There are many routes to developing a career in security. In this article, security entrepreneur Houdah Al-Hakim shares the results of her research and her emerging ideas for a free security careers framework tool for everyone wanting to explore a career in security.
Last year I wrote about the importance of defining career opportunities in security if we wanted to change the perception of the industry. And so, over the last 18 months, with my team I have been researching, analysing and putting together the beginnings of a framework to showcase the multitude of roles and pathways that exist across the industry. And let me tell you, we truly do have something for everyone.
We started by reviewing and comparing other frameworks that had been developed across the world. The problem we found was they were either too simple to be of any use (Officer, Supervisor, Manager) or too complex/indigestible to be utilised by a lay person. However, we were able to use several of these frameworks as the backbone of our research.
Three main pathways
We have started by defining three main pathways: management, business strategy and specialist.
Of course, this is simplifying the industry, but we had to in order to achieve the vision – which was not only to provide an accurate professional development framework but to create a digestible resource that could be utilised as a marketing tool for the private security industry. We did not want to create a whitepaper or research report.
Some people enjoy the responsibility of management, whether that’s focussed on operations or people; some people are very analytical and enjoy working on vision, growth and strategy; and some people couldn’t think of anything worse than sitting in an office all day – but don’t want to be on minimum wage for the rest of their career. That’s where specialisms come in.
The problem is, externally these pathways aren’t promoted and internally people tend to be familiar with what their own organisation or sector offers and without even realising it, they are stuck in a silo.
Where should people start
There is quite clearly an array of entry level roles but many suggest there are glass ceilings in certain sectors, which makes people favour working in one sector over another due to nothing but the perception of opportunity.
What we realised was, actually, it doesn’t matter where an individual starts their career -– what’s important for retention is that individuals start in an environment that they enjoy and where they will excel.
By suggesting if you work in events you can only work your way up to an Operations Director or, if you work in Retail you should be aiming to become a Loss Prevention manager, you are neglecting to consider the transferable skill sets that are gained in each and every sector and that can be applied quite easily to a new environment. By suggesting there is limited progression in certain sectors we fail to motivate our workforce.
The key is understanding the skills you are developing and having the ability to communicate those skills when required – for example, when applying for a new job. The security industry is fluid and you can easily move across sectors (for example from events to retail or corporate) as well as across specialisms (from frontline, to systems, to intelligence) – the key is understanding the skills and/or qualifications you have and those which you need to develop or attain.
Easier said than done, but the more we can break down roles, levels, qualifications and skills in a space where they can all be easily understood, digested and compared, the easier it becomes to plan what’s next.
Although skills and behaviours utilised at entry level can be more varied across sectors than say from management level and beyond (where they tend to become more generalised), the reality is it is entirely possible to move horizontally. Working in any sector offers a very transferable skillset. Even specialists would be able to move into a strategic enterprise role by moving back into a more generalist management role and working their way up from there.
Knowledge is power and unfortunately, the vast majority of people don’t actually realise the scope of roles that exist or the scope of organisations and sectors that they could be considering.
As we continue discovery into individual roles, organisation types and progression routes, it has become clear that although there is a multitude of different job titles, similar progression structures do actually exist across the board. Of course, larger organisations have the ability to create more specialist roles where smaller organisations will have one individual performing several roles, but in general, believe it or not, there is unity in this industry.
And what that means is glass ceilings don’t exist, because as soon as you hit a point in your current organisation where you can’t go any further, you have a valuable skillset that can be easily transferred elsewhere.
A few tips to help develop your career
1. Understand the skills you have and learn how to communicate them both on your CV and in interview. If you are coming from a military or police background, commercialise the language you use.
2. When looking to progress from an entry level role, consider larger organisations that have more variety of roles.
3. Widen your network – whether this is through attending socials, joining professional membership bodies, joining Special Interest Groups (SIGs) or volunteering
4. Sell yourself for the actual role you are applying for – communicate the skills you have that are relevant to the level or type of role. Consider what the ideal applicant would look like – and emanate that.
Security Management Professional / Director
Quick Click Security
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