CareerLink: A simple exercise to advance your career

In my last several columns I've focused on some steps to successful career management, specifically understanding your skills, values and interests, and being realistic about yourself as a candidate. There's a simple exercise we recommend to many job seekers that can help accomplish these steps. It will also serve as a valuable tool during multiple phases of your career management, such as building a career strategy, choosing which positions to apply for, developing a resume and preparing for an interview.

The exercise is this: Sit back and think about your career. Make a list of your key accomplishments. Organize them into relevant major category topics such as leadership, management, organizational and technical. Then subcategorize them using more specific areas of your experience and expertise. We've put together a general list of programmatic areas that support an organization's security risk management program efforts. If you look at any job description or posting, the specifics will, to varying degrees, fall under one of these areas we list below. We used more than 50,000 postings, representing a cross section of industries at all levels within security risk functions.

Key security job functions

  1. Identification and Analysis of Loss Risks
  2. Intelligence, Threat Analysis & Due Diligence
  3. Information Safeguards & Integrity Assurance
  4. Awareness Programs & Education
  5. Investigations (Post Event, i.e. misconduct, ethics, criminal etc.)
  6. Audits, Reviews & Assessments of Controls, Processes and Programs
  7. Data Collection & Reporting of Incidents and Events
  8. Business Continuity & Crisis Management
  9. Employee & Executive Protection
  10. Environmental, Health & Safety
  11. Physical Protection Programs
  12. Liaison & External Relations with Government Entities
  13. External Relationships, Vendors, Alliance Partners, Suppliers
  14. Information & Communication Systems Security
  15. Brand Protection & Anti-Counterfeiting Programs
  16. Business & Competitive Intelligence
  17. Classified Government Program Requirements

Listing your leadership, management, technical and operational accomplishments in these areas can help you in a number of ways.

Building your career strategy: You can look at this list and see where the gaps in your current experience are, even before you go out into the job market. Think about whether those gaps exist by design – you don't really want to build your skills in that area – or by omission. If you're missing skills and evidence of skills that are crucial to your career goal, or your dream position, now is the time to start looking for training and opportunities to enhance that skill.

Choosing prospective jobs: This gets back to my earlier point about being realistic. When you're on the hunt for a new position, take a look at your accomplishments and respond only to job postings that highlight the areas in which you have measurable experience. Whatever the books may say, in today's environment with its ease of electronic application and resume submittal, it's a very poor strategy to put your resume out there for every job under the sun. Be selective and target realistic positions.

Resume building: It's easy to see how categorizing your accomplishments lends itself to better resumes. Think of every accomplishment as a potential resume bullet, and then pare down your list, ensuring you include relevant examples that are appropriate for the role. The resume is a marketing document. If you have 20 seconds of the reader's time, you want to have that reader walk away with a specific impression of you as a candidate. But be careful to match the resume to the position. If it lists a lot of accomplishments that are not specifically relevant to the role, it won't help your case. Also, keep your resume to two pages. You do not need a history of every job you have held for each employer filled with bullet points. Visual appeal and ease of reading are important.

Interview preparation: Making your list will refresh your memory of the things you've done, which is very good when you start interviewing. Most of us have careers that have spanned several years, and when an interviewer asks you to talk about your greatest accomplishments, it's hard to reach back and pull out all the relevant details on the spot. That makes this a good preparatory exercise.

It's amazing how much a little exercise like this can do to enhance your chances of finding and landing the job you desire. Give it a try.

Jerry BrennanAbout the author: Jerry Brennan is co-author of the book Security Careers, and content expert faculty for the Security Executive Council. He is also founder of Security Management Resources, the leading global executive search firm specializing exclusively in corporate security. The new edition of Security Careers includes more than 70 security job descriptions and career paths; up-to-date compensation trends for each position; tips on how to get the best compensation for yourself and your staff; comprehensive lists of certifications, member organizations and job resources; and resume tips and samples.