Job titles in the security profession are not always a good indicator of where you are in your career. We have conducted a wide variety of recruitment projects around the world for our clients. One consistency is that there is no consistency. At least insofar as security job titles are concerned.

We have seen well over a hundred different variations of the title that describes the senior-most security position in an organization, for example, especially when you factor in global norms and company structures.

We have chaired the ASIS committee that developed — and then updated — the ANSI standard for the Chief Security Officer position, commonly held out as one of the top security jobs in companies today. And we work closely with the Foushée Group each year as they update job descriptions relevant to the security profession.

So, it is always a concern when we see security practitioners who limit their career success to the title on their business cards rather than what a job really is, what the compensation might be and what career advancement opportunities will present themselves. It is common for candidates to hear that a security professional is at a manager level now and their next career move must absolutely be to a director level role.

Job titles are complicated things. Large organizations apply complex thinking to the management of positions, titles and compensation within their structures. Many components factor into their comparative analyses. They consider degree of supervision, impact, influence and scope of responsibility. The size and scope of the organization and the geographic area that will be served by a position are also considered.

It is not uncommon for companies to seek parity across departments by standardizing job titles. Examples are Senior Associate; Specialist; Manager I, II or III; Leader; Senior Advisor. Leveled across an organization, the operational titles and functional titles can be very different.

However, compensation packages for manager-level positions within multinationals regularly exceed total compensation packages for other jobs with bigger titles. Senior Vice President and Chief Security Officer in smaller companies often have smaller remits and less career advancement opportunities.

Security professionals should consider the things that are meaningful and substantive when planning their career. Total compensation, future potential for growth within an organization, position accountabilities and level of influence, reporting structure, leadership access and influence should all be evaluated.

We have heard the following during candidate interviews with senior-level security professionals just from this year alone:

  • It sounds great, but are they open to calling it Chief Security Officer instead?
  • I am a Director now. I know it is a larger role, but the job title is ‘Senior Manager,’ and I am not going backwards.
  • If the company is serious about their security program, they would name it Vice President.
  • Why isn’t the position called Global Security Director instead of Head of Corporate Security?
  • Can you have them re-write the offer letter and call me the Global Chief of Security instead of just Director of Support Services?

True security leaders choose to pursue roles because they want to take on new and exciting challenges, make a positive contribution in the development of people and achieve substantial results. The bigger business card might gain you entry into exclusive ‘CSO-only’ clubs. But that is a different career goal.

Have you ever seen a job description with a listed characteristic for a successful candidate to be ‘desires to have an impressive title’? The appearance of success via a job title may net you some degree of personal satisfaction; however, it should not be a career objective.

Consider and pursue those opportunities that offer real potential to make a difference.