Editor’s Note: As one of LP Magazine’s top articles of 2015, this story draws attention to the importance of expanding our options—and our opportunities as we are building a professional development plan. By looking at professional growth in a different way we can open our minds to new prospects and expand our perspective and our approach to loss prevention as a career path.
The world of retail is comprised of many different parts, all of which are necessary in order to keep the business successful and running smoothly. Loss prevention is simply one of those parts; and while that role is critical in keeping the company profitable, we don’t have a purpose without the rest of the team. There is not a single area of the business that can or should operate in a silo and it is absolutely essential that we understand both our value and our place in the bigger picture. This not only applies to the growth of the industry, but our professional development plan as well.
As we have evolved as an industry and grown as professionals, we have come to appreciate the complexity of the business and the scope of our responsibilities. We talk about the importance of having a “global” perspective of the retail business. We recognize the need to stretch that perspective and embrace a greater understanding of the dynamics of retail.
But if we truly want to gain a comprehensive look into the business, we have to be willing to extend our field of vision to include the heart and soul of the organization. As redundant as it might sound, we can’t view the business globally if we limit what we’re willing to look at. We can only change our outlook if we’re able to see things differently. This requires that we search beyond the limits of our every day, and explore the business of retail and our own professional development plan from other points of view.
The role of loss prevention isn’t just evolving—it’s also expanding. We have continued to gain respect and acceptance by moving forward; delving deeper into the heart of retail and becoming true business partners. We’ve accepted greater responsibility, and by doing so we’ve enhanced our value and significance as part of the retail culture. We’ve moved from support staff to strategic allies, taking a more active role in the business and becoming a legitimate factor in the decision-making process as the business moves forward.
But as retail organizations search for new and better ways to remain competitive, there is also a quest to make the business more efficient. Roles are changing, jobs are being combined, and expectations are growing. This will continue to shape our futures and set the standards for what lies ahead. By sharing responsibilities, resources, competencies, and ideas we put ourselves in the best position to remain successful and productive.
This can also change the way that we look at how we map our career path and our professional development plan. To expand their opportunities and their point of view, some professionals will pursue career advancement by looking at areas beyond loss prevention. In doing so, they hope to increase their value to the organization and overall marketability as professionals. Whether this is a temporary detour or a long-term decision, these changes often enhance options and build resumes.
What if you were in a position where you had to choose? What choice would you make? This LP Magazine Instant Poll asked: If you had to explore an opportunity for career growth outside of loss prevention, which area of retail would you prefer to pursue?
As our poll results indicate, there are many different directions that we can potentially explore beyond loss prevention that keep us firmly in the retail arena, and respondents were varied in their potential career choices. When considering a personal professional development plan, most of us are likely to choose opportunities based on our interests, abilities, and current skill sets, looking for matches that are most likely to hold our interest, offer the prospect for success, and provide future growth potential.
It therefore comes as little surprise that Store Operations (32 percent) and Human Resources (31 percent) are at a virtual deadlock for the top choice. These are departments that we have traditionally worked very closely with, and it makes a great deal of sense that we would pursue these opportunities. However, Information Technology made a strong showing on the poll (20 percent), and Supply Chain prospects also showed some promise (11 percent). This is likely due to the evolution of the profession and the view of these interests as areas of growth and potential. The infusion of new technology, the demand for improvements in data security, and the innovations associated with omni-channel retailing are crafting new responsibilities and opening new doors. There will always be those that choose a different direction based on personal needs and interests (6 percent), as the poll also illustrates. Having those willing to look down different paths is a positive sign and great for the business.
Perhaps the most important message that we should take from our poll is the importance of keeping our minds and our options open to the possibilities. We specifically kept our poll choices in the retail arena to emphasize the many different directions that we can explore in our own back yard. It’s one thing to think about the prospects of doing the same thing somewhere else—but it’s quite a different venture to really consider the possibility of looking at professional growth in other ways.
Building a professional development plan is always important and has to be viewed as a continuous process. It’s true that by sharing responsibilities, resources, competencies, and ideas we put ourselves in the best position to remain successful and productive. But we can’t and shouldn’t limit the possibilities. We don’t simply want to consider changing direction, but rather we should always be looking for ways to add a different perspective. That’s what makes us better partners, better learners, and better leaders.
This article was originally published in August 2015 and updated in December 2015.