Getting into the top job is hard. But major new research from Airmic and StrategicRISK shows the way forward

StrategicRISK, in partnership with Airmic, has recently completed in-depth research into the risk management career. We've been looking at the way that risk management professionals can propel their careers forward.

With assistance from Airmic and its members StrategicRISK defined six stages within the risk career (Graduate, Risk and Insurance Officer, Risk and Insurance Manager, Head of Risk and Insurance, Risk and Insurance Director and Chief Risk Officer). We also identified what defines each role and how you can make it there.

The full report will be available with the next issue of StrategicRISK and launched at the Airmic conference in June. But before then I thought I'd share some of the key themes to emerge from the research. Here they are:

Risk management specific training is not always that robust so building skills and experience on the job is essential. You may have to study hard at the same time as working. Several of the best risk managers today have paid their dues, sacrificing their work life balance ito make sure they are in the best position to compete for the top jobs.

Risk management recruitment agencies don't understand the corporate world as well as they should. Risk recruiters have a decent understanding of the skills required in the insurance world or financial sector risk management. But that knowledge doesn't stretch to the corporate risk management world. This confusion can make it hard for employers to find the right candidates and for the best candidates to find the best employers.

There are significant challenges facing companies in their assessment of candidates. The problems with risk management assessment means it is difficult to validate a candidates risk management mettle, most recruitment is based on short interviews and assessing whether or not the candidate did a good job somewhere else.

Switching industries is not a problem for well skilled risk management professionals. While the risks might change between industries, generally speaking the way a company deals with those threats does not change. The core skills of risk assessment, quantification and treatment are highly transferable skills.

Mentoring can be extremely valuable particulalry early on in the risk management career. It's fairly common for senior risk managers to have a mentor of some description but it's not always that common for junior risk professionals to have the same opportunity. The best organisations today are bucking that trend.

Build relationships and make a name for yourself in a positive way. The risk management world is small. A well known political maxim about not making too many enemies on your way up holds just as true in the risk management profession. And remember, mud sticks.

Be brave, don't be afraid to speak truth to power and don't be afraid to make a nuisance of yourself. Part of the risk manager's job is to ask tough questions of authority. They may not always be popular questions but they are important none the less. A good organisation should recognise these qualities rather than trying to silence the individual with them.

Getting into the top job is not easy. Risk managers who have reached the lofty heights of chief risk officer have had to walk a tight rope between managing the expectations of executive management and balancing that with the realities at the business coal face.

Look out for the full report with the next issue of StrategicRISK and at the Airmic Conference in Bournemouth in June.