The national average salary for a chief security officer in the US hovers around $160,000, according to a consensus of online salary aggregators. If that number—combined with the tight labor market—has you curious to test the labor market, then security consultants at industry conferences last year had some advice for you.
Strategies for career advancement need to change with the times, they say. As business changes—and it is changing rapidly these days—those in the security arena need to adjust their approach to professional development. And while that may sound daunting, it is ripe with opportunity.
Notably, loss prevention leaders and security executives are less tied to the industry they’re in than they’ve previously been. The requirements for a top security post have broadened, making it easier to transition to leadership positions in other industries.
Additionally, many executive positions jobs in security now feature “crossover” responsibilities, and the job of retail loss prevention executive is a prime example. In order to maintain attractiveness to today’s raised-on-online consumer, physical retail stores are adding a wide range of in-store offerings to entice shoppers including food, drink, activities, entertainment, and other experiences and exhibits. It certainly means work for loss prevention professionals—to grow comfortable with security strategies that are far afield from theft prevention—but it also expands their skill set and makes for an easier transition to a leadership role in other industries.
In short, some security consultants advised expanding a job search beyond your current industry. Many companies are looking for top security executives with general skills and an LP leader’s professional experience may now be more applicable to more environments.
Here are 7 more tips industry panels produced that may help you accelerate your career development:
1. Sharpen your communications with management. Time with senior leaders is precious so make it count. Focus on making clear points and providing specific information that company leaders need to make decisions. Said one consultant: “There has probably never been a time when security has been more important to the business but we’re not doing a great job communicating. C-Level executives are confused by us, our message is cloudy, confusing, and they don’t see us as coming in to solve their problems.”
2. Cultivate connections within your company that will allow you get things done more quickly. One CSO from the software space said that security needs to focus on being more agile. It’s imperative for keeping up with how fast threats, technology, and business are evolving. “You need to establish touch points with all the people in your business that you need to get things done so you can move more quickly.”
3. Actively manage your career even if you are happy with where you are. Not every LP manager is looking for that next, more lucrative job—many are happy where they are—but everyone should manage their career like they are. One security director recently lost his post after a buyout. “In terms of lessons learned, I think the single most important thing is networking.” Just as security directors help develop contingency plans for their organizations, they should have one for their career.
- Every six months review your resume, even if that only means reading it over.
- On an on-going basis, read the job openings for executive-level security and LP positions—not for the jobs themselves, but with an eye on where the marketplace is going and the skills and expertise that companies are looking for; and
- On an ongoing basis, keep a log of key projects and accomplishments—not just a list of tasks.
4. Punctuate your resume with examples of effective change management. Alongside risk management skills, companies increasingly want a top security representative who is adept at managing change, can demonstrate leadership agility, and shows an ability to succeed in transitional times.
5. Stay current on more topics than just security. More than ever, security leaders are expected to understand and demonstrate an ability to discuss subjects that have only indirect ties to security, such as business and trends, economics, geopolitics, organizational design, and technology.
6. Don’t talk about “security” to the board. The panel’s advice: Replace “security speak” and instead “relate everything to them in business terms.” Frame security as an element of operational business risk, since that’s something management understand. “The C-Suite doesn’t want to know about threats, they want to know about the risk of the threat.”
7. Be strategic and inclusive. The world is going to be a very different place in a decade than it is now, and security executives need to keep re-examining the big forces that shape security risk within an evolving business environment. One piece of advice: “Spend a lot of time on where we’re going. We spend way too much time being tactical and not enough time being strategic. And to be successful you need to be more inclusive.”