Working as a security guard, with disabilities?
November 10, 2017 11:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm middle-aged and I need to start a new career fast. I just want a basic, non-challenging job, ideally something at night. I'm thinking about becoming a security guard, but I'm not physically brave, I have health issues that have kept me out of the work force for a few years and I experience varying levels of disability. I've long fantasized about having the kind of slow-paced, quiet security job you see in sitcoms and movies, where some guard is alone at 3 AM looking at a bank of monitors, bored out of his mind. How likely is this? (More questions follow after the cut.)

Years ago I had a brief job at a security company working dispatch and it was rather technical and sometimes kind of high-stress. I absolutely do not want something like that. I also do not want to get shot and I don't want to be on my feet in the cold for eight hours. (Actually, I'm sometimes unable to be on my feet for more than a few minutes although other times I can walk around OK.) Ideally I'd rather not deal with co-workers much at all. I'd like something indoors, relatively sedentary. If I could write novels on the job, I'd be thrilled. I can easily stay awake until after dawn, so I have that going for me. I live in a large urban area.

If you've worked in security or know somebody who has, I'd like to know anything you can tell me about the realities of the profession. Is the kind of job I'm looking for hard to get? Do guards at security companies all compete for the jobs where they can sit on their butts all night? Will my disabilities make me unemployable, or will employers just be glad to have somebody who never falls asleep at 3 AM?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total)
If you've worked in security or know somebody who has,

I've worked on film sets over the years, connected with (but not working for) the Locations dept. After hours on location shoots, they would always have at least one security guy. He'd show up as everyone else was leaving and leave as they all returned.

I recall one of them saying to me, "I'm here to ensure that nothing happens. I do very little. My dog gets a lot of walks."
posted by philip-random at 12:30 AM on November 11, 2017

Couple of my good friends (one F, one M) did this when they were students & for a while after graduating. They sat in the reception areas of closed-for-the-night office buildings, reading their books & occasionally glancing at the CCTV monitors. They didn't have previous security experience at that time, and they are not physically imposing people who are likely to throw bad guys to the ground in headlocks. So I think was exactly the slow-paced kind of thing that you might be looking for, as long as you don't mind earning the minimum wage in return for unsocial hours, and your potential future employers don't discriminate on grounds of your health.

Good luck! :)
posted by rd45 at 4:24 AM on November 11, 2017

Try the security departments in hotels in your area. They sometimes need guards to sit and watch conference displays overnight.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:06 AM on November 11, 2017

My mom did this for a while in her mid- and late-60s, and she is zero percent tough or actually able to stop any sort of misbehavior in progress. She's basically just a friendly little old lady. The key was making nice with the supervisor, so you got assigned something cushy. Eventually supervisors she liked moved on, and she ended up quitting because like you, she can't stand around for hours or do physically taxing stuff. Also, the pay is comically low.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:48 AM on November 11, 2017

Film or TV sets would be perfect. I recently visited a TV studio in a large rent-an-office type building, where a family sitcom TV show is currently in production. We were there on the show's day off, so the main crew wasn't there.

The security guard was a pleasant grandma (maybe in her late 60s) who was installed on a sofa in the atrium, watching TV and cuddling a chihuahua, glancing occasionally at a bank of CCTV screens. She had a blanket, some snacks, and looked very, very happy. I chatted with her and she said she got paid to sit there for 12 hours every Saturday and Sunday, and loved it. She even had a skylight overhead. It was awesome. She was friendly and not at all physically intimidating. But she was quite alert, even though she was relaxed, and sternly asked me not to enter a specific part of the building when I got too close to a door.

This show only needed that level of security because it's shot in a lockable building and doesn't have any dangerous elements like a locker of prop machine guns or pyrotechnics to guard. So that's probably the holy grail of what you're looking for- a sitcom that's shot on a Mon-Fri schedule in a nice clean bright lockable building.

Another possible option might be overnight front desk person at a small, quiet suburban chain hotel.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:00 AM on November 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Be careful. In states that license security guards, there are companies that run scams, advertising available positions. When you show up, they tell you that they have a job for you, but you need to be trained first. They charge you an obnoxious sum for training you may or may not need and then, at best, send you off to a cattle call you could've walked into off the street.

I talked to a lot of people affected by such a scam once, and I can't say I came away with a very good impression of the availability, especially the steadiness, of such work, but these were people who were pretty much at the bottom of the barrel, career-wise, so it may not have been a representative sample.
posted by praemunire at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Overnight parking lot attendants aren't exactly security, but it ticks your boxes -- you sit in your cozy little booth and wait for the cars to come to you, and take payment, and mostly do nothing.

College dorms often have a front desk attendant/security person who sits by the main door at night. You might let students in who forgot their key, call security if there are rowdy drunks, call maintenance if there's a building problem, call an ambulance if someone's sick or hurt, etc. It's a little busier than traditional night security, because students keep all different hours, and the students tend to be sociable with dorm staff. But it's pretty sitting-still and you generally have a lot of time to yourself ... my dorm attendant did super-elaborate paint-by-numbers and knitted entire wardrobes and read a book every two days or so.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:08 AM on November 11, 2017

I took a class in a building that had security. As far as I could tell, the security had to stand outside the whole time facing the sun and a bunch of asphalt. It did not look cushy.
posted by aniola at 10:21 AM on November 11, 2017

If your town has cctv monitoring on the street, there might be a job with local government sitting watching the screens. Good thing about this type
Of security job is you'll never have to go investigate anything yourself, just inform on-the-ground security or police.
posted by KateViolet at 4:51 AM on November 12, 2017

I'm chiming in quite late here, so I don't know if you'll see this, but I had a couple friends in college and grad school who worked as hotel overnight desk help for exactly the reasons you mention. It was quiet as the grave, and they basically just kept an eye on the place and checked in any late night stragglers. Occasionally a patron would call with a room emergency, and they'd have to coordinate with maintenance to get it fixed, or some crazy would go down with unruly guests on the weekend, but it was the exception rather than the rule in a hotel that catered to business travelers.
posted by backwards compatible at 2:47 PM on November 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

backwards compatible, I looked into being an overnight hotel clerk years ago and it seemed like all the jobs also wanted you to audit. So if, like me, you suck at math, forget about it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:47 PM on November 12, 2017

For most hotels there's not much math involved in auditing. Graveyard shift workers are not necessarily going to the most stable workforce and employers need to be able to plug new workers in with a minimal training. Hotels do vary and you'll occasionally run into an audit process that requires a lot of work and math but it's easy enough to avoid those jobs.
posted by rdr at 7:26 PM on November 12, 2017

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