Phase 3 – Moving beyond the beginning
If you’ve done everything I’ve mentioned thus far in the previous 2 articles, then you are well on your way to a very successful career in Executive Protection (EP) or Close Protection (CP). If you take all the previous steps and just repeat the underlying principles, you will continue to grow and you will likely maintain a successful tempo. However, if you want to take your career to the next level then keep reading.
Master the Basics, Refresh & Repeat
If you ask a professional in any industry about the keys to their success and what it takes to master a skill, they will say mastery comes from knowing and applying the basic fundamentals with precision. It is not from buying expensive gear, jumping on the latest fad or resting on your perceived level of excellence. However, in EP it can be a challenge as there isn’t really a system set up for skill refreshers in fundamentals. However, I’ve talked to a lot of professionals in the industry and they all seem to have a little trick. One of the best ways I’ve seen pro’s refresh their skills and gain new ones is to attend basic EP training courses from different companies all over the world. What a great way to gain new perspectives, keep yourself sharp and also make new contacts. Some very successful folks I know try to budget (time & money) for one course every year or two.
Specialize and More Specific
At the basic level, EP is very much about the application of some key fundamentals. Once you begin to master them you’re going to want to begin to specialize in different areas. Some people might focus on certain types of clients; such as celebrities, corporate executives, High Net worth Individuals/Families or otherwise. For these folks, there are some great specialty courses out there. It might also be worthwhile to gain some industry-specific sub-skills like Protective Intelligence, Covert Operations, and Travel Risk Management. Another excellent way of enhancing your opportunities through training and increasing your capabilities is to look at what specific needs your clients have. Then seek ways of developing skills that help you be close to them (it is called Close Protection for a reason right?). Examples might include things like skiing, horseback riding, scuba diving or other sports/activities that require a high-level skill. Just make sure if you’re going to sell it as a capability that you are extremely proficient at it. Best not to be a beginner skier on a black diamond slope with a client. You might become less of a protector and more of a hazard or liability. Another excellent specialty that can improve your opportunities is speaking more than one language. This can help you get visiting VIP clients from other countries in your own region or when protecting your local clients in other countries.
One topic that often comes up in EP & CP development, is that of professional designations. There are a variety of great ones out there that can enhance your knowledge and network in specific industries or aligned areas. I would consider doing one or some of these once you’re more established on your EP career path but only because the time commitments and costs can be extensive. Some of them also require a certain level of existing experience and knowledge base. However, if you do meet the criteria and have the ability to invest in them, the return on investment can be exponential. You will instantly be entered into a club of people that can expose you to some of the best information out there on certain topics. This information alone is worth the effort and expense. However, the network and aligned credentials can help your success path even more. Systems don’t hire people; people do. So the more professionals you know and the more you understand the culture and can speak the technical language the greater your chances for success are. You can get all of this from one or some of the professional designations out there. Just make sure it is one that has been around for a while, is well recognized and fosters an ideology of continuous growth.
We love the internet because it creates an opportunity for constant and continuous growth in an informal environment. If you are committed to EP success then you need to become committed to informal learning as well. In fact, some of the best lessons I’ve learned have not been in a training class but have been from a tidbit picked up in a book, podcast or reading a blog article. Just look at this article series. We are putting free content out there in an effort to help you learn from our experiences. Yes, we also get some exposure and hope you come back to us with the hopes of potentially being a customer, but there’s a lot of other ways we could do that as well. We just feel like we want to give back and share what we know in order to make you better. But we are not the only ones taking this approach. There are tons of very experienced, highly trained and extremely intelligent people out there contributing tons of free or low-cost content. So soak up as much as you can, absorb what’s useful to you and dump anything that’s not. Just be very careful of the content and the source. I highly suggest you do some homework on the authors or originators’ background regarding any information you are going to consume. Look for industry leaders as a starting point, then see who they recommend.
Leadership & Management
As you excel in your career you can be a huge asset to many clients, companies, and colleagues if you’re able to take a lead role in operations. However, before you put that extensive resume to the test of running a team, I would highly recommend getting some leadership and management training. Experience alone does not make for a great leader and the industry does not need mediocre people at the helm. Look to branch out of the industry to get this type of training. I would suggest your local University or College. Many have great programs that can be done in pieces or via distance learning as you continue along your journey of professional growth. Also, keep in mind that leadership and management may be done by the same person but are not the same things. Taking the right courses, reading the right books and following the right development path will show you the differences. And if you never get a lead role on a team, you will be way better on the frontlines by knowing the intricacies of what’s required of a Team Lead, Manager or Senior executive position.
Become a Trainer
You might not believe me, but teaching and running training courses are one of the best ways for you to grow on a professional level, unsurpassed by many others. Every time I run a course or teach a class, I often feel I learn more from the participants or the experience than they do from me. Just remember that just like leadership and EP, being a trainer requires the right person and specific capabilities. You have to do it for the right motivations and have formal instruction on how to properly train others. There are enough poor quality, unprofessional and downright terrible trainers out there; we do not need more. We need better trainers not more trainers in the industry. But becoming a trainer can be very rewarding, help enhance your operational game and it’s a fantastic way to use your experience to give back to the community. Seek out instructor courses, adult learning certifications and other ways to learn to train others in an effort to help grow your own capabilities while giving back to the industry.
Expand Your Horizons
If you’ve been in the industry for some time now then you hopefully have followed the suggestions made in this and the previous articles. If you truly want to expand your opportunities then you might want to consider going outside the industry to get some training. There are great training programs in a variety of aligned industries that can truly help you reach your full potential. Examples of industries to look at would be the travel sector, hospitality industry or transportation industry. Emergency management, disaster recovery and business continuity are other avenues I’ve seen high-level EP professionals excel at after getting the right training. All of which can greatly improve your capabilities as an EP agent, CP Team leader or other security professional.
Expand Your Outlook
This final point has nothing to do with training, but more so the application of skills and capabilities in other avenues. If you’ve lived the life of a dedicated EP professional then you have a lot to offer more than just your direct line of work. However, there may come a time when you can’t do it anymore or no longer want to. When that happens what you have to offer can have many benefits to other areas, but don’t just limit yourself to the obvious. The most common transitions from EP are to starting their own business or getting a corporate security gig. Don’t get me wrong, those are great jobs and you will likely excel at them. However, I ask you to take a more objective and open approach and expand your possibilities. Look at the aspects of what you do that you love and see where else you can apply them. For example, a celebrity protector with a creative side might seek a position as a producer on a movie set. An international CP operator might look at a position as a Government Logistics or travel manager. An EP agent with a flair for service and details might consider a role as an event manager or service director at a high-end hotel. Regardless of what you do, just make sure you don’t abuse your protection role in the hunt for something else. Also, just like EP if you do want to embark down another path make sure you get the specific and necessary training. That’s what got you here and will get you somewhere else if required or desired. If nothing else, that training will continue to help you in EP and may reignite a lost passion or display another specialty you didn’t previously see.
Training is the backbone of any successful organization. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or what job you do, you have to take ownership of your own career path. This includes being your own training manager in anything you do. In Executive and Close Protection regardless of where you are in life if you want to excel you need to do more than meet the minimum requirements. You need to be proactive and take a life long approach to your own development. Whether you are constructing a high rise or building a career, having a blueprint will save time, money and ensure it is done right. In this 3 part series, we have hopefully helped provide you with the necessary information for you to design your own blueprint for career success in Executive Close Protection. The next step is up to you. No one will come along and hand you success. You must put the effort in, take the right courses, talk to the right people and endure this over time. If you do that, one day you may look behind you and say hey, I’ve had a pretty successful journey so far, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
We hope you enjoyed this article and found value or inspiration in it. If we missed some points or you have more specific suggestions, please feel free to comment below or while sharing on your favorite social media platform. Also please share any of the articles in this series if you think it can help others.