Over the years I have engaged in casual conversation with women who all end up asking “so what do you do?” Their surprise at my answer is usually followed up with “wow, I wish I could do that”.
Still, I am contacted by others who are interested in my profession but believe they don’t have the ability to pursue it due to a lack of experience or the finances needed to acquire the training. My response is usually that you can achieve anything, if first you get you rear end off of the couch.
I would like to share a story as an example of being able to achieve your dreams without overwhelming physical strength, money or luck.
There was a little girl who at the age of 8 witnessed firsthand her country’s civil war. Her country was transitioning from a dictatorship to a democracy. She and her family survived while dodging the crossfires. She replaced her childish hide and seek games with hiding for her very life…
A few months later her family escaped the violence and immigrated to another country. She and her parents and a 18 month old little brother and all the family’s possessions with one suitcase between them, made it to freedom.
The little girl had to learn everything all over again. A new country, new language, new friends, new traditions and new life, and all within a culture that reminded her and even insisted that she wasn’t equal to them.
She managed to make new friends and learned how to adapt and be a part of another world. One evening, at the age of 16 she was a victim of an assault that left her badly beaten, robbed and almost bleeding to death in an alley. It took four years of therapy to learn to live with her frustration, nightmares, anger and pain. The physical pain was a matter of weeks but the emotional pain took years to manage. She blamed herself as many do after an attack. Why didn’t she pay attention, see the signs, and know how to defend herself or just be able to run. And the worst part of it was that she couldn’t report it as her family at that time was illegal in the country.
After high school she decided to become a bodyguard. She still can’t answer the exact reason as to why. She found it a fascinating profession, maybe she wanted to protect others, and herself. Still today if you ask her what made her decide on this profession, she will say ‘’I don’t know’’….it just felt natural’’
She received her first training in close protection at the age of 19. She had no money for training so she borrowed it. She worked as a waitress to pay back the loan.
She had no military or law enforcement experience, but she knew she could offset those requirements by taking more and more courses and working her way up from the very bottom as a security guard. She offered to intern for security companies in order to gain experience.
She barely made any money. She went without and sacrificed everything in order to pay for further training and education in the security industry.
She fought sexual harassment, verbal insults, gender discrimination, exclusion, and pure alienation. She forged ahead without the support or respect of her peers which left her vulnerable to making extremely bad choices in some business relationships that cost her money, time and peace of mind.
She continued to concentrate on her training and maintained her work ethics. Eventually she was noticed. She had finally earned the respect of a few people who would refer to her as a colleague. People saw something good in her and trusted her. They offered her jobs or accepted her as a team member and guided her. She learned from them and achieved respect.
She was not lucky. Luck never followed her. Failed business relationships, broken trusts, financial failures and plain business misfortune. She suffered breakdowns, loneliness, exhaustion, physical and muscular fatigue, injuries, blood and scars, heating pads and ice baths and yes, admittedly, tears. But she always kept moving, even when she had to crawl she was crawling closer to her goal.
This girl was me…
I was born in a communist country, immigrated to Greece and created a company dedicated to the training of female security professionals. That company is Athena Worldwide and it and its affiliates operate in the USA, Europe and in other countries. I am financially secure, help to support my family and continue to train every day.
What I learned is:
-Find what you love to do and what you want to be, then make a plan to achieve it.
-If you don’t have the financial ability, sacrifice.
-Take the job that will pay off your debt. You can get the job you really want later.
-Any job you take can enhance your training and add to your experience. Find the opportunities they offer.
You don’t need a military or law enforcement background. There are opportunities within the security industry that don’t require them and in fact in some cases, being either of the former could disqualify you. Clients and companies used to hire people with military or LE experience because they wanted professionals who had specific mental and physical abilities and were able to work under challenging conditions and follow specific directions. While military and police personnel are trained in specific skills, they often lack the “social polish” and sense of style, needed for close interaction with a client. Keeping in mind that soldiers and policemen are manufactured by their governments and trained to be dependent on them, it stands to reason that it is easier to take a socially polished professional and teach them the necessary protective skills, than it is to retrain a soldier or a policeman how to smile, dress and dine at a 26 piece place setting.
If you can prepare yourself mentally and physically to allow an employer to trust your skills, you will be amazed to find out how easy it is to get a foot in the door of this industry.
If you don’t have any experience at all and know that 99% of job openings require prior experience, don’t be disappointed, I will admit that it is frustrating for employers too. So there are steps you can take that can add to your experience:
- Seek out and join professional trade organizations. Socialize with their members.
- Volunteer to assist with political candidates that cannot afford a security team
- Intern with a legitimate group or team and be prepared to start at the bottom
At the end of the day, we must realize that we are not living in a perfect world. No one has to offer us anything. As in any other industry you have to fight to survive and fight just as hard to get ahead. Game rules won’t be fair and you will be pushed from one corner to another. Be prepared to be lied to and miss-led. Understand that you will be judged and passed over for work because you are too tall or too short, to heavy or thin, too pale or the wrong race or gender, or even because of your religion or hair color, eye color or because of tattoos or visible birthmarks or because of an accent or the wrong sounding voice, or because of your last name or the car you drive or ………………
But remember, no matter how many so called colleagues mentally attack you or employers pass you over for work, as long as you keep focused on your goal and do well, there will be someone watching and you will be noticed. One day your hard work will pay off.
It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how much money you have. What matters is how badly you want what you want.
….Now tell me again, what is stopping you?
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC