lure servicemen away from their duty and into the private sector. Over the past decade and a half, there has been no shortage of candidates willing to make the transition to reap the perceived reward.
In that time the British contribution to the global security cause has increased to nearly half a million and accounts for personnel spanning all sectors of the industry.
As of January 2014, the Security Industry Association (SIA) lists 382,377 men and women as registered to work as licenced operators within the security industry. Less than five percent or 13,412 of those hold a Close Protection designation SIA badge. Though it’s expected that this number is only a small fraction of the total number of those working without a licence, providing protection overseas where regulation is not enforced.
The fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent, counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, have all contributed towards a large-scale exodus of experienced military personnel leaving behind their service to Queen and country to embark upon a new career path within private security sector.
During this war time period it has been possible to make a living in the industry with little more than claim to some form of military training. The introduction of regulation of the SIA in 2005 did little to promote higher standards within the industry. And in fact, only served to set a minimum bar for entry for anyone, especially non-military personnel who had no prior record of service or experience, but were inclined to gain from the opportunity by developing a bare minimum basic skill set. Many industry insiders argue that it was this that contributed towards a reduction in standards and calibre of personnel within the field.
Post-War Change & Uncertainty Takes Hold
Now in 2014, as the US and UK draw down their troops off the frontlines of war, we’re about to see a paradigm shift in the industry with recruiters and clients demanding more for their buck. Operators must now be highly skilled, multi-faceted, dedicated and committed disciples of the art of security. Essentially, the industry is going back to its roots. Almost a decade after the British Government introduced regulation, we’re starting to see the re-emergence of the three core fundamental components required for sustained employment within the industry, including:
- Qualified experience
- Comprehensive networking and exposure
- Continuous professional development (CPD)
Without these three crucial skills, an operator will not be able to continuously get new work. Having either relevant experience or boasting a significant network of associates had always been enough to guarantee you more work than your fair share of work assignments. But now, in an overly saturated and slowly retracting industry, these elements on their own, will no longer keep the revolving door of job assignments turning like they once did. By contrast, now is the time for all security professionals to be well rounded on all fronts in order to be the top candidate for any given vacancy.
A New Class & Calibre of Professional Operators
The time has come for continuous professional development and anyone who thinks that they can ignore it will get left behind. This is a competitive industry, which attracts adaptable people with a large capacity and passion for personal development. In a workplace, lending itself to ‘survival of the fittest’ only driven and self-motivated individuals will prosper, while other less enthused and energized abut professional growth will perish. The good news, if you have not already embarked upon this path, is to start now while you are still ahead of the curve.
The Era of Continual Professional Development
As any seasoned security professional worth their weight will tell you, CPD is not something, which gets accomplished and then consigned to the archives. It is a constant on-going commitment throughout your career. The long lasting rewards of being at the top of your field will go to only those who are truly committed and dedicated to being the best. The next part of this article will focus on how you can create a framework for a lifelong commitment to CPD and thus, a long and successful career in the security industry.
The first thing you must do is prioritise CPD, which will need you to elevate it in your mind set to view it as the single most important investment which comes annually from your salary. This means committing time, effort, energy, and resources to continual development before anything else in your career trajectory. This means it takes priority over your take home income, pension, retirement fund, or your next holiday. Remember, CPD is the key to staying continuously employed in a competitive industry and if you’re not working then you have no paycheck to take home, put away, or retire from!
Having surveyed many industry professional on the amount of money they budget annually for CPD, the results vary dramatically from 5 – 20%. Therefore, a reasonable range is in the neighbourhood of 10-12%. Personally, I consider 10% annually to be a reasonable amount for an individual to commit in order to maintain a healthy level of professional growth. Though, I acknowledge, that the first steps on the development ladder can often be the most expensive. So once you have established a solid foundation of accreditation in different areas then it often becomes cheaper to supplement and refresh your skillset from there.
C) COMMIT YOUR TIME
It may come as a surprise to many that one of the biggest obstacles to developmental longevity isn’t a lack of funds. It’s lack of time or a lack of commitment over time.
Parting with the course fee upfront only requires you to be decisive for a brief instant, whereas seeing a training program through to the end demands commitment, focus and dedication. So in order to be successful in your quest for professional development, be sure you can commit yourself fully to the process in order to gain the most value and return on your investment. Assess emotional and psychological commitment and then block out time in your schedule for embarking upon a course. Being honest with yourself in this manner will ensure effective planning and setting a positive intent to complete what you begin.
D) TAKE ACTION
With this framework you are then armed and ready to train and educate and prepare yourself for when those opportunities arise! Delaying action until the opportunity presents itself will mean that you miss out. I understand the reluctance to make a commitment in such a volatile industry, where investments of time and money are based on supposition, but this highlights the importance of making sure your analysis is as educated as possible so that you are well-positioned when the time arises.
A Well-Rounded Operator
So that said, how can be sure that your investment in CPD will reap you a positive return? How can you supplement your own knowledge base to make it less porous and make your decisions more informed? And how can youenhance your career development and improve your employment opportunities at the same time? Or to put it another way, how can you better position yourself as a well-rounded operator, a complete package?
A) GET INFORMED
Relatively speaking the industry is still burgeoning. Of course, private security has been around in one form or another for as long as there has been trade and a form of currency. However, in the last 15 years, it has developed significantly enough to warrant special attention from governments and regulatory bodies. But due to its relative nascent state, it's anticipated that the industry will continue to evolve at a relatively rapid rate. So, it would behove you to continue to research and stay abreast of the state of the industry. In this regard read and watch the news, keep up and contribute to the industry blogs and forums, get active on social media groups and forums, and subscribe to relevant industry publications to keep your information and knowledge in top shape. Keeping a keen interest in current affairs will give you insight into the expansion of global security provision. And by asking ‘what does the future hold,’ you will be more attuned to predicting potential hotspots and areas of conflict. Combining a knowledge of emerging markets and growing economies with an understanding of where natural resources are located around the world will help you pre-empt where there will be a need for your professional services.
There are many resources and articles available on the topic of networking so I won’t belabour the point here. Networking is a concept which people in this industry have become very familiar with over the past few years. But that’s not to say that it’s always being done correctly or effectively. And often times, the mere mention of the word “networking” brings up negative perceptions and reactions in people. So with that said, all I want to mention is what I consider to be the single most important thing you need to remember when participating in any form of networking. Before you open your mouth, start to type, or begin to engage ask yourself ‘is what I am going to contribute going to provide value?’ If you do this, and do it genuinely and honestly, I guarantee your networking experiences will be much more rewarding.
C) JOIN A PROFESSIONAL BODY
Membership in professional bodies helps you hone and refine your professional skills and gain a competitive edge. Professional associations and industry bodies are dedicated to providing members with resources that help them enrich their careers. Joining a professional body means that you have access to resources at your fingertips including publications, which deliver top headlines and reports on trends and state of play affecting the security industry. They can also provide a forum for advice and feedback because your membership allows you to engage on the same platform as experienced and influential leaders in the field. Often times, the professional association is a close network of like-minded individuals that help each other stay informed, engaged, and they can serve as a great networking or job search tool where vacancy are posted on announcement boards. By becoming a member of a professional body, you align yourself with the core values and credibility that the professional body carries as a standard-bearer of quality and excellence in the industry.
D) PERSONAL ADMINISTRATION
On both the personal and professional side of things, be proactive about your personal administration. As a well-rounded professional operator, you always want to have the cards in your financial house in order. You also want get licenced and fulfil the accreditation requirements. You might also consider registering yourself as a company in order to pre-empt the need to do so as a requirement of a potential job or engagement in the future. And as previously mentioned, administering your personal affairs include prioritising and planning for CPD courses, industry conferences, and events.
E) PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATION
Always present yourself in the best manner regardless of the medium. It goes without saying that your reputation is your biggest asset. And this needs to be at the forefront of your mind whenever and wherever you present yourself, including how you draft your CV, create your CPD portfolio, and engage in any online platforms such as Facebook groups or forums. It extends from what you write, for instance in a cover letter, to how you present yourself in images such as the type of profile photo that you choose to represent you. Additionally, you exude your level of professionalism with your mannerisms and behaviour in person during an interview and interactions while you are on the job.
F) PROFESSIONAL COURTESY
Along the same lines of presenting yourself as professionally packaged through CV and interactions, it is equally important to extend professional courtesies. Or put simply: help others. I’m sure most of you who are reading this didn’t get to where you are (regardless of where you are on the ladder) without a little help along the way. So give back and help others. The effects of this will be profound both in your professional career and personal reward. But the key is to do this without thought of getting anything back in return, other than the reward that which comes from the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped a peer along the way. And in doing so, you have contributed towards improving the industry as a whole.
Seize the Moment
It is inevitable- the time for change has come. You are at the cusp of a great opportunity to build, remake, or enhance skillset as a professional. A word of advice is to stay versatile. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; always have other alternatives and backup options and plans as a safety net. Take this moment as a perfect opportunity to train in different disciplines so that you are a complete package. Don’t wait until you’re unemployed to act.
The time is NOW! Seize the opportunity you have to get ahead of the pack. Build momentum, get engaged, and stay motivated. A career in the security sector is amongst the most rewarding and satisfying of any industry, but it won’t happen by accident.
Be the change you want to see.
An error was detected×