Career Advice: What Young Professionals Bring to the Table
When it comes to learning, humans as a species usually learn through one of two ways: suffering through trial and error until something pans out, or, if you’re lucky, learning from the mistakes and successes that someone else already made.
For early career security professionals who aspire to join the C-suite, there are many hurdles along the way. However, many security professionals are willing to share their lessons learned, career advice, and resources with up-and-coming leaders.
Security Management asked two members of the ASIS Young Professionals (YP) Community about the strengths and skills they currently have that could be of value down the road.
Erwin Van de Weerd, APP, is the area security manager, Benelux, for SAP Global Security and vice-chair of the ASIS International Young Professionals Community. He is also part of the Benelux Chapter, a Young Professional Ambassador, and strives to help other young professionals with their own journey. Mallory Singer, APP, is an operations professional for a nonprofit healthcare organization, overseeing the compliance department. She is also secretary of the ASIS International Young Professionals Community and prioritizes building strategic partnerships, aiming to integrate principles of risk management and compliance into other departments to help them succeed. Van de Weerd and Singer chose to present their insight collaboratively.
The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
SM. What skill gaps do you see among your peers that, when addressed, could help advance or accelerate a career?
Erwin Van der Weerd & Mallory Singer. Often, it is challenging for young professionals to gain experience because employers want to hire people with a specified amount of experience, causing a Catch-22. Therefore, many young professionals will not even apply to positions with entry-level experience requirements. Young professionals should go outside of their comfort zone and start applying to these positions, even if they do not meet the minimal requirements.
Furthermore, many young professionals lack practical experience, including experience pertaining to the subject or industry, and business acumen. Nowadays, young professionals have access to security-related studies—meaning they are one step ahead from the previous generation of security professionals. However, young professionals often lack the level of soft skills needed in business, such as communicating with executives and operations and program management.
Career Advice: Mind Your Skill Gaps
As young professionals build up their experience within security, it can be easy to miss some essential areas that CSOs look for in their successors. Here, two members of the ASIS CSO Center share career advice and professional development tips.
SM. Why are these skills important for a future in the security profession?
EVdW & MS. It is important that young professionals obtain general business and operations experience, as many of us within the security industry have a supportive function within a larger organization. So, it is crucial that young professionals understand the needs and challenges that businesses face (i.e., business acumen). For security professionals to provide services that appropriately address the needs of organizations, and to best integrate safety and security programs, we should understand how to bridge the gaps between the larger organization and safety and security. We often need to convince executives why our work or the work we are proposing matters—so by understanding their needs, we can better speak their language and sell them on our work.
Young professionals should start developing these skills at their first professional role, or before if possible. This will allow the individual to be proactive when starting a new role—adding value to the team—and provide him or her with the ability to adapt to changes quickly and effectively.
Additionally, a young professional should invest time in developing soft skills, even if this is outside of one’s comfort zone or even outside of their industry. He or she will need to know how to sell to and communicate with others if they want to be successful. This can simply be done by investing time in building relationships with other departments, which will allow security professionals to become business leaders.
The security professional is a specialist within a specific industry; however, we must understand the challenges, needs, communication preferences, and culture of other departments. This allows the security professional to provide colleagues and management with advice in a way that relates to non-security professionals. Young professionals need to understand that developing soft skills is an investment. These skills will be used in a day-to-day basis throughout their careers.
Finally, a young professional with these skills can grow to become a trusted advisor within the enterprise and provide innovative and creative solutions. This will allow for a connection between security and non-security teams, contributing to the success of the organization.
SM. What skill gaps do you think security professionals higher up the ladder are currently struggling with that YPs can address or assist with?
EVdW & MS. First, senior security professionals have room to grow as it pertains to integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) into their work. Those in higher positions have an opportunity to learn from young professionals, who often see the value in bringing DE&I into other work.
The security industry is evolving, and it is important to lean on the next generation to help progress. Additionally, to best support organizations, it is important that we understand their commitment to DE&I so that we can best align and show our commitment, as well.
Next, management should understand how to properly lead young professionals. Working with individuals from different backgrounds and with varying perspectives can result in major achievements and pose major challenges.
Nowadays, it is important for a young professional to have proper support. Generation Z is not solely pursuing their career for a particular title or salary. If the head of the department is not leading by supporting the professional and enabling them to be successful, this may result in the individual departing and could lead to a greater retention challenge. Managers must adjust their leadership style to meet the expectations, styles, and needs of the young professionals.
Additionally, working remotely has provided many benefits regarding work–life balance and flexibility of the job. However, there are also many challenges that are associated with the virtual environment, such as keeping your colleagues and direct reports motivated and engaged.
The security industry is a competitive one, but it is also very rewarding if you have the chance to work under great leadership.
Finally, it is important for senior leadership to embrace young professionals’ knowledge and understanding with regards to using technology to streamline and automate processes. Senior leadership will reap many benefits from leaning on digital-native employees, including increasing efficiency which is crucial as many security departments are overwhelmed by the workload. Young professionals should capitalize on their experience with technology and use this in their professional environment.
SM. What resources do YPs have to help with addressing these skill gaps? And what kinds of resources are YPs lacking that could address other gaps?
EVdW & MS. Young professionals should seek to gain experience through volunteer opportunities, contract/temp roles (which may be more likely to provide training while on the job), and even positions outside of the security industry. Seeking volunteer opportunities and experience outside of the security industry can help in several ways. First, it can help build your network, which is key as you continue to look for new career opportunities. Next, it helps develop you as a more well-rounded individual, as you can learn from others and hone valuable, transferable skills, such as time management, communication skills (including active listening), and other soft skills.
Additionally, mentorship is invaluable. Not only can this help you build relationships and grow your network, but mentors can help provide you with resources that supplement your experience and educational opportunities.
Young professionals lack the opportunity to sit for professional certifications, as many of these programs and exams require several years of experience. This goes back to the Catch-22, in which you need experience to gain experience. Having courses that provide young professionals with the experience required to make them eligible to sit for the exams can help jumpstart careers.