Your career, your choice
By Canadian SecurityFeatures Opinion
I provide instructional services online and in-class that fall into two broad categories. The first is for students whom I would categorize as career self-directed. These students recognize the need to develop their skills. They determine the appropriate courses, pay for them, often from their own pocket, and sign up. These courses are usually part of a certificate or professional designation. Students are required to put in a fair amount of work, and, as you can imagine, these courses are for students who are serious about their careers.
The other instruction method I use is for those whose careers are directed by others. These students tend to be security officers and supervisors who, in most cases, are signed up for the course by their employer. Courses tend to be short, from a week to less than a day. Due to course makeup and our short time together, most assignments are completed in class.
The biggest difference between self-directed students and other-directed students seems to be their attitudes towards their career. Students whose careers are directed by others often discuss in class their salaries, limited career opportunities, lack of benefits, etc. Initially, I was somewhat sympathetic, but lately I find myself much less so.
In my previous job, managing security personnel, I got tired of the constant complaints about the perceived low salaries, poor benefits and lack of job mobility and opportunity.
When I challenged staff about what they were doing to enhance their job skills, I heard about their lack of time and lack of affordability (even when the employers pay for the courses). I heard that they were not being paid to sit in class, that it interfered with their days off, that they worked shift work, that it was hard to do, etc.
Fundamentally, each of us is responsible for our own career and should not, must not, rely on others. Front-line security personnel need to wake up to the fact that they must take action if they wish to improve their lot in life. They need to migrate from the “other-directed” to the “self-directed” career planning process. They need to be more like the students described in the introduction. They need to take control and get an education on their terms. In other words, they must make their own luck. I find it greatly disappointing when I see employers offer annual educational reimbursement and employees do not take advantage of these opportunities. I could never understand this, and it’s one of the reasons I have so little sympathy for security personnel who complain but never act. They seem to be waiting for others to give them opportunities, instead of creating their own.
Creating your own opportunities is related to locus of control, a key leadership trait. On a continuum from internal to external, this is the belief in control over one’s destiny. Generally speaking, those with high external locus of control believe they have no control over their lives and that others control their fate. Those with a high level of internal control strongly believe they control their own lives, are goal orientated, and fundamentally take responsibility for their own actions.
Self-directed security professionals have a high internal locus of control, while other-directed security practitioners sit around waiting for others to make decisions, or not, about their careers. I know the following statement seems paradoxical, but I will make it anyway: this second group needs to be encouraged to take control of their careers. The question is, can they?
Glen Kitteringham, M.Sc., CPP, F.SyI. is president of Kitteringham Security Group.
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