Working as a security guard in Singapore

So recently, I decided to make use of my security license and experience how it is like working as a security guard in Singapore. Here I will be sharing my experience. But before anything, please do bear in mind I only have very little experience in this line and whatever that I share is only a snapshot based on what I encounter.


Why did I get the license?

I always try to prepare myself for rainy days. During Covid, many jobs were disrupted, but some profession remains essential. I made use of my private hire license during that period to get some fresh air out of the house and at the same time, earn some money. I think it is sort of performing national duties as well since we have to keep the transport system running. I feel proud to send a healthcare worker to their working place as it makes me feel that I am contributing to the fight against COVID, although I do take precautionary measures such as having an air filter in the car, wearing a fully sealed mask and sanitising my vehicle every now and then.

At the same time, I didn’t want to have just one safety backup in place, just like how I was trained as an Instructor, we were always taught to have more than one backup. Hence I went to obtain the security license. It cost me about $50 per module and I have to pass three modules. Each module will span over three days. Take note that different service providers charge a different amount, something that I did not know earlier. Also, remember to make use of your UTAP funding to subsidize your training. Do not assume that you will pass so long you are experienced or highly educated. I have seen for myself a warrant officer who didn’t make it despite spending many years in the field. Lastly, if you want to take on specialised roles, you must go for additional training such as traffic control or handling security work at sensitive areas, and others, in order to work in specialised roles.

The initiative to obtain the license turned out well. I met a senior officer from a uniform service who later offered to be a referee for me should I consider a career switch. There was a discussion in class and I shared my perspective. Didn’t want to come across as being offensive, I first acknowledge the group by stating that they are very senior and I just want to share my perspective as a father now that I am one. There was a discussion in class about careers and one mentioned that they themselves would never want their child to be a security guard. They added that if their child wants to join the SAF, then be an Officer, if not then don’t join the SAF. Hearing this, because of what I have experienced during NS, I felt motivated to share.

I told them that, to me, it doesn’t really matter if my child wants to be a security guard. Not everyone works best at the top and I think in all roles, one can shine. Some shine the most when working the ground. So why does it matter? After all, even if you aspire to clear rubbish, if you are good, you can always become Sembcorp. I also shared that I have myself, been to three different levels of the army – Officer, Specialist, and Men. It is not necessary that Officers are always the best, although on average, the standard is higher. Between being a good specialist or a corporal as compared to a mediocre officer, I would rather be the former. And that is why I had left OCS back when I didn’t feel that I am ready for the role.

Why work as security?

The best job if you are studying

First of all, I think this is one of the best jobs to do if you are studying or if you have paperwork to do. During the night, depending on the location, there are many opportunities for you to clear your emails or to catch up with your reading. Of course, this depends on your supervisor and it should not have an impact on your alertness and ability to respond when needed. I hope that those who are in charge can help promote a culture of learning by allowing their surbodinates to upgrade themselves during their free time while not neglecting their job. Personally, I think it is much better than playing games on mobile phones. I do the same when I drive private hire, but sometimes, member of the public is not so understanding. There was a complaint that I was listening to my audio lecture while driving. If they had told me directly, I would have just stopped playing, even though I would be a little upset since it is my car.

Unfortunately, many in the trade, for both private hire and security, usually do not engage themselves in such activities. I remember being flamed online when I suggested that private hire drivers consider upgrading themselves while doing their job. I was told that I am being “arrogant” because many of these drivers are old. I don’t think being old is an excuse. Lee Kuan yew is the best example. Perhaps the responder did not know that I drive PHV back then as well.

It helps you remain connected to the ground

Most white collars would not consider doing this. To be very honest, some might even despise jobs like this. To me, every occupation is respectable, so long it is honest money. Working at the front line also helps me to remains versatile, in the event that one day, I might have to make a career switch, it will not come as a shock to me. No job is to be taken for granted. I think COVID has proven that to all of us. To be honest, I have my apprehension as well. But the more apprehensive I am, the more I should try it. Working as security also makes me remain conscious of the struggle on the ground, as well as what’s happening at the ground level. It makes me understand as management, what are some of the loopholes that are present and should be plugged. It makes me understand how to best craft policies so that they can be accepted and adopted by those who are running the ground. Last but not least, it reminds me of how to interact and talk to people from all walks of life. To me, it is always important to be uncomfortable, because the moment you are comfortable, you are no longer growing.

My experience

I took up an assignment for three days. It paid me $120 per day and I only realized that one of the days is a public holiday after I signed the agreement. VSCs (Volunteer Police) are not allowed to be security officers for some reason. I took up the night shift as it is quieter and I can do my own work as and when time permits.

Overall, the assignment is quite okay, mainly because of my supervisor who is a very nice man. He is from Malaysia. And he shared with me his experience of being told to stay in line by his Singaporean subordinate while referencing his nationality. I think it is very sad to hear something like this. There are some Singaporeans who thinks that they are superior just because they happen to be born in this land. While it is okay to be proud to be a Singaporeans, it is a fine line between being proud and being arrogant. And being born priviledged does not mean we should be self entitiled. If one day, Singapore cease to do well, we can always find things the other way round and we wouldn’t want others to treat us as such when we are working overseas.

While working, there are some who are very nice to you. They will acknowledge your presence, smile and greet you. While there are others who simply ignore you, which to me is fine. The worst are those who challenge your authority, although at this point I musty also say that there are some security officers who overstep their boundaries also. For example, I was asked to do a bag check for all leaving the premises. One foreign worker dissed me when I told him politely that I cannot see the content of his bag. Nothing about him being a foreign worker, but it is quite ironic that I am being treated rudely in my own country when he is a guest here. So as you can see, I guess it doesn’t matter if the aggressor is local or foreign. Rather, it is about basic courtesy and respect.

Working as a security also made me reflect on myself. For example, many years back, I had an incident with a security officer. I went to this place as a volunteer and the guard spoke me rather rudely at the gantry, asking me where I am going. When I told him where I was going, he said he don’t know the place. When I shared with him the in charge’s name, he said he don’t know as well. I got upset because he doesn’t seem to know anything working there. Then I tried to call the in charge and he refused to take the call. Looking back, because now I understand that these security officers sometimes face a lot of stress and descrimination at work, I may want to be extra cautious when interacting with them.

Then there was one incident which I felt a little amused because there was this lady who spoke to me in a manner that made me felt like she thinks I am stupid. I think she probably acted out of her assumptions revolving around the role of a security officer. I am surprised that my mannerism, communication skill and the way I carry myself didn’t give her any clue that I can probably comprehend whatever she wants to tell me. Then again, even if I am wearing a Rolex and carrying a mont blanc, people probably think that it is a fake one. This is quite an interesting point which I had observed since many years back. If you are perceived to be rich, even a fake watch will be thought as a genuine one. And if you are not, even a genuine one will be assumed to be fake. Did I mention that a fellow collegue of mine drives a Mercedes to work as a security officer?

The last incident which I want to share was an interaction with a colleague. He is a senior citizen and it is my first time seeing him. When I saw him, he was not in uniform, so I thought that he is a visitor or staff and I reminded him to change his mask as it is protocol. That simple statement seems to have offended him. I later approached him to explain that it was not intentional as I thought he is a staff but he remained difficult to talk to. He even refused to take a photo with me which is needed as proof when changing shift and delayed the whole process of me ending work.

To be honest, I was quite angry when it happened. But I thought about it and I decided to be nice. Perhaps in my younger days, I would have retaliated. I realized that sometimes, people may react in a certain way because of their own experiences in life. For example, he may have always been bullied by coworkers, resulting in him acting this way in order to be defensive. There can be one thousand and one reasons why he behaves like this. So I decided to give him the benefit of doubt and just move on. In fact, I thought that I am supposed to take over from him later in the evening and I was running a little late so I drove slightly faster as I didn’t want him to think that I intentionally come late so that he ends late.

To me, there is one thousand and one way I can make things difficult for him. But I held myself back from reacting. Perhaps that is maturity and growth that comes with age. And I am happy that I did not react.

In conclusion

I hope that all Singaporeans can try out different professions, especially those which involves working at the frontline so that we become more aware and compassionate towards other professions. One of the biggest issue I think Singapore is facing is social stratisifcation, which has been highlighted in studies before. By mingling and exposing ourselves to different area of work, we become more versatile, compassionate and our employability becomes more resilient.

The security industry faces many challenges, and one of it is human resource constraints. It often involves long (and odd) hours, low remuneration as well as social stigma, although things are slowly improving with the introduction of the WSQ framework. This is a chicken and egg problem because, with the conditions, it is harder to attract people. And without quality people, you cannot argue for better conditions. At the same time, it also makes me wonder. If one day, this job is to be replaced by AI, where will all these people go? Hence, it is important for current security officers to upgrade themselves in order to value add their role.

Wishing all my friends in the industry well =)

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