Choosing Development over Comfort

In a post-pandemic state of working from home and instantaneous gratification, coming out of your comfort zone (literally and figuratively) and choosing to better yourself takes a certain level of drive and a commitment to long-term effort.

As the world begins to open up once again, people are taking a good look around and determining where they sit amongst the benchmark of their peers. In a rapidly evolving sector, the need for reputable qualifications is becoming almost a necessity as professionals vie for the latest certification or membership body that will give them an edge in their job. They network with peers and join mentoring schemes; they become members of recognised and respected bodies – such as The Security Institute – and consciously work on their Continuous Professional Development.  This type of work – as it is a work – takes commitment and isn’t for the complacent.

Having observed these changes across the sector, we spoke to one learner who understands the importance of committing to long-term progression no matter the responsibility. Karol Doherty is well known both within The Security Institute and to PerpetuityARC Training. Having joined PerpetuityARC Training in 2019 as a learner on the BTEC Level 5 Diploma in Security Management, he’s continued his learning, undertaking several distance learning courses and is now working towards The Security Institute Advanced Diploma in Security Management QNUK Level 7. But as someone who has faced his share of professional and personal difficulties over the last few years, his choice to pursue development over his comfort zone is made all the more remarkable.

We sat down with Karol to hear more about what has helped to drive him on, and the challenges he’s faced.

The beginnings

‘I’ve been in security guarding for 19 years,’ Karol says, ‘and worked in almost every sector within the role including retail and education. My beginnings, though, were in the Irish defence force, where I served for 5 years before I left in 2003 and came to England. I stayed in defence and security, like many veterans, and gradually over the years worked my way up the career. I’m now a qualified and experienced Security Manager.’

But upon entering the security field, determining an appropriate Security Operative career pathway became a problem: ‘Trying to find that defined career path within this aspect of security is very difficult. There’s a general lack of structured training within Security Management that makes it difficult to find a clear-cut route up the career ladder. People coming in have no pathway, which means there’s nothing to aim for. There needs to be clearer entry routes and career paths if people are going to rise.’

Karol continues: ‘It’s fair to say that many security managers reach a certain level within their roles then stop. They’re earning good money for (what can be) a relatively straightforward job so they’re comfortable; there’s little incentive to keep driving forward. The comfort zone has been reached and that’s that.’

But for Karol, being comfortable wasn’t enough. Keen to further his comprehension he began researching training and development courses. He found PerpetuityARC Training and their distance learning programmes delivered in partnership with The Security Institute and embarked on his first course in 2015: The BTEC Level 5 Diploma in Security Management. To his surprise, the affects after certification were almost instant: ‘I am treated with more respect within the job because not every security manager has a qualification, and that’s the difference.’ He continues: ‘There’s almost a superciliousness in the industry if you don’t have a qualification, but on the flip side, how can people become qualified if there’s a general lack of career guidance across the sector? It’s a Catch-22 scenario.’

Next steps

As well as working full time, Karol’s achievements are made more admirable by the fact that he has dyslexia. To his dismay, that became an issue when speaking to other training centres: ‘When I decided I wanted to do training I rang a few alternative training centres to make enquiries. When I explained I was dyslexic, they turned me away and said they couldn’t help me. The doors literally shut.’ He pauses for a moment, reflecting: ‘Then I found PerpetuityARC Training. They were absolutely amazing; I can’t say enough good things.

When I first started the Level 5 Diploma, my confidence in my ability to write even a risk assessment was so low. When it came to the Level 7 the idea of referencing and essay writing just seemed inadmissible. I remember saying to Keeva – one of the course tutors “there’s no way I can do this”. But nothing was too much for them. I cannot put in enough good words for the team and the tutors for helping. It’s not always easy but it’s not endlessly hard either.’

Why the Level 7 Advanced Diploma?

‘The Level 7 will help to set me apart from others. It’s a strategic qualification under my belt’, Karol says. ‘I personally would recommend doing the distance learning route; it was perfect for me as it fit in with my lifestyle and work commitments. However, the Advanced Diploma is challenging; it’s a step up from the Level 5. And I’ve had to make some work-life adjustments to accommodate the intensity of the course.’

For Karol, the programme has potential for work applications based in the future: ‘It feels like it’s preparing me for strategic management with all its complexities and detail. My confidence has rocketed since beginning the course, particularly regarding meetings with seniors. The Advanced Diploma teaches the strategic elements to security management which help me to think differently, more from a business perspective than just a security angle. So, when I’m trying to secure funding for example, I can better understand where people are coming from and argue our case better.

But the main thing is, the course delivers on what it says it does. I now articulate my point in a discussion with more clarity and I feel comfortable reading the material in and around the subject – something I never thought I would!’

He continues: ‘The reading really expands your horizons and is crucial to the course as well as to your own personal development; you have to do it. Once I’ve finished the Level 7, I want to go on and do a master’s and possibly apply for the CSyP via the academic route. This course will help me to do that.’

The importance of joining a recognised membership body

During the conversation the topic of verified security membership comes up. As an active member of The Security Institute, Karol understands the value their membership programme brings: ‘At the beginning of the Level 5 you obviously get free student membership to The Security Institute as part of the course. My company then bought me a higher-level associate membership which I’ve continued with myself.

There are so many professional bodies out there but I’m with the Institute because of how much it gives back.  The networking and learning opportunities compliment the courses and support me, and it also has some extremely valuable resources to offer for professionals, including the mentoring platform which I’m currently making use of. Other membership bodies don’t seem to do as much as the SyI. My advice is to do your research and if you join The Security Institute engage with them as much as possible.’

How will the course help you in your career?

‘I can see myself as a Director of Risk or a Consultant of Risk and Security Management. The courses I’ve done have given me the grounding to take those steps in the future by being able to build on the qualifications I’m earning.’

What advice do you have for those thinking about doing a distance learning course?

‘Like many security officers that are in the sector, I steered clear of writing and report reading. I just couldn’t do it. This is something that is very common within this specific sector. Many officers avoid the academic route either due to low confidence in their reading/writing ability, dyslexia, or painful experiences of past study. But I want people to realise that shouldn’t stop you from learning. The right support is out there, and you can achieve.’

Karol’s positive experience and commitment to certified development has prompted him to share the news with others: ‘I promote these courses all the time on social media and to my friends. As a security manager, it’s my belief that the minimum you should have is the Level 5 Diploma. It’s important that there’s something there for Security Managers, something to properly inform them, guide them, and train them into effective Security Management. Having a certified qualification demonstrates an understanding that should underpin all security management functions. Unfortunately, in my experience, many Security Managers don’t want to earn their qualifications. They’re comfortable with where they are.’

But becoming qualified isn’t all Karol recommends: ‘I would also strongly suggest joining social media groups and online membership bodies. It’s a massive world and there’s no right or wrong way. The Mentoring Platform The Security Institute run has been a considerable help to me. My mentor asked me at the very beginning “what do you want to do?” and it was that question that prompted me to look at where I was versus where I wanted to be.’

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For more information on PerpetuityARC Training’s Security Institute courses, head to the website: https://www.perpetuityarc.com/syi/.

Special thanks to Karol Doherty for his contributions to this article.

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