careers advice

The secrets to furthering your career in security 

Editor, City Security magazine

November 27, 2018

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It’s a fact of life that progression in your chosen career path may not be dependent solely on your performance.

The unwritten and unspoken rules for climbing the career ladder are revealed in Empowering Yourself: The Organisational Game Revealed by Harvey J Coleman.  Essentially, Coleman’s premise is that the selection process for upward mobility involves three elements of unequal proportion: performance, image and exposure. Is a lack of understanding of these impeding your career progression in security?

Performance: get the right experience to perform well

According to Coleman’s research, your performance is the first consideration but only scores 10% in the grading process. Still, you must be great at what you to do to score as highly as possible.

To develop in your role and perform well, it is important to learn your trade and get the right experience.

David Ward, managing director of Ward Security, says: “I am fortunate in that I started my career in security as a security guard, and over the years I have found myself in every role imaginable, so I have a very thorough understanding of the entire process. This has helped me immensely as my growing experience informed every decision I made along the way and strengthened my position on every rung that I climbed up the ladder.

“Ultimately, this is a people business, and if you don’t get that you won’t progress.” David Ward, managing director, Ward Security

“Ultimately, this is a people business, and if you don’t get that you won’t progress. Security should be in the DNA and I’m not sure qualifications alone are good enough.

“Experience will always trump academic qualifications. So for people looking to progress their careers I recommend experience as a fundamental qualification.”

One way to get experience in the role you are qualified for, but have no experience in, is to volunteer. Or perhaps find a secondment or shadow someone doing the job you want.

Consider moving sideways to get the experience you need. You don’t have to change company, just put yourself forward to gain as much experience as you can.

Image: the importance of personal branding

The second key area, according to Coleman and his ideas about upward mobility, is Image and this represents 20% of the grading process.

So, it’s clearly important to consider how you come across, including your physical appearance, the appropriateness of the way you present yourself and your voice.

Amanda McCloskey, marketing director at CIS, says: “Good attitude and considered personal branding are essential to career progression in the Security Industry.

“The modern security experience requires approachable, helpful, conscientious and vigilant personnel.” Amanda McCloskey, marketing director, CIS

“Premium clients expect security professionals to have the confidence and positive attitude to deliver excellent customer service. They need to see evidence that those managing front-of-house services for staff and visitors present themselves and behave in a way that is aligned with the organisation’s brand principles as well as having the intelligence and discretion to manage their own personal brand appropriately. In a world where social media is so prolific, this requires personal consideration of your online footprint.

“The security sector is changing. The modern security experience requires approachable, helpful, conscientious and vigilant personnel.

The better the attitude to work, the better you will be able to deliver against these important criteria, and the faster you will progress up the ranks. There is nothing more reassuring than a welcoming smile and a pristine image. Positivity is just as contagious as negativity, but easier to sustain for a long period, and much more likely to result in promotion!”

Exposure: raising your profile

Exposure is the third and final element, representing a huge 70% of your potential score for career progression, according to Coleman’s research, so making it essential that those in a position to support your progress know who you are and what you do.

A key opportunity to raise your profile is networking at industry or related events. Networking gives you the chance to extend your contacts and ask their advice, and gain greater access to ideas, people, support, and opportunities. Industry events provide a chance to support peers and colleagues, share problems and keep up to date.

A head of operational security and risk says: “Developing and maintaining a network of peers and linked professionals is crucial. It’s no surprise to me that we all take advantage of existing networks and commonalities when transferring into the Corporate World. Groups of ex-police or ex-military seem to find each other and draw almost exclusively on that pool of talent. Creating your new network from scratch, or breaking into a totally different network, can be challenging but present far more significant opportunities.”

“Don’t think of it as networking; this makes the task feel more forbidding than it actually is.” Wendy King, Alix Partners

It may be the thought of networking with a group of strangers that troubles you. Wendy King, Alix Partners, understands: “A room full of people, most of whom you have never met, some you vaguely recognise and the odd one or two you may have professionally crossed paths with can leave you wondering how long you should really stay for.

“The trick is not to overthink it.  It is not about striking up dashing highbrow conversation or coming up with the smartest comment, but getting to know like-minded professionals with whom you can interact and share knowledge.

“Don’t think of it as networking; this makes the task feel more forbidding than it actually is. It is a drink with a colleague; a coffee with a fellow expert to talk about their experiences; chatting to a fellow delegate at a conference over lunch; or joining a group on LinkedIn. We do it every day with those around us without the networking title looming over us. Remove that and it feels a lot more comfortable.”

Professional organisations

The professional organisations in the security world provide excellent opportunities to network and develop. Most offer a selection of events to attend. If you are not already a member, it is well worth researching: The Security Institute, ASIS International and the BSIA.

Other local or specialist organisations also provide superb networking opportunities. The City of London Crime Prevention Association, for example, with over 300 members, provides an excellent forum to meet like-minded security professionals.

Social media

A route to consider to increase your exposure is the careful use of social media. It can be a great way to give and receive support from colleagues from all over the world. Of course, your use of social media must be tempered with your knowledge as a security professional of how your personal information can be misused.

Alan Corcoran, director at Palmer McCarthy,  a specialist recruiter to the security market, says: “If you choose to share content publicly on social media, make sure it’s working to your advantage. Remove anything that could be viewed by an employer as unprofessional and share content that highlights your accomplishments and qualifications in a positive way.

“You need to participate in group discussions, share expertise, point someone to an article.” Alan Corcoran, director, Palmer McCarthy

“Make sure any profiles are free of typos, the information is coherent and applicable to your industry and your photos present you in a favourable light. It may be useful to check the profiles of others in the same field.

“You shouldn’t just focus on removing inappropriate content, but work on building strong social networks and creating online profiles that do a really good job of representing your skills and experience in the workplace. Job seekers who are silent or invisible online will definitely be at a disadvantage.

“It’s not enough to only post a profile and check your news feed. You need to participate in group discussions, share expertise, point someone to an article.”

Focus on your career development

Coleman’s research shows us it’s not enough to be good at the job to get the promotions you want; you need to make the right impression and ensure the people that count know who you are and what you can do.

For more ideas and insight into career development in security, visit You can subscribe for a free quarterly copy here.

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