Network, network, network, it's a term we hear all the time, but what does it actually mean, and how many people are doing it effectively?
In its most basic form it's the use of the various professional and social media streams such as LinkedIn, facebook and Close Protection World. However, do you really know the person behind the username, is their facebook name really a pseudonym or are they in fact a Walter Mitty and nothing to do with the security industry at all? It's unlikely that someone in your professional and social media basic network is going to offer you employment based on the reasons in the paragraph above. In fact this most basic network is good to gain an insight into the industry. Research some of the industry hot topics, like raising standards, but also an opportunity to see the level of person operating in the basic network and ensure you pitch yourself above them. Therefore if you are to gain employment from this most basic network you must stand out from those who are unlikely to gain employment at this level.
Firstly ensure you have a neutral username such as 'securityprofessional' or if you are using facebook then use your actual name so others can see you are genuine from the start. Usernames such as MadPara1 or not using your actual name can be very off putting, like wearing jeans and a t-shirt to an interview as this is the first impression others will see of you on these sites. When started threads, or commenting on posts, try to stay neutral and professional rather than descending into political views or using offensive language. Make sure that what you are writing is balanced, spelt correctly and has good use of English language. It's always worth after writing a thread, or commenting on a post, just pausing before you publish it and asking yourself, will this offend others, does this appear to be a professional statement, would i employ someone who posted information like this?
The intermediate network level is actually getting out there and meeting those individuals in the security industry who will have a direct impact on you gaining employment. When at networking events such as the Counter Terror Expo, don't stay in your comfort zone walking round with, and talking to, individuals you already know. If you go as a group spend a period of time on your own, walk up to people and introduce yourself. Talk to them on a personal level, find out something about them and what they do, but equally work out what you could do that would benefit them. This isn't an opportunity to ask for employment though so exchange business cards and make contact with them after the event preferably by e-mail.
Most of the operational security companies won't put you on a task if they haven't met you first. It is important to work out who the key players are in the area of the industry that you want to gain employment in. If you are looking for work in hostile environments then make sure you have the name and e-mail address of the person who controls your area of employment within the company you are applying to rather than just sending it to the HR department. Ensure your CV or online application is absolutely faultless, use a professional writer if possible. When you send your CV make sure you document on the e-mail that you will follow it up with a phone call. A good rule of thumb is to follow the CV up with a call two days later, long enough so they have had chance to read it but not too long that they have forgotten it. When you ring, tell them that you have sent your CV and that you would appreciate the chance to meet them in person for an opportunity to talk about potential positions that you may be suitable for. This doesn't have to be a formal meeting like an interview but ask them if they have chance to meet you for a coffee near where they work. This gives you an opportunity to talk through your CV, but more importantly for them to see you are personable and the sort of person if they have roles available that they would put on task. Most operational security companies use a small core of personnel for all their tasks as they can trust them, they know the standard of their work and they know they won't let them down. Therefore your aim should be to be within this small core who receive regular work at the better rates of pay.
The most advanced network is 100% reliant on the operator and the way they conduct themselves. It is made up of the previous two networking levels with the addition of networking whilst on task. However this doesn't involve handing over a business card or saying you are available for future employment but through your professionalism and standard of work whilst conducting the job. This will be seen through your preparation such as profiling the client before you arrive on task, ensuring your kit is appropriate for the role and that you are presented perfectly at all times. During the task are you flexible and adaptable to the changing itinerary. Do you put yourself forward for extra work where others want to rest. Have you established a good rapport with the principle and your fellow team members. Post task have you taken the time to send some lessons learnt to the team leader or write a post operational report for the company employing you. Have you e-mailed the team members you have worked with within the first few days after the task to establish your advanced professional network. If you can answer yes to all the questions above in this paragraph then you have made the process of finding employment much easier as these companies and operators will want to work with you. Therefore when a role is available it will be you they ring as their first port of call because of the professional manner in which you conduct yourself at all times.
The next time you are on a social networking site, ask yourself am i staying neutral to the threads and posts? The next time you are at a networking event, ask yourself am i in my comfort zone? The next time you are on task, ask yourself am i conducting myself to the best of my ability?