Without fail, I receive emails every week from people all over the world looking for work. Some emails don’t have any message, just an attachment with their CV, others a brief note saying, “Please find attached my CV, contact me if I can be of assistance.” Most are not addressed to anyone in particular, just Dear Sir. Some have not been blind-copied, so therefore I can see that they have sent the same email to hundreds of others.
Often I ask myself in despair… Do people who are applying for work really think they will get a job like this? Sadly though, the answer is yes; many do! But believe me, this is most definitely not a good way of finding work, and I can guarantee that 99% of all these emails are never even looked at, let alone have their CVs opened and read. Yet time and again people continue to send these kinds of emails out to contractors and employees expecting a reply, and despondent when they don’t get one.
If I had a pound for every time someone has said to me that there is no work in the close protection industry, I would be retired in a quiet little cottage overlooking the sea. Sadly I am not. So listen carefully… There is work worldwide within the close protection industry; in London alone, at any one time, there are probably hundreds of CPOs working full-time and, over the course of a year, probably thousands on temporary contracts for concerts, private parties, special events, short-term assignments, visits, meetings, conferences etc.
Globally there are more countries with the highest threat level (Cat. 5) than ever before. According to Hot Spots, Category 5 Threat Level means: Locations can be affected by rampant violent crime, volatile situations of civil unrest, frequent terrorist extremist attacks and/or open military conflict.
There are many more countries with the second highest threat level (Cat. 4) too. According to Hot Spots, Category 4 Threat Level means: Incidents such as armed robbery, car-jacking, civil unrest, terrorism and/or extremist activity can occur frequently, and there is a greater risk that security issues could physically impact individuals and organizations. That’s pretty much most of the world! In almost all these countries, almost every single foreign company or organisation employs security and security consultants.
Also, countries like Bahrain, for example, are classed in the third highest threat level (Cat. 3). According to Hot Spots, Category 3 Threat Level means: Incidents of violent crime, terrorism and/or extremist activity occur more frequently, but are still sporadic. There are thousands of foreign companies working in all of these medium-to-high-risk arenas, and many of these companies employ security and protection; there are still thousands of bodyguards operating in Iraq alone! Also, there is a Global Human Security Index detailing the countries where most people feel unsafe, with the Russian Federation deemed to be one of the unsafest places in the world.
Other countries on the Index where people feel the most unsafe: Somalia, Iraq, Israel, Georgia, Afghanistan, Korea, Sudan, United States of America, Colombia, Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Palestinian Authority, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, Rwanda, Burundi, Dominican Republic, Chad, Zimbabwe, USA Virgin Islands, Philippines, Cuba, South Africa, Central African Republic, Brazil, Nigeria, Iran, Yemen, Belarus, Turkey, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Algeria, El Salvador, Kenya, Ukraine, Eritrea, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Nepal, Egypt.
So, who says there is no work?
The only reason you cannot find work is that you have not spent enough time looking for work, or you just don’t know how to.
Listen carefully. The phone does not start ringing just because you have spent £2000 on a training course! Yet bizarrely, most people spend every single penny they have on their basic training and then absolutely nothing thereafter on finding work. You can have the best product in the world, but it is useless if not a soul knows about it. And in my experience, it is mainly the people that don’t do anything proactively about finding work who are generally the ones that then complain time and time again that there is no work. There are over fourteen thousand UK CP licenses alone, so why should an employer pick yours? I am being blunt and to the point, but you really must ask yourself these vital questions if you ever stand a chance of operating as a protection officer.
So what more can you do to find work in close protection?
As detailed in a previous article, I believe one of the most important things you should do is to decide very early in your career which environment and in which speciality you wish to work. You cannot do anything significant unless you make this fundamental decision. Do you want to work abroad or in the UK? If abroad, where? Define specific areas or countries and don’t just say you can work anywhere because you cannot. So be specific; do you want to go to Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, Congo, Russia, Mexico, Eastern Europe, or Asia? If you want to stay in the UK, or in western Europe, are you interested in corporate or celebrity protection? What about events, concerts, galas, opening nights, conferences, witness protection, residential security, corporate security, child protection, stalking consultancy etc.? However, keep in mind that if you only want to work in the UK, the chances of finding full-time work are a lot less – we just don’t live in a high enough risk country (at the moment, anyway) for most people to employ full-time close protection.
By being more specific, it then becomes a lot easier to target your potential client base and develop an appropriate marketing campaign; for example, corporate security in the Russian Federation or event security in Scotland. This makes your target market, when applying for work, a lot more defined and, more importantly, manageable. And if you have a good idea of where you want to work and in which environment and with whom, targeting employers within your defined sector becomes a little easier too.
There are thousands of positions around the world and trying to apply for all of them is impossible and blindly sending your CV off to everyone is a complete waste of time. You have to also look at yourself and be realistic about which sector of CP you want to work in as well. For example, if you are 6’5” with a shaved head and built like a brick s**t-house, it is unlikely you will find a position looking after children or aristocracy, or within much of the corporate sector – celebrity protection is probably more of an option. But if you are short and skinny and unimposing, you probably won’t get celebrity work, even if you are a combat specialist, but in the corporate world, you’d blend in. If you are Arabic speaking it is unlikely you will find a position looking after Arabs on the Circuit in London, as they mainly want non-Arab speaking security so you don’t overhear their conversations! Seriously! If you are Indian, it is very unlikely you will get a job protecting a Pakistani client; if you are Jewish you won’t be looking after Arabs and visa versa. Even if you are white, it is unlikely you will be accepted in an all-black security team either. So take a long hard look at yourself and then decide where you are going and what you are going to do. Do this first.
So, by looking at all of the above and analysing and assessing things in detail, you are now being more defined; who you are and what sector of security you are interested in, and where. Searching for work is now becoming a little easier!
Use the Internet extensively as a job-search resource, set aside at least an hour a day, every day, day in, day out and find out who employs whom, and in what environment. Most people would find excuses not to – how many people reading this would wake up one hour earlier than usual in order to search the Internet looking for work opportunities? I can guarantee… very few. It is easier not to, isn’t it? And then, it is easier to complain about why you have not found a single day’s work in close protection (or, for that matter, have changed your life in any other way).
Remember… you will only ever get out of it, what you put in!
As you are doing your research, start to make a list of employers and contractors within your defined areas of environment, speciality and expertise. As I mentioned, you cannot target all of the thousands of security companies in the UK alone, let alone worldwide, so narrow it down and concentrate on a small selection. If you make your daily target to find just five security companies worldwide (within your target market), times that by six days a week, you will of course have thirty possible employer’s details. That’s 120 a month! If you do this every day for six months, you will have 780 names, addresses and contact details of security companies operating within your specific area of interest. And, as you are getting data, check of course to see if they are advertising positions. If they are, and they suit your CV, then apply! But if their website says they are not accepting CVs, then don’t send them your CV anyway, it won’t even get looked at, let alone read and you might even get blacklisted because you simply could not read the instructions on the website. This does happen! But instead, keep a note of the company and the website for future reference and check back with them regularly.
However, saying that, many security companies just do not advertise their positions, so sending your CV either via email or snail mail might possibly work if – and only if – you call them first and ask if they are recruiting. Ask for the name of the person in charge of recruitment and try to speak to them directly. Ask if they are recruiting and if so, can you send them your CV? If they say no, then don’t send it and don’t try to talk them into receiving it, as for sure it will go in the bin and again you might get blacklisted. I remember once someone doing just this, he called me and asked if I had any positions. I didn’t. He asked if I was accepting CVs anyway, I wasn’t, but a few hours later he emailed it to me anyway. Did I waste my time reading through it, when I get hundreds of CVs sent to me? Of course not. Why would I waste my time reading his CV as I had no positions and wasn’t recruiting and I told him this? It makes no sense. So if employers are not recruiting, be polite, make friends with them and arrange to call them back at another time. But if their website says that phone enquiries are not welcome, then don’t call them either! Remember, wasting the time of a recruitment officer or an HR department of a big security company does not bode well for your future employment prospects.
It is important to have a notebook and make a systematic structure of who you have called, who to call back on, where and to who you have sent your CV and who has replied. Get names and direct telephone numbers if at all possible, and once you have agreed to send your CV to a recruitment officer, always follow it up with a telephone call a week or so later. Ask them if they’ve received it, if they have managed to read it and if not, ask when would be a good time to call them back, and make sure you call back. And if you are told you are not suitable, try to find out why. This is important, as if you get knocked back time and time again because of the same reason, you will want to be doing something to change this. Don’t be overbearing and don’t harass them, but if you can, try to develop an ongoing rapport with HR, it really does work. For example, one time I had 70 CVs sent to me for a five-man team I needed, but I did tend to look more closely at CVs sent from the people who had called me and whom I had spoken to. It is natural, and if you don’t have the guts to pick up the telephone and speak to people directly, then you definitely don’t have the guts to be in this industry!
Also, of course, make sure your CV is perfect – no mistakes and no bullshit.
In close protection, because of the nature of the job and its tasks and the close dependence on the team, CPOs naturally tend to work with people they know and trust. So, effective networking is still a great resource, as many positions are filled not by adverts on job boards or websites, but via word of mouth and from referrals and recommendations. And so, it is vitally important to make contact with as many people in the industry as you possibly can, as one of them might just one day give you that vital ‘heads up’ on a great position.
Also, join close protection forums as they can also be a good source of information, even if some of the notices and threads are very unprofessional (you will also notice how unprofessional threads usually come from people out of work!). However, there is still a lot of great information to be had via the forums. But don’t forget that when a position is posted on the forums, it is viewed by literally thousands of people and personally, I have not heard of too many being filled just by posting them on the forums.
I do believe that everyone in this industry should work together because as a group you can achieve so much more than you could as an individual, but sadly, for some bizarre reason, some forums compete with each other and many won’t even list conferences, seminars, meetings or talks run by other forums or organisations which could be extremely beneficial for CPOs. So join a few forums rather than sticking to just one or two and always think very carefully before you write or post anything.
As well as joining the forums, you must also dedicate a few hundred pounds a year to joining some good security and protection-related associations and professional security CV databases, subscribing to security magazines, as well as attending as many network events as you can. These are not only really great ways of developing your knowledge base but can also give you some great information on contracting, company take-overs, tendering, etc., which could help in your search for work. If you read that a security company has just won a bid to provide security somewhere, what is the first thing you are going to do? Yes, contact them! But you do need to know about these things, so get the magazines and join the groups. As one CPO said to me recently; “Apart from as much free networking as I can do, I have also dedicated three hundred pounds a year to job-search services, subscribing to security magazines and to joining security associations. Sure, some money will be wasted but some won’t, and hopefully what works will more than compensate for what doesn’t.” He also said to me; “If I only get two days’ work a year, then it has paid for itself, but you just don’t know what is around the corner and who you might one day talk to.” What a great attitude.
Tips and hints for finding work in the personal protection industry
By Robin Barratt
Robin Barratt is a security consultant specialising in HR and close protection recruitment. He is based between Norfolk, UK and Manama, Bahrain.