Solutions Snapshot

Sept. 3, 2009

How can I best position myself for career preservation?

Lance Wright, Senior Vice President, Human Resources & Administration, USEC Inc.

The key to career preservation is relatively straightforward, but hard to accomplish for some.

First, we should all realize that no leader looks forward to letting people go; however, in selecting someone who must leave, the organization’s leaders will invariably attempt to retain people who are viewed as the strongest contributors.

Most often, these are people who have consistently demonstrated three key personal attributes:

1. Business acumen — they understand and speak the business language of their company and show they can help make things happen;

2. Continuous learning — they demonstrate a willingness to seek out and gain new knowledge and get even better at what they do; and,

3. Flexibility — they embrace change as a fact of business life and have the courage to step out of their comfort zone to take on new challenges.

All of us have the opportunity to display these qualities each day, regardless of our job specialty. Those who do have the greatest chances of not only career preservation, but career enhancement.

J. David Quilter, Security Executive Council emeritus faculty and former CSO, NiSource

Unfortunately, many businesses continue to limit security’s role to handling “those security issues.” In these cases, business leaders tend to view the security leader and any security program as expendable.

So, how do you change it? To achieve business impact and enhance your security career, here are four suggestions:

1. Know business operations top to bottom — that means spending time with leaders who meet goals and generate profits;

2. Identify business leaders you trust and work with them on security practices that provide value to their bottom line;

3. Determine legacy security costs, issues and distractions that fail to contribute operational effectiveness and productivity, and re-direct these resources into smart, lean security practices that produce business results; and

4. Be innovative, pragmatic and dedicated to lifelong learning.

If you do the above, you will always find you are in demand; and being in demand is definitive job security.

Jerry Brennan, Security Executive Council content expert faculty and founder of SMR Group

If the company is considering or undergoing downsizing, trying to preserve your job now is like going out to buy a fire extinguisher after the fire has started. If a person has not laid the groundwork in positioning themselves and their program in a way that presents value to the company, across all functions, with a business eye — not necessarily a security eye — and has not invested the effort in developing the trust and confidence of senior management, it may be too late. 

There isn’t a quick road to career preservation. It takes a time to gain trust and credibility within an organization, whether at the corporate, division or site-level. A key criterion you will be judged on is your ability to operate and manage cross functionally.

When companies downsize, they generally add more responsibilities to the staff and management who are left. You need to be viewed as able to successfully manage other staff functions such as safety, facilities, aviation, shipping, procurement, HR or even operational areas. What value do you bring to the organization as a whole?

Bob Hayes, Managing Director, Security Executive Council

Now more than ever, security executives need to ensure that they know, understand and have an agreed-on program to reduce the risks of every executive and function in the company. The pace of corporate life can lead us to focus only on those to whom we report and those who most often request our assistance. The usual cast of “power users” of security services — HR, legal, compliance, audit, travel/aviation, R&D and the business units — often overshadow those with whom we are less familiar. This can lead to a narrow customer base within the organization.

Preliminary research on corporations where security is “baked into the culture” shows a wide breadth of services to the vast majority of organizations within the corporation. Several great security programs track the “low-volume customers” of security and set goals to make sure they are responding in a manner that adds value. The corporate controller, CIO, tax, real estate, business development, insurance, shareholder services, transportation, engineering and maintenance are often overlooked and under-developed as security customers. The broader the support of a function’s services, the less likely the organization will think they are “optional” when times get tough and resources are short.

Next Month’s Question: What are the characteristics of a good relationship between Corporate Security and Information Security?

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