Secure a Profession as a Security Guard

18 04 2010

By Jenna Reisch

Are you a protective, hard-working, reliable person? Do you like to keep things in order? Keep reading and discover insider information about a career as a security agent.

ISA Security Agent checking IDs at Joe’s bar

Travis Siebert, who works for a security company called Investigative Services Agency (ISA), has been a security agent for over two years.  He works at several different locations around Chicago such as Joe’s (a bar on Weed Street), Hardrock Café, and Hardrock Hotel.  Siebert likes his job because of the variety, and takes pride in protecting and helping, which are traits involved with security work.

“We [ISA] are a hospitality based company, meaning we try to go the extra mile to ensure a fun and safe time for the customers, staff, and artists,” says Siebert. “I got started with ISA a little over two years ago. I met the vice-president at a church event and struck up a conversation about what he does and the rest is history.”

ISA, according to the company’s website,, was started in 1998 by James Miller, a licensed detective.  Not only does the company offer security services, like executive protection, special event security, and bodyguards, but also corporate consulting and private investigations, which are divided accordingly:

Corporate consulting:

  • crisis management,
  • security staff training,
  • workplace violence

Private Investigations:

  • missing persons,
  • domestic violence,
  • surveillance,
  • criminal investigations

ISA has worked on close to 100 cases from professional services firms, small business owners, major communications and financial firms, abductions, federal agencies, and insurers.

As a security agent, Siebert handles various situations.  He works with different performing artists and does crowd control.  “Fights fall into those categories,” says Siebert.  In order to stop fights, the parties are separated and then, once things are settled down, security agents begin to ask questions in order to evaluate the next steps that they will need to follow.  In some cases, the police are involved, medics are called, charges are brought up, and paperwork and waivers are signed.

“I would definitely consider my job unconventional,” says Siebert who usually starts work between 6 and 9pm and ends between 1 and 3am. “It is usually a part-time job, so I feel that puts it into a different category as well,” says Siebert, who works between 15 to 25 hours a week.

While being a bouncer is enjoyable, there are some things that require adjusting to: “Irregular sleep patterns and long nights are hard to get used to, but I really enjoy my job for the most part,” says Siebert.

The best tools to have with you, in the security trade (according to Siebert) are a flashlight and helpful co-workers. “A flashlight is the best thing to help communicate problems and get the attention of the customers and your fellow co-workers,” he says. “Radios, hand cuffs, batons, and firearms are other things we are able to carry, but all of that depends on the venue and job at hand.”

While there is not a specific degree that is required in the security industry, most companies ask that their employees take the Permanent Employment Record Card (PERC) class.  “It is a basic 40 hour security class in which all registered security agents have to have,” says Siebert.  “There are several classes that are recommended after becoming a security agent that will help in preparing for all the duties that go along with the job: classes like Control and Escort, Baton Training, Cuffing, etc.”  These classes may be available through ISA. explains that the average bouncer makes around $14,000 annually, but compensation varies. “The type of job, the hours, the experience one has, and the venue all dictate the amount an individual gets paid per job or per hour,” says Siebert.  As a security agent for ISA, Siebert says salaries range from $30,000 to over $100,000, depending on who you are working for, what you are doing and where you are working.

For those interested in becoming a Security Agent, Siebert recommends that you research local agencies for applicant requirements and then set up an interview.  “The process is not easy and [it] takes a little time for background checks,” says Siebert, “but if you are interested, set up a time to go in and ask questions with a local agency that can fill you in on the requirements and necessary steps to take to start your new career.”


Private Dancing and Dance Instruction: Create Your Own Job

20 03 2010

By Janine Loechel

Lily Simmons performing at the annual Bellies For Life breast cancer fundraiser on March 6, 2010 with UIC Belly Buttons.

Lily Simmons, a belly dancer for ten years, turned her hobby and passion into a well-paying job. While no “typical” or regular jobs exist for a professional belly dancer, Simmons created her own positions as a dance instructor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Recreation Center and as a professional private dancer with Aloha Chicago Entertainment (ACE), a group of professional dancers and entertainers.

Originally from Macomb, Illinois, Simmons attended Western Illinois for a degree in Religious Studies and was part of a belly dance troop in her free time. Then, in September 2007, “I took a big risk and transferred to Chicago with the idea that I wanted to break out,” said Simmons. Once she arrived in Chicago, she made the switch from student and group dancer to instructor and private dancer, while anticipating graduation from UIC.

Since there are few jobs that require a professional belly dancer on staff, Simmons had to send out dozens of inquiry e-mails offering her skills. “You’ve got to take risks, put yourself out there, [and] see what happens,” said Simmons.

She sent out an e-mail to ACE, a Hawaiian-themed group of entertainers including hula and fire dancers, asking if they needed a belly dancer.  To her delight, they replied, “Actually, we do!”  Since 2007, Simmons has professionally danced through ACE, at weddings, anniversaries, bachelor parties, night clubs, and even conventions.  For approximately 30 minutes of solo dancing, duet dancing, or dancing in a choreographed set, Simmons makes on average $80-$120 per event.

Although there is no set schedule for private dancing, “at the same time, that’s what makes it interesting,” said Simmons.  The varying locations also give her interesting traveling opportunities. “I’ve been in places from the [Chicago] Shedd Aquarium for a wedding reception to people’s basements for a 50th [birthday].”

Her most successful gig was at a bachelor’s party in a Serbian night club. Simmons explained that she was being tipped in $20s, and she earned $500 for 30 minutes of dancing.

Simmons performing a belly dance/Ballywood fusion to song “Chaiyya Chaiyya”. Photo courtesy of Simmons

At these gigs, Simmons enjoys the freedom of improvisational belly dancing, which is a skill she introduces to her belly dance students at the UIC Recreation Center. Although she never anticipated becoming an instructor, she said the process was, and still is, easy. She explained that in order to become any type of instructor or fitness leader at a gym, all one has to do is complete a fitness certification class, which takes about four weeks.

Even if a class does not already exist in a gym, dance, or art studio, potential instructors may be able to create a class. For example, the UIC Recreational Center has flyers on its bulletin boards asking gym members for fresh ideas on new classes, fitness groups, or programs.

While instructor hours are steady with a fixed hourly wage, Simmons only teaches for one hour once a week, but extra hours are required. She chooses class music and creates class choreography on her own time. “Two minutes can take me over two hours to choreograph,” said Simmons. But where instructing lacks in pay, private dancing acts as a supplement.

Simmons stresses that anyone can become a fitness instructor or private dancer,“The only things you need are the drive to take the risk, and a great deal of confidence in what you do, because you’re putting yourself out there.” Simmons, claims to be naturally introverted. “In class, I’m just an Average Joe—usually quiet,” she said. “So if I can do it, anyone can.”