Career development for young people in security: Youthful resilience
The security sector provides a range of career paths with plenty of opportunities to specialise. But navigating a career as a young person is tricky. What advice is available for young professionals?
These days, ‘young’ and ‘female’ are two attributes one would not expect to see in a typical security sector job holder. Over the past few years of working in the security sector, one pertinent thing has cried out to me: there is a noticeable absence of young people in the industry.
There are several explanations for this. The industry is popular amongst second or third career ex-service professionals, who tend to be older men for obvious reasons. Whilst there is a raft of Head of Security jobs advertised, there aren’t a huge number of entry positions or opportunities to join the sector directly, and a limited number of companies that provide security services. Lastly, there are limited feeds from education into the security industry, with only a handful of specialist degrees.
Yet the security industry can provide an incredibly diverse career path with plenty of opportunities to specialise in specific areas. My still relatively short career so far has taken me through politics, crisis management, intelligence and crisis response. It is vital to better promote the industry amongst budding young professionals trying to get their first step on the ladder. It can be disheartening to be young in this industry at times but things are changing and they have to change if the industry is to thrive. After all, it is a fast growing industry with the capacity to create many thousands of jobs.
Most youngsters don’t grow up wanting to join the security industry; it was different for me, I always wanted to work in hostage negotiation. After starting my career in politics, my first role in the industry was in counter-terrorism, monitoring the terrorism threat to the UK and analysing implications to business. There were no suitable junior roles advertised at the time, so I contacted the company’s CEO directly and was fortunate to spend nearly four years developing my professional skills in crisis management and business continuity. I achieved the Certificate of the Business Continuity Institute (CBCI) qualification to prove my credentials and was responsible for the company’s Business Continuity Policy, Plan and exercises.
I further broadened my role into crisis management and intelligence, working for the Mayor of London in the newly formed ‘London Situational Awareness Team’ – a 24/7 team responsible for the first response to any security event in London, most notably for me during the attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in London. But, like many young, female professionals in the industry, the proverbial glass-ceiling was fast approaching in intelligence and there were few opportunities to progress upwards. My real passion remained to join the hostage negotiation world and yet the same messages were relayed to me time and time again: that it wasn’t a job well suited to women or young people and that perhaps I should look at joining the police or military. Not wanting to do either, my next move was into consulting to carry out security risk assessments for corporates and advise them on their security and crisis management arrangements.
But with passion and persistence and constantly pushing boundaries, the opportunity to work in the world of hostage negotiation presented itself and I now work in Crisis Response at S-RM. Our team prevents and responds to kidnap, ransom and extortion incidents and wider crises, working with a team of experienced and dedicated crisis response consultants. Very few people in today’s workplace get to do the job they love, and I feel I’ve reached a place where I’ve wanted to be for over a decade.
Not everyone’s journey is as smooth, and navigating the security sector as a young person is tricky. If I could offer any advice to my younger self or to any other young professional in the industry today, it would be:
- Professional development is key – Without exams and professional qualifications, progress will not be easy. Additional training courses in your specific chosen areas are essential, will improve your credibility and keep you on the right path.
- Leverage your network – Networking can sound daunting; it doesn’t have to be, but it is essential. Send someone a speculative email as I did or ask for a one-on-one coffee meeting to learn about their role. Everyone I have met in the industry has been more than happy to help and share their wisdom. The bigger the network of informal contacts the better.
- Be picky about who you work for – You will need companies that provide upward development. There are so many companies out there looking for young people to simply fill junior roles. Make sure you choose to work for a company that shares your values, treats you well, cares about your professional development and allows you to expand in areas which interest you.
- Have confidence in yourself – Constantly upgrade yourself. Having the relevant training up your sleeve will help significantly, but if you love what you do, you’re probably doing a great job. Do not be disheartened by tasteless perceptions or comments from people around you.
- For young women in the security industry, have resilience! – It can sometimes be tough to be a (young) woman in the security industry. Have resilience and push through – the industry needs you, more than it knows at present.
Supporting other young professionals is important and it is time to help the industry develop and grow. I have recently been appointed to co-chair the Young Members Group of The Security Institute, which supports the Institute’s advocacy for the inclusion and celebration of young people in the sector.
Through events and professional development, we hope to provide under-35 -year-olds working in security with all the opportunities and support they need to succeed.
Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to hear more!
Camilla Scrimgeour ASyI