Leaving the badge behind for international corporate security
Transitioning to a job in the global security sphere can be challenging but rewarding.
Early on in my career, it did not matter what jurisdiction was hiring, how much the starting salary was or what shifts I worked — as long as I could pursue my childhood dream of “solving crimes” and “capturing bad guys,” I was content. My foresight at the time did not go beyond policing, as I’m sure many of you can relate to.
After 10 years working in various policing roles and across Canada and the U.S., as well as a military deployment to Kenya where I met several corporate security managers, I knew I wanted to further internationalize the next phase of my career, given the challenges and the progression opportunities available in corporate security abroad. As a multilingual Canadian, an international opportunity would be a great way of entering corporate security, given the “prestige” associated with being part of the Canadian law enforcement community. This awakening led me to research career opportunities with some of the largest security firms and multinationals in the world.
This transition was also a way of challenging myself to further develop as a professional. I imagined that my skillsets in investigations, domestic and international policing and police operations must be relevant outside the military and policing, but I was unsure how. I learned the first and most crucial step to successfully transitioning to corporate security was establishing my previous experience and myself as “employable.”
Transitional phase begins with research
As I started to look for opportunities outside of policing, my research was based on my qualifications from college and university, as well as having attended the Military Police Academy and the Canadian Police College. However, one of the hardest parts of the transition was writing down these qualifications and experiences in a “relatable civilian” language and onto a resume/CV. I had to learn how to “market” my qualifications or my experiences as assets relevant to corporate security.
The international job hunt
I started using various contacts, job sites, and LinkedIn to seek out opportunities across the world. I began to submerse myself in several forums, reading about politics and recent international security issues to better understand how my skillsets could apply to different industries. I also wanted to find out where the demand was the highest.
As part of this research — and after having found some job postings that matched my search terms — I realized what corporations and security firms were truly seeking. I began to associate my military and policing experiences to these job descriptions – I began to make sense of my experiences and qualifications in civilian terms. I had to reword some things and adapt to more civilian-friendly terminology to help hiring managers and human resources professionals understand my relevant experiences.
I saw now that my emergency response experience fell under a corporate security category of crisis management. Alternate command post in their terms meant disaster recovery site or premise in mine and audit/compliance meant a form of investigations. Recall roster meant emergency communication plan. This terminology began to consistently appear throughout the job opportunities I was seeking. And, now being able to do the industry translations, I was able to see I did indeed have the relevant experience. It was reassuring.
While I did not have any professional designations, it is an excellent idea to start the research now as to which branch of corporate security you want to pursue.
There are as many branches of corporate security, as there are roles within policing. Further, there are a number of professional associations that provide designations that can help get your foot in the door. It is imperative that you start the research now to secure these “certified professional” designations into your resume. This is an extremely important part of that transition to corporate security, as it shows that you are current and relevant in your qualifications and experiences.
While there are too many professional designations to list here, some of the topics most relevant and desired by many corporations are:
• business continuity
• security risk management
• investigations (including fraud examiner)
• physical security
This is also an excellent way to create or expand your professional network into the private sector, as these associations are familiar in dealing with retired military or policing professionals in the transitional phase.
Be prepared for the call back
Once I had found the relevant opportunities and applied, I knew I had to start preparing a plan of action for a callback. While most people say ‘the key is to get a foot in the door’ for an interview, for military and law enforcement professionals, I would say that is only partly true.
The truth is, as a policing or military professional, your main objective should be leaving the interview being “liked, remembered and relatable.” You must have an impact on your audience or interviewer that is professional. Do whatever you can to stay away from being perceived as egoistic, too confident or too be arrogant. I call this, “taming your officer presence.”
Civilians are sometimes unsure as to how to deal with retired military or policing professionals, so you have to help make them feel at ease. Help them understand you can fit into their corporate culture, that you are adaptable and can learn to work their way. After all, you might end up reporting to a manager with no military or policing background.
Do not overwhelm the interviewer
During the next phase, it is important to fully understand the role you are applying for. If it is related to investigations, for example, keep your examples simple. There is no need to speak on forensic sciences, case law and technicalities unless you are specifically asked for these types of examples. Keep it simple and relatable in a corporate culture sense.
Show your communication skills in common English and if you cannot explain it to an 8-year old, then you must rephrase so that it can be interpreted accordingly.
It is normal for recruiting processes to take between four weeks all the way up to a year depending on the make-up of the corporation and their current demand for a security manager. Expect to be interviewed on several occasions and through several means, including phone, Skype as well as face-to-face interviews.
Once you do receive the offer, you must review the financial package in its entirety. Consider medical insurance, travel expenses for travelling back home, schooling fees for your kids when abroad, phone allowances and other perks of working overseas before you accept the offer.
The offer must make sense to you personally, financially and professionally. It is always important to answer a few questions for yourself before accepting any offers:
• What is your main objective with this new role?
• What is your long-term plan?
• How will this offer take you to the next phase in corporate security?
Don’t not look back
At this stage, you should already be confident that leaving the badge and uniform behind is the right approach for you and your family. You must not look back. Proceed forward and give it all you have.
Expect a steep learning curve. Know that you will work long hours (without overtime), undertake distant travels and that you might not have a partner or backup in this new world. Seek out a professional coach who has a background similar to yours to help guide you. Network, build new relationships and nurture them.
Another great approach is to start immersing yourself in international politics and security issues from across the world. Learning about different social and economic problems from regions across the globe allows you to collect sufficient knowledge and relate them to current security risks. Never stop growing and honing your skillset. Be prepared to drive change, but drive it slow so that those around you can keep up. Read any and every policy, regulation and standard operating procedure you currently have access to because they are ever more relevant in the corporate setting.
The new beginning…
Once you are ready to make yourself employable, post a career in policing, ensure you start innovating — pursue post-secondary education, try to obtain professional designations and seek opportunities to diversify your experiences within your current police service.
Learn the current trends and threats relevant to cybersecurity, emerging security technologies, supply chain security, organized crime and other hot topics. Try to expand your knowledge base by learning about world events and international politics, economic problems, security issues corporations face and the impact of these issues on different industries.
Start planning now and good luck in all your post-policing career endeavours.
A.J. Taaeb is a former military police officer with the Canadian Armed Forces. He is currently working for a multinational corporation, managing the security operations in the Middle East and Africa.
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