Where to next? The Importance of Professional Development
As a security practitioner, how many times have you asked yourself, “what now?” in terms of the next step in your career? Perhaps it is time you think instead about who really holds responsibility for your growth and development as a security professional.
What does the market tell us about your future? Two things:
- Security has never before been so high on the agenda for the executive committees around the world.
- There have never been so many interesting roles available in the risk and security space for candidates to consider or aspire to.
Each of our SMR locations has seen an increase in first-time senior security hires within organisations that may not have had such roles previously. Multi-national corporations are additionally hiring security management for regional locations. This is perhaps due to increased global threats (actual or perceived) on the part of companies and their customers, or the company’s economic growth.
Individuals who are able to effectively market themselves will flourish and win the race to take on the most interesting challenges. Those who fail to take responsibility whilst doing the same thing they have always done will professionally calcify.
What constitutes professional development in a sector that historically has always operated to a lean, particularly flat model?
The struggle of professional development
Let’s look at common scenarios faced by many candidates. First, consider the professional who is seeking to advance from a regional security role and facing the realisation that the organisation’s head of security isn’t going anywhere for the next five years. Second, another common issue: the professional who is managing security at a prestigious single site, but is unable to move into a regional role because they don’t have expanded professional skills or regional experience.
How do you improve these situations? Does the answer to professional development lie in education, diversification, convergence or just patience?
Education clearly pays a significant part in professional development. We do see the demand for a degree beginning to appear more regularly in the job specifications we receive. Perhaps five years ago, there was no to little demand from our UK clients for further education, but the bullet point now resides in the “preferable” section of every job description we see. For many US companies looking to hire in Europe, this is often a non-negotiable. So, we are seeing different regions pull closer together in their academic expectations, a marked change as geographic nuances become less pronounced.
When asked about this, companies respond that candidates who have ambitions to progress within their structure will need a degree to do so. Fundamentally, companies want to see that you are taking responsibility for your own development and perhaps a degree is the easiest metric for that.
Whilst security-focused qualifications clearly offer immediate and significant value, consider what a broader business degree could offer. Learning the language of business is non-negotiable if you wish to progress within the profession because aligning yourself with the business leadership is imperative.
Also, consider whether there are learning opportunities within your business. Perhaps voluntary roles exist that will give you an audience and access to the executive committees, over and above what you have access to in your core role.
Move in professional circles
How else can you educate yourself and set yourself apart from everyone else? Consider moving in different professional circles, taking networking seriously and contributing to the wider sector.
Examine which groups exist in your niche and involve yourself in them. Show yourself to be a leader amongst your peers and your subsequent standing within your own business and future employers will grow immeasurably. Networking is fantastic, if you don’t view it simply as an opportunity to tirelessly self-promote.
Be a life-long learner in every respect. Embrace change, diversification and business acumen.
We know that routes to risk and loss within a company change apace. Perhaps learn how to conduct a due diligence investigation or look to align yourself with the compliance investigative teams.
Investigations around internal misconduct are front page news, as international brand after international brand falls short when it comes to knowing what its own employees are doing and how they are doing it. As a regional security leader, you will be able to establish patterns, understand people on the ground and advise on potential issues.
Security is high on the agenda for executive committees globally. Security management professionals who can effectively market themselves will flourish and win the race to take on the most interesting challenges. You can be one of those people if you take an active role in your own professional development.
Whether you pursue formal education, volunteer opportunities, leverage the opportunities presented by convergence, or combine these and other efforts, it is up to you to ensure that you have the skills for key roles of the future.
James A. Butler
Managing Director, EMEA & Asia Pacific Security Management Resources®
SMR Group of Companies