Analyzing the background of security leaders across the corporate security and risk management landscape, it is not surprising to see that a significant percentage of them have come from the public sector.
It is the belief on the part of these professionals that their background and experiences within their current agencies have prepared them for leadership and/or operational roles in corporate security. They are choosing to leave government employ at a point in time when they can still look forward to a long, fulfilling career in the private sector.
Within private sector employers, there is often debate that centers around the perceived lack of corporate security experience and tactical knowledge on the part of these job seekers. Unfortunately, this view does not incorporate the breadth of experiences and leadership competencies of individual candidates. The current reality of the corporate security profession suggests that many roles will continue to be staffed with well-trained seasoned professionals from the public sector.
There are unique emotional and psychological adjustments associated with transitioning from public sector to private. This is an often overlooked consideration, and its impact is regularly underestimated by both employers and candidates. It is likely that these individuals have worked for many years in environments that served as the underpinning of their professional training and growth. The move to corporate can often feel akin to parachuting into a foreign country without maps and language skills.
Military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies all have defined missions, which often serve as the attraction for people to join. Once assigned to the field, career paths are developed within units and close relationships are built with coworkers who have a like sense of mission and purpose for the work. For those who have worked in dangerous and high-risk circumstances, team bonds become even more close. This comradery together with connection to like values and purpose are present even if reassignment occurs. It is this shared view that is key in building the close culture of these organizations.
Someone coming from this environment into the private sector has dramatic changes to adapt to. They can abruptly find themselves surrounded by people that they have either little or nothing in common with, nor any shared experiences. Often the feeling of common emotional sense of mission and purpose is missing, and relationships can appear to be transactional. They have come from an environment where their decisions and actions have extremely broad impact, and can be perplexed at the pettiness of emotions and narrowness of focus and vision by those who are attempting to maintain a small, seemingly meaningless area of control.
To those who have always worked in the private sector, this description may seem extreme. However, it is something that has been felt by many transitioning public sector professionals as they venture into a corporate career. Not all make the adjustment and find themselves returning to government under annuitant contracts.
My recommendation for those who are thinking of leaving public sector employ for a career in corporate security is to begin your job search early. Start networking with former colleagues who have been in the private sector for minimum of three years. Discuss their experiences and ask how they adjusted in order to be successful in their moves. Be aware of these differences and prepare for them.
Developing a resume, acquiring business acumen and mastering the operational components of any new role are important to success. However, being prepared for the cultural shift is a critical component to your success in the private sector.