11 tips for a successful career in the security operative marketplace
So, you want to get a job working in the security operative industry? Congratulations, it’s a great career if you are willing to make the effort and want to stand out from the crowd. There are over 400,000 people in the UK are SIA licence holders, many of whom think that getting the badge is the end of the journey – it’s not, it is only the beginning. There is so much more to it than that, and the rewards can be fantastic for those willing to go the extra mile. That’s not just about the money, although that is a big part of it – it’s also about the people you’ll meet, the experiences you’ll enjoy, and the job satisfaction you will get from doing your job well and keeping the people and property you are looking after safe and sound at all times.
Whether you’re looking to become a security guard, work as a door supervisor or want to become a close protection officer, here are 11 tips for a successful career in the security operative marketplace. This is a starting point – feel free to adjust this framework to suit your own personal needs, and let us know if you have any suggestions for evolving it that you would like us to share with other security operatives – we always welcome all feedback at email@example.com and thank you in advance for going to the trouble of sharing your experience with us, so we can share it with other security operatives who are starting their journey in future.
- Research the industry to find out what works best for you
- Obtain the necessary licensing from the SIA
- Complete any relevant additional training
- Create your CV and keep it up to date at all times
- Invest in good equality equipment
- Apply for jobs
- Prepare for interviews
- Dress professionally
- Be punctual
- Develop your communication skills
- Create and develop a network
Remember that the security industry in the UK has high standards, and compliance with SIA regulations is critical. By following these tips, you will increase your chances of standing out from the crowd and being operationally and financially successful in your new security career from the word go.
1. Research the industry to find out what works best for you
Familiarise yourself with the various industry sectors within the security marketplace, such as event security, hospitality security, retail security and close protection work. Understanding the differences will help you to choose the right path for you.
As you might imagine, there are pros and cons to working in different types of security. They tend to vary in how much they pay, how interesting or dangerous the job can be on a day-to-day basis, and what specialist skills they require. If you like your own company, then perhaps working as a security guard is the best thing for you (or being a CCTV operator). Or, if you prefer being around other people and operating in a livelier environment, then working as a Door Supervisor for festivals and events or on the doors of bars and clubs could be just the thing for you. And especially if you have a military or emergency services background, perhaps your skills and experience are better suited for close protection work (you don’t need these credentials to be a bodyguard, but it certainly helps!).
You should take this step first as it will dictate which licence you will need from the SIA, as well as any additional qualifications you’ll need to get too (such as first aid, mechanical restraints or advanced driving). Speak to people you know in the industry as this will give you a better perspective of what it’s like. Or just ask any security operative you come across – if they’re not too busy, they’re sure to give you a few minutes of their time!
2. Obtain the necessary licencing from the SIA
Ensure you apply for the correct SIA (Security Industry Authority) licence for the role which suits you best. Without this licence, or “badge” as it is commonly referred to by many, you won’t be able to legally work within the UK security industry.
You can choose from the following options:
- Security Guard
- Door Supervisor
- Close Protection Officer
Each one of those requires more and more training as you go up the ladder, with the easiest being the Security Guard licence and the hardest being the Close Protection (CP) licence. Note that if you have the Close Protection licence, you can also operate as a Door Supervisor and Security Guard too. The Door Supervisor licence enables you to also work as a Security Guard. As a security guard, that’s all you can do of course!
There are other options – a CCTV operator needs a public space surveillance licence, but we’re primarily focusing on the three security operative licences that involve some level of customer interaction in this article. Therefore, we have also ignored cash and valuables in transit, key holding and vehicle immobilisation license. You can find out more about these licences at the SIA website if you wish to do so.
Based on which sector you want to work in, choose the licence that will allow you to work in that sector, find a credible training provider and get your training booked. You can also find a list of training providers on the SIA website. Check out their reviews on Google – these tend to be impartial and honest (if sometimes somewhat angry!). Use common sense and ask other guards for their opinions too.
3. Complete any relevant additional training
Getting the SIA licence, while being enough to satisfy the legal requirements to work in the security industry, isn’t where you should stop in terms of your training. It is really the bare minimum, a starting point from which to kick off your skills. There are a myriad of different additional courses you can take, and you should select those relevant to the sector of security you want to work in.
These will make you become more skilled, better at your job and make you vastly more employable. An ongoing investment in continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential goal that will not just make you better at your job, it will also make it easier to secure the roles you’re looking for in the industry. Some examples of additional courses you might wish to consider include:
- Safe use of mechanical restraints
- Advanced first aid
- Evasive driving (for close protection operatives)
4. Create your CV and keep it up to date at all times
Create your CV and then update it on a regular basis following any additional training to showcase your newly acquired skills and qualifications. Whether you’ve completed a formal course, attended workshops or gained certifications, it’s essential to reflect these achievements on your CV to make as strong an impression on potential employers as possible.
Be sure to include any official certifications you have gained, any relevant non-security experience (such as working as a steward or as a promotional person) or even just share your previous work experience outside of security. Take time to ensure it is free of grammatical errors, and that it is formatted clearly, so that the key points can be understood quickly, and that it’s the best representation of ‘you’ possible.
As someone who has reviewed many CVs for security roles, I recommend having someone else read over it as probably the best thing you can do before sending it out. This will help to remove simple errors and mistakes which might put an employer off hiring you. There are also lots of online tools and many articles offering advice that you can find on the internet, simply by searching for “tips on how to create a great CV” or words to that effect.
A final good idea is to include a personalised letter or email that explains why you passionately want to work for the company in question. Pander to the ego of the person receiving your letter, and rather than telling them how great you are (your CV will do this), tell them how great they are. This never fails to make it more likely that you will be invited to an interview, at least in my experience.
5. Invest in good quality equipment
Much like a tradesman has the right tools for the job, so should a security operative. Here are some key items which will set you up for success in your role. Of course, the list is not exhaustive. Over time, you might wish to add personal protective equipment, a stab vest and stab gloves, mechanical restraints (the industry term for handcuffs), body cameras and even security wands and walkie talkies if you want to set up your own team.
- Flashlight (Ledlenser is a good brand to go for)
- Warm coat for work outdoors (black would be recommended)
- Comfortable boots (Magnums are a great option here)
- Earpiece for radios (you really don’t want to be using a shared one!)
6. Apply for jobs
Look for job openings on job boards, company websites and recruitment agencies specialising in security roles. In terms of job boards, start with these:
Of course, you should also join Surely, as this is a great way to find security operative job posts in London and across the UK for security guards, door supervisors and close protection officers. These jobs tend to be freelance urgent in nature, and a lot of them are for Door Supervisor positions in the hospitality industry (i.e. bars and clubs) and event sector (e.g. festivals) in particular. However, in time, you will see contract and full-time positions being advertised here for all SIA licences and all industry sectors. There may be more jobs in the major cities to begin with – London, Manchester, Birmingham to name but three – but they will cover every town and city across the UK in time.
Make sure to search for job roles relevant to your certifications, qualifications and personal preferences. Carefully read the job description, as not all security operative roles are the same. It takes time to apply for jobs and submit information, so it is important not to waste time on jobs that aren’t right for you. That’s another reason why a marketplace like Surely is such a good idea – once you have uploaded all your documents, they will find you rather than you looking for them, and it is simple to send all relevant documents to clients at the click of a button. All you have to do is to load them once and keep them updated at all times!
To find security companies, start with a Google search for ‘Door supervisor jobs in London or ‘Close protection jobs in Manchester’ of ‘Security Guards in Birmingham’ (for example). Companies who operate in these cities and regions will usually have a web presence there to attract customers. Get in touch with them via their websites and find any open roles they have. You can also check out the register of Approved Contractors on the SIA website for a full list of ACS approved security companies operating across the UK. You can also use terms like ‘near me’ or ‘UK’ rather than choosing a specific location if you prefer to do so.
7. Prepare for interviews
Practice answering common interview questions for security jobs, emphasising your ability to handle conflict, stay calm under pressure and proving that you are able to follow protocols at all times. Highlight added value skills, like your understanding of the importance of good communication (more on this shortly) and how this can deescalate situations before they get out of control. Surely has a number of value-add skills called SurelyPro badges that you can earn, as well as an Inclusivity Pledge badge that demonstrates your commitment to supporting the nine protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act 2010.
When answering questions, it’s a good idea to use the STAR technique:
S – Situation
T – Task
A – Action
R – Result
This is a framework for answering job interview questions in a logical, clear and concise way – questions asked in interviews for security jobs are no different in context to any other jobs, so the framework is ideal for you to use when applying for jobs of any kind. Remember, your primary goal is to stand out from other candidates to get the job. In a STAR response, you start by describing the ‘Situation’, providing context for the interviewer. Next, you need to outline the ‘Task’, explaining your role and responsibilities in the scenario you are describing. You then detail the specific ‘Actions’ you took to address the situation, focusing on your decision-making, problem-solving and execution techniques. Finally, you conclude with the ‘Result’, describing the outcomes of your actions and highlighting any positive impact or lessons learned.
This method helps interviewees provide comprehensive and well-organised answers to interviewers, emphasising specific examples from their past experiences, so that they make a great impression and stand out from the crowd. By using the STAR technique, you can effectively demonstrate your skills, competencies and achievements, making it easier for interviewers to not just assess your suitability for the job in hand, but also to compare how you came across against other candidates. In all likelihood, you will be one of the ‘STAR’ candidates!
8. Dress professionally
When attending interviews or starting your job, dress appropriately and professionally and in a manner suitable for the security industry, the sector and the role. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you need to make sure you present yourself in the best possible way. Remember, first impressions count. And it’s not just what you wear, it’s about how well you are groomed too. Dressing professionally conveys a sense of respect and commitment to your position, your colleagues, and your organisation.
Professional attire also often boosts self-confidence too, enhancing your demeanour and performance. It establishes a positive first impression on all stakeholders, not just clients – but other security operatives, customers and management teams too, which can be crucial for speeding up your career progression. Moreover, dressing appropriately aligns with a company’s image and culture, promoting a sense of unity and cohesion amongst its team members. You will be given details on how to dress when you go for a job, but you can also do research first to see what others in your position wear who work for this client.
9. Be punctual
Punctuality is paramount for security operatives due to the critical nature of their responsibilities. Being on time also ensures the smooth transition of shifts, which is crucial for maintaining security coverage. Delays can leave gaps in protection, compromising safety. Turning up on time also displays reliability and commitment, building trust amongst your team members and superiors. Security operatives often deal with time-sensitive situations, where prompt responses are essential in emergencies.
Lateness can result in missed opportunities to prevent or address security threats. Additionally, being on time all the time upholds a professional image, which is vital for effective interaction with clients, visitors, or the public. In the security industry, punctuality is a cornerstone of success and safety.
It is also a sign of being respectful to the needs of others and indicates that you are a reliable person of good character and standing. Avoid using excuses like traffic delays and transport issues – most of the time, you can allow for these sorts of situations through forward planning and contingency management.
And never cancel unless it is absolutely essential to do so – you might be surprised how often this happens. It is incredibly unprofessional. If you are ever in a situation when you have to cancel at short notice for any reason, make sure you communicate well. It is often a good idea to have a network of security operatives you are able to ask to fill in for you. This type of proactivity, alongside a genuine apology and clear communication can help on those odd occasions when cancelling is unavoidable.
10. Develop your communication skills
Like being punctual, having good communication skills is really important if you want to be a great security operative – be that as a security guard, door supervisor or close protection officer. Effective interaction is vital for conveying security procedures, instructions and emergency protocols to security services, colleagues and the general public alike.
Clear, concise communication ensures that all team members understand their roles and responsibilities, reducing the risk of errors or misinterpretations. In dealing with the public, strong communication can deescalate tense situations and prevent confrontation. Moreover, it fosters trust and cooperation, both amongst colleagues and also with the people they are protecting (your client’s customers).
Additionally, timely and accurate reporting, whether written or verbal, aids in documenting incidents and maintaining records for legal and security purposes. In the security field, great communication is a linchpin for safety, efficiency and positive relationships.
Remember that communication is not just about the words we use – it is also about body language and tone of voice. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that body language is much more important than the words we use, and tone of voice is the number two factor. Less than 10% of our communication skills is down to the words we use! You can find out more about this if you apply for our free Communication Skills SurelyPro badge.
11. Create and develop your network
If you want to develop a successful career in the security industry, you need to be an active participant in it. Primarily, this means doing your job well and allowing your reputation as a reliable and capable staff member to build, but you should also attend industry events, join security groups and connect with other professionals in the field to expand your network and gain insights into the industry.
The more people you know and the more you are known, the more you will come across great opportunities for work, experience a variety of jobs, develop your skills, and grow as a professional. Of course, Surely can help you to achieve this goal. For instance, you will build up a powerful personal reputation through the review system we have introduced, where clients will assess your on-the-job performance according to six key factors which we know are really important – punctuality, professionalism, communication, positivity, helpfulness and dress code. Also, the online community Surely is building, that will be exclusively open to Surely-registered security operatives, will allow you to interact with a network of some of the most professional security operatives in the business, sharing best practice, asking questions, letting off steam and listening to stories. These are some of the best ways to learn!
Good luck starting out in your career as a security operative
We hope that these 11 tips for a successful career in the security operative marketplace help you to get up and running – there’s a lot to take in, so don’t try and do everything in one go. These 11 steps are a roadmap to success, a journey you should take slowly but surely, one step at a time. Think of these tips as stages that you focus on individually, rather than working on them all at once.
Of course, this is just a guide to help get you up and running, its primary aim is to point you in the right direction. At the end of the day, this is all about personal accountability, which means it is down to you. It’s not enough to want to be successful, nor even to put in lots of effort to do so. The most important thing of all is that you believe you deserve to be successful, that you have a right to be successful, and it often helps to visualise what that success looks like.