Finding a new role in security
After a police career of more than 30 years, I have moved into the private sector as Head of Operational Security and Risk.
On my way to securing this role I learnt a lot about myself and the industry I have chosen as my second career. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some of that experience.
So, what kind of job are you looking for?
Before you embark on this journey, and it really is a journey, it’s a useful exercise to think about the kind of job you really want. Organisational fit is so important; by organisational, I mean people.
What are your salary expectations?
I speak to a lot of colleagues who, like me, had a generally unrealistic expectation of the salary they could attract at entry level into the corporate world. You need to be true to yourself. It is about self-realisation. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and the right level of role for you.
60% of roles are not advertised
This means that if your strategy for finding that new role is purely reactive, i.e. in response to internet job boards, job alerts or vacancies posted on recruiter web sites, you are chasing only 40% of the jobs, along with many other potential candidates.
The internet has become a victim of its own success in that respect. I’m told the average internet advertised role receives in excess of 100 CVs. All you need is a CV and a Send button.
Be proactive: find out who makes the appointments or creates jobs, or who has real insight, and use social media sites like LinkedIn to make contact with them. My advice would be to never send your CV cold, without being asked. It’s just not good manners, could be interpreted as arrogant and demonstrates a lack of awareness generally. Focus instead on the small wins with these initial contacts. Of course a personal introduction through a friend can work well, but make sure everyone’s aware of the purpose of the meeting.
Understand and demonstrate the value you bring
You need to position yourself for success; this includes using the right language to describe yourself and your aspirations, whether in your CV or at interview. Be prepared to speak about yourself in many situations – interviews can take place over the phone, via Skype and only sometimes face to face.
Are you a strategist and a leader? Or are you a practitioner?
You need to be clear about the skills you have. Many corporate roles will just involve you and a small team: have you only managed process or can you show you have up-to-date relevant skills? If you don’t have a team of individuals around you, how will you cope?
Your technical knowledge and experience should give you an edge, but you need to demonstrate how you can transfer the skills you have and the value you bring into the corporate arena.
Position yourself as contributing to business development and where possible show how you can support income generation.
You must amend your CV for the different roles you apply for. Remember the job of your CV is to get you in front of people. Make sure you go through the job description carefully and match the terminology used with the skills you have.
Understanding your competition
The truth is that your previous experience may help or hinder you. Perhaps you have a military or police background, or perhaps you have had a lifelong career in security, or you might have worked in completely unrelated areas. Your previous role might mean you are just what a particular employer is looking for but it might not. Some recruiters might be positively hostile to your background. If background precludes you from this role, then move on to explore the next opportunity.
You need to network and understand the value of it. Consider joining and taking an active part in a professional association such as ASIS or The Security Institute. These offer excellent networking opportunities and clear insight into how the industry works.
The road to getting a job can be arduous and perseverance is key. You need to put everything into getting the type of role you want: it needs your total commitment.
It’s not necessarily a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket – keep a number of options open.
It may take a year or more to get the job you truly want. If you confine yourself to a deadline, you place yourself under more pressure, are likely to take a job that doesn’t suit you or under conditions that run contrary to your previous considerations.
And finally, a dear friend and senior Corporate Security Director once said to me, “Beware the job you apply for, just in case you get it.”