Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes for minute.  You’re holding two resumes, both from equally qualified candidates.  The sections for experience, education and training are identical for both candidates, except for their work history over the past six months.  The first candidate has been working at an entry level security guard position, $8.00/hr, at a small shopping mall.  The second resume has a military discharge 6 months prior with no work history since.  Which candidate would you call first?

                The mall cop would be my first choice, for a couple of reasons.  First, remember that while security contractors do paramilitary work, this isn’t the military anymore.  Security companies are required to make a significant financial investment in your training, background investigation, deployment costs, etc.   Having some kind of successful work history in the private sector, even for as little as six months, shows that you’ve taken an interest in your career and actually want to succeed.  Holding down an entry level job in mall security would help convince me that your future work would be a good return on my company’s investment in you. 

                Next, and just as importantly, are the references that you can generate from your work.  Like most recruiters, I call a candidate’s references both to verify employment and to get your current manager’s opinion of your performance.  While an entry-level position doesn’t pay much, it allows you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills, including the ability to present a professional appearance, conduct your duties thoroughly, or even just show up to work on time.  For those of you who haven’t been working, who am I supposed to call for a reference?  I’m not going to leave a voicemail for your moms, so don’t even ask.

                So what about the guys who say, “Screw that, guarding a mall is beneath me?”  In my opinion, that really says a lot about a person’s character.  If a candidate even implied that to me during an interview, I’d probably pass on his application.  One thing about security work, especially overseas, is that you might find yourself doing chores that are “beneath you”, whether it’s vehicle maintenance, burning trash, or handling your own supply and logistics.  If you find yourself bitching about having to run off teenagers and keep the yellow loading zones clear at the Galleria, what makes you think you’d enjoy working 12-hour shifts at an embassy ECP wearing full gear out in the 100-degree heat? 

Let’s face it, the life of a mall cop isn’t exactly glamorous.  It’ll probably never compare to a high-speed PSD gig, but it’s a steady paycheck and a foot in the door.  So get your state’s guard and firearms licenses, and keep them current.  That way, you’ll always be able to find local work in between overseas contracts.  And if you happen to pass by Sbarro’s on your beat and see me choking on a calzone, PLEASE hook a brother up with a Heimlich maneuver.