Security – a career of choice?
As one of the world’s fastest growing industries, why is security not yet a career of choice?
Let me start with a question. How many people reading this article chose security as a career, and how many ‘fell into it’?
I am going to hazard a guess that like myself, and the majority of people I speak with, security somehow found you. Therefore, it is quite by luck we all ended up here. Now imagine what our industry could look like if security became a career of choice.
For quite a while there has been a general consensus that we want and need career pathways within our sector: to motivate our existing workforce, attract new and diverse talent, and ideally move towards the creation of a profession. My optimistic self would hope that this could allow us to start dictating our value to clients rather than being in a constant race to the bottom.
So, a career of choice, where to start?
A career is defined as ‘an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress’. A career pathway, we can therefore surmise, is a series of jobs that you undertake to help you progress towards your ultimate career goal.
So, do we have career pathways in the security industry? That was a rhetorical question; of course we do. So why do we keep talking about careers and lack of career pathways?
Having spent a number of years talking with professionals across the world about their roles, I know for a fact that career pathways exist – both within individual organisations and across the industry as a whole.
I’ve spoken to many high performing professionals who have worked very hard to climb said ladder and now enjoy a view from the top.
But, there has been one running theme across the majority of those I have spoken with: they didn’t set out to build a career in security, they ‘fell into it’, and certainly had no aspirations as a teenager or young adult to work or move into the security industry long term.
What is security?
There are so many specialisms, fields and subject areas within the security sector it is a difficult task to define exactly what it is we do.
Security straddles almost every industry and with constant shifts in the economic, political and social environment, our world is constantly evolving and so, too, are the risks we face.
And as the digital age continues to define the modern way of living, it feels like cyber threats are coming in from every direction.
This constant shift means that as an industry, we are continually evolving with new companies, new roles and new responsibilities to protect our businesses and population from harm.
Furthermore, with so many different sized organisations working across such a vast array of sectors, with identical job titles in one organisation meaning something completely different in another, it isn’t difficult to see where the problem lies. Although, in reality, the diversity this industry has to offer should be the reason we are an attractive career option to consider.
In my experience, those working across corporate security roles tend to understand better than most, where they fit in in the bigger picture. But those on the frontline, entry level and certainly the general public have absolutely no idea about the roles that exist in this industry (apart from maybe Tesco security guard and ‘bouncer’), let alone careers.
Ultimately, it seems that no one outside the industry really has a clue what we have to offer, which does strike me as odd since we are surrounded by security everywhere we look, and it is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
When I’m older I want to be…
A doctor, lawyer, engineer? When deciding what career path we want to pursue we consider things such as our interests, earning capability (will I be able to afford that yacht in 20 years’ time?), responsibility levels and whether we think we would ‘fit’ into a particular industry.
First and foremost, an individual cannot choose a particular career if they don’t know it exists! We cannot aspire to be something we don’t even know about. We can’t carefully consider whether a particular career path is a good option for us if we don’t know what’s involved in terms of time and cost and how much we have the potential to earn at the end of it.
So the problem, it would seem, is not that we don’t have career pathways, it’s that no one knows about them. But who’s responsibility is it to tell them?
Another important factor when deciding what to do with oneself, and one that propelled me into the world of law for a period of time, is whether it is a respected profession. Do I feel proud to tell people what I do when I’m asked? As we progress through life, we realise that what people think of what we do is actually of little relevance, but we cannot ignore it is a significant factor for young people – especially if parents, teachers, friends have any influence on their decision making.
A profession is defined as a paid occupation that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.
Although we have a number of certified qualifications within the industry, there is no agreed upon, set requirement that one must achieve a particular minimum level of qualification to acquire a particular job position- apart from at entry level to get an SIA licence.
Certainly, organisations have their own standards and requirements when hiring, but as an industry, there is no agreed upon training/qualification structure. When I started looking at a course to do a few years back, I didn’t know where to start; even when I finished a Level 6 diploma in Security Management, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, and even worse, I didn’t know who to ask.
Organisations like the Security Institute, IFPO, ASIS & the BSIA are doing amazing work to push professional development, but do we perhaps have to take it one step further and formally link qualifications to levels?
A maze of opportunities
Many organisations and individuals – both professionals and academics – have attempted, and some succeeded, to map out pathways. Organisations have also individually created paths up, down and around their own company, but there is little consistency across the sector and certainly no agreed upon framework that we can use to start promoting the industry as a whole.
A First-Class Politics grad may have absolutely no interest in a career pathway from frontline SIA licence holder to Security Manager/Director, but they may well be interested in working as part of an intelligence team protecting business assets on the West Coast of Africa from piracy and terrorist attack. Chances are that during their careers advice session, security wasn’t high up on the ‘jobs you should consider’ list.
Teachers, career advisors, employability agencies and every other type of individual or organisation that influences the career choices people make, do not have a magic ball – they need to be informed of and have access to clearly defined career routes in order to be able to share that knowledge.
What we need is a set of clearly defined pathways, with required skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience attached to each role and level. This information must then be formulated into an easy to use, easy to search, easy to navigate tool. We live in the digital age – we basically need a Wikipedia for careers in the security industry. We need individuals to not only visualise the type of role they would be interested in pursuing, but easily establish how they can get there.
A tool like this could be utilised in classrooms, universities, job fairs – even internally within organisations to help HR teams hire in the correct skill sets and build development plans for their current teams.
In light of the current economic situation, high levels of unemployment and reports of skills shortages across both the physical and cyber industries, our sector has a unique opportunity to attract a whole new diverse pool of talent.
An opportunity that we should not miss out on
Frontline SIA operatives would no longer have to view their current role as just a job, but rather as the first step in their career, building valuable skills and experience required for their next step up. When people have something to aim for, their energy, motivation and desire to perform or even outperform significantly increase.
So it isn’t that we need to create career pathways, it’s that we need to clearly define them, present them in a user-friendly format and shout from the rooftops that as an industry we are open and have a myriad of career opportunities that require individuals from every profession, walk of life and background to help our industry succeed in becoming a career of choice, not chance.
Founder & CEO
Quick Click Security