I hear a lot of different names for the security industry in Alberta. Security Guard, Security Officer, Security Agent, Security Professional, etc.
To be honest, a lot of employers use these different terms within their job postings and company documents, yet very rarely an actual difference between each other.
In this article, I will be focusing on the difference between Security guards and Security Professionals. Terms like Officer, and Agent have no actual distinction and are often empty titles.
Security Guard is often the position that everyone starts. These are the entry-level positions requiring minimum requirements of being of legal age, and a basic security license. The principal role of this level is to help organizations with staffing needs, maintain foundational patrolling and respond to calls.
The challenge with this role is that it is a very easy job to get, and difficult to grow within. The largest reason it is difficult to grow is a lack of mentoring and knowledgeable leadership.
I don't want to speak poorly of the leadership of these teams and organizations, only that if the person above you can only teach you what they know. If they have limited exposure, then as a result and only share a limited amount of knowledge.
The Security Guard Mindset
Often the common security guard's mindset is that there is a limited amount of income potential and promotional opportunities. Any training should be provided employer at the cost of the employer.
This is not a negative, some people are very happy and very effective in this role and it is critical to have quality and dependable people working at this front-line level.
The Security Professional
In contrast, a professional is someone who invests time, money and experience into their career of choice. Security professional spends their own time and money on developing their skills and seeking out opportunities for their next security career step.
This is not about collecting certifications, all too often I see Security Guards take courses like the Certified Protection Officer to get the certification, then expect the employer to pay them more. All to be disappointed when there is no raise. As a result, the Security Guard tells everyone the course is not worth it, as there is no money at the end of the rainbow.
A Security Professional takes the same course and instead of asking for a raise, they ask for more responsibility to grow in the experience of the areas they just learned. As a result, when a promotion opportunity arises, the training, experience and initiative are what the employer sees and as a result, the income and opportunities improve.
What's the difference?
The difference between Security Guard and Security Professional is attitude. How you act, think and prepare for the job and your future. Length of time is not a qualification, experience within that time is. Can you specifically identify your different experiences in your past work history and find a way to communicate this clearly and efficiently to your employer/ future employer?
If this is a difficult task to achieve, then maybe an area worth considering developing is communication.
How do I switch from Security Guard to Security Professional?
Try not to get focused on collecting as many certifications as you can. Companies don't care about the volume of training, they are interested in the specific problems you can solve. Be specific with your training, and show you are moving towards something.
There are two ways to identify your next steps.
Look at the next security position you want on a job posting and look at the experience and qualifications part. Use this as a goals list. Try and identify how can you get more of this specific experience? or specific education. If you are currently working as security, talk with your leadership team about your goals and ask about opportunities to gain specific experience. This could be as a team lead, scheduling, helping write post orders or policies or even helping with site risk assessments. Don't expect to get paid extra when you ask, offer to do this for the experience itself. Even if this company does not recognize your efforts in the future, you can always take the experience with you.
Self-analyze and be honestly critical in your awareness of your skills. Do you have a lot of great ideas? yet, when you share your ideas, no one uses them or acknowledges them. This might require more business communication training. Do you feel uncomfortable with conflict, then crisis intervention and conflict resolution might be worth investing in. Have a look at the areas you feel are not effective for your goals or comforts and start building a plan towards it.
I can't afford this on my current wage
I hear this all the time, this is more of an excuse than a truth. As mentioned above, the first step is to switch your attitude into being a person who looks for solutions and does not make excuses to put in the effort.
You can always start at the library and read up on skills. Don't focus on security skills, focus on professional development skills.
You can also save 5% of each paycheck into a separate bank account to withdraw and put it inside an envelope at home. If you work full time and make $15/hr after taxes, that is about $45 per paycheck. That means you can save $500 in about 6 months, this money can go towards a training program, and as a result, you can ask your employer for more responsibilities. Shortly after that, you get a small pay increase and your 5% is worth more, getting you ready for your next step.
In conclusion, if you want to see a change in your employment for the better, all the control and opportunity is in your hands. I completely get how overwhelming this might feel.
If you feel you got this, congratulations, please don't just begin your journey, send me an email and let me know your goals and what you going to work towards. I love hearing people take charge of their lives and grow toward their goals. I read emails every week about how people get promoted 2 or 3 times within a year or can buy their own homes.
If you have trouble getting started, feel free to reach out as we offer a free 30-minute zoom session to help you get started. Sometimes having a conversation with an actual person is all it takes to get the first step.
Good luck on your journey and keep being professional.