WORKING THE CONTRACT SECURITY CIRCUIT, PT1

So you’ve landed your first contract, slogged through it to the end, now what? It’s time to land the next opportunity and venture forth!

Be ready to do some serious wrangling when it comes to the competitive world of security contracting. Staying in this business long and keeping active can be a careful balancing act. You have to stay sharp, keep connected to the factors that shape the contract job market, and be disciplined about your approach to closing out your present contract and landing the next one.

Networking. Getting your next contract is always a bit easier if you have friends. This business is loaded with buddies helping other buddies and it’s better to take the hand-up to the next opportunity than the hand-out in the unemployment line.

As can be pictured quite simply, your network of friends is invaluable for you to stay afloat in the world of security contracts. If it were for your continued connections with friends, every contract’s close would mean another set of resumes and cold-calls to the list of companies that interest you.

With a well-groomed network, you can develop job leads and gauge work availability in your field fairly well. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to stay in contact and good standing with your trusted associates. The Security contract world is a land of feast or famine. Jobs seemingly glut the market for awhile then evaporate like a mirage when you need the opportunity the most. Your network can give you the edge you need over the others you compete with.

Inter-Company Job Offerings. Many companies hire and promote from within. It is important to know if there are openings and opportunities that might be a decent fit for you given you are already employed within a given PMC/PSC. 

Make inquiries with your companies’ administration, operations management, and human resource department as to any inter-company job listings that may crop up. Always look to improve your position and take advantage of any opportunities that can help you grow or better master your vocation. It is up to you to put your foot in the door, be motivated, and go after any advancement that arises inside the firm you are presently employed with. Do not overlook this. The worse possibility is that you are not chosen for an opening, but it does put you on the companies’ radar as being motivated about advancement. This is a good thing.

Online Resources. Always couple your network search with a review of online job resources always. You might discover a new business and employment trend you were not aware of prior to your online search that may be a way to change venues and gain more experience.

Some of the best online resources can be had at the following web addresses:

Each of these sites has organized invaluable resources that will cut down on your research time and help you manage your job search efforts. Now, the issue is that these are not free services. So, ask around and see if there is a service that your friends have used successfully to land jobs and choose wisely which online service to go with.

Online Forums and Blogs. You can do yourself a favor and keep track of the scuttlebutt found on forums and industry focused blogs from time to time. These types of online resources can give you a feel for the pulse of what is happening in the field as well as get an idea about the interests and topics often bantered to and fro’ by those active in the industry.

Unemployment and Downtime. Any career in the field of contract security will inevitably lead to a period of unemployment or what I call ‘down time’ between contracts. Even for folks who are well connected, being unemployed for a short while is commonplace. 

Being unemployed is never an easy time. However, you can use it to your benefit IF you plan ahead and use some common sense.

Mistakes – Burning Yourself. Don’t Be ‘That Guy’. We have all heard the line that you should never be a ‘volunteer’ when the boss is trolling for those with their hands up. Well, you should also strive to never be ‘that guy’ when other contractors in your industry talk shop.

Protect your reputation at all costs. While the contract security industry is in many ways burgeoning with growth and opportunities, it still is a small community. If you burn yourself, staying in the business will be very difficult.

Here are some of the fastest ways to burn your reputation and end your six figure career:

  1. Walk away prematurely. Simply, not finishing your contract and meeting the terms of your employment will close doors. You signed on, complete your part of the agreement or pay the price.

  2. Being undisciplined. Being the shit-bag on display will turn away opportunities. Be kempt, keep your shit in order and be on time. If you’re known for not being one of these three things, then you are likely going to being drawing unemployment checks. It is that simple.\

  3. Being a ‘Drama Queen’. This is the fastest way to end your career in my opinion. Drama Queens in the contract world always complain about work conditions and ‘extra’ duties when we all know what is asked of us and that nothing is ‘fair.’ You can put to flame a budding career by being the guy that always opens his mouth or causes embarrassment for others.

Wheels up! Out of Country and Into Country. Getting back and forth between your home, work, and assorted travel destinations is in large part all on you. Your company may or may not pay for all, some, or none of your flights in and out of the country as planned so you need to determine what is necessary for you to get in and out with ease and minimize your travel hassles.

Brush up on your travel skills and develop some savvy.

Military Flights. Like any airline – showing up on time is important. With MIL flights this should be explored a little deeper. Unlike a commercial airline company, you are often not the priority of the military flight, but a passenger tagging along. Schedules and conflicts with your deployment can arise depending on this factor. Be ready to be early to make sure you catch your intended flight, but also do not be surprised when you are at the terminal for a day or two.

Think ahead, have a plan to manage your needs, and stay in contact with your family as well as your Company so they know what to expect or how they might assist you.

Make sure you have your LOA/orders, your itinerary, passport, and necessary identification cards. Before you even get to the flight line, you’ll be processed and need base access. Plan accordingly.

Civilian Flights. Commercial flights are pretty straight forward, but you need to pay attention to a few things so your voyage goes smooth.  Pack light, stay low profile, and remember bad guys are interested in your activities. 

Arrive way early, sort ticketing out, and be ready to stand and line for the security check. We all know that airport security is not only a hassle but an imposition. It is even worse if you look out of the ordinary like most contracts tend to do. Don’t make yourself a target for more intrusive inspections. You need to emulate the rest of the passengers and be as ‘standard’ looking as possible.

If you are asked to be searched more thoroughly, be polite, professional, and compliant. Remember, you have a six figure job to get to. Do not let the federal employee in front of you ruin you debarkation over silly protocols.

What to Pack and Why. Pack what you need in a limited fashion and keep the ‘wants’ list to a minimum in your initial deployment gear. You want to do this for a few specific reasons. First, you don’t need to be hoisting around 800 lbs. of gear on your initial trip in-country. Not only is it uncomfortable to do so, but you also stick out of the crowd as someone deploying. This isn’t a good thing given you are travelling to a contested area(s) where combatants may attempt to kill you prior to your arrival on post. Be smart and travel as low profile as possible. Be one of the crowd if you can, and always maintain your situational awareness.

Travel Security. Travel security is an obvious subject every global trekker has to contend with in today’s environment; even more so for the security contractor. If you have not considered it, let me fill you in – you are a target.

Flights and Airports – Being On Guard. Airports have layers and layers of security, but have you noticed how bad things still happen in airports and on planes? You cannot let your guard down; period. It is too easy to be tired and annoyed with travel and not stay fixed on your personal security and the bad guys know this.

Passports and Entry Visas. This might seem common sense, but it has to be said- Have your passport well in advance of any overseas job searches. Lots of folks do not have them. For a contractor, the passport is VITAL. Have it updated properly and make sure you have any needed visas to support your travel plans and itinerary.

There are rules even in disrupted and chaotic countries when it comes to travel so have your documents in order. The last thing you need is to be detained over a passport or visa issue you could have handled well in advance.

…. More on The Contract Security Circuit to come!

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