CareerLink: Career longevity for security directors

July 9, 2012
Security executives need to look at broadening their roles across the organization

It’s no secret that the global recession has impacted hiring in all fields. The downward trend in security hiring has continued for nearly a decade with only a few temporary periods of relief. Security Management Resources has closely monitored this trend and has noted a number of unique challenges for anyone choosing a career in corporate security within the U.S. market.

There is a three-pronged situation that has slowed hiring in the United States. The recession is the most visible and obvious first factor. Because corporate security programs are frequently built as non-revenue-enhancing service functions, they fall within the category of business units that are generally hit first when budgets and staffs are reduced or frozen. The second prong in the slowdown is retirements. When the economic crisis began in November 2008 and continued throughout 2009, we saw that security professionals who had been contemplating retirement decided to hold off. They looked at their retirement accounts and stock options and realized it wasn’t a good financial decision at the time. The third factor was that the normal volume of individuals who, for their own career advancement, would have sought out advancement through moves to other companies, decided instead to stay put because of market uncertainty. As a result, openings from newly created roles, turnover and internal promotions didn’t become available.

In addition, we are observing more companies placing their senior regional security roles outside the United States, increasing the general downward trend. In the past it was common to see the regional head of the Western Hemisphere, Asia Pacific or the Middle East/Africa based at the corporate headquarters. Now more companies are placing regional and/or country positions in those regions and asking us to hire local talent for these positions, rather than expatriates. We’re also seeing a clear trend for increased salaries in those roles locally. Companies appear to be recognizing that the expatriate position triples cost. If they do hire an expatriate for one of these roles, they’re often doing so with the intent of succession planning and transitioning the position to a local individual.

Faced with such a daunting job market, U.S. security leaders may want to begin looking at their careers and their roles in a broader context. Successful executives need to become cross-functional and diverse. For career advancement, they may want to look at security-related risk or loss-related risk holistically across the organization to gain business support. Business executives continue to want solid executive skills and business management skills from their organizational leaders, as well as a solid understanding of how the organization works. Security executives should become involved in a wide range of initiatives across the organization that may not seem to have a direct impact on security. This will provide an opportunity for others to observe your skills as a business executive and develop working relationships while working on organization improvement and/or revenue enhancement projects. I have told many clients and candidates alike that one of the measures of success for a security executive is to be asked their opinion on business issues that are outside the scope of the function they lead.

I believe that career longevity and future success will come first to those who begin to view their careers within a company or industry they are passionate about, rather than vertically within a security function alone. This may well open doors to advancement and promotion either within the function or even into senior management roles outside of security. It also increases your marketability in the job market and affords you many more options.

About 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.