Below I share a bit of my personal experience (and also of my close colleagues) that should help you put together your personal strategy to land a job in this challenging field. So get yourself ready, leave your comfort zone and let’s make our career resolutions come true!
1 – Leave your comfort zone
Economic downturn, unemployment numbers sky-rocketing, and so much other bad news hit us on a daily basis. Popular advice is: “If you have a job, stick with it until this whole crisis thing is over”. Sure, this is definitely reasonable, but as the old motto says: With crisis comes opportunity”. Take advantage of the opportunity, leave your comfort zone!
Numbers in the past couple of quarters are signaling a recovery of the economy worldwide, and the next couple of months promises to be the ideal time to find a better job. As any other change in our life, this action might require a lot of effort and compromise, especially if you find yourself in a very “comfortable zone”. The first question to ask yourself: Am I happy with my job? If your answer is anything but a resounding yes, it’s time to open up your eyes and ears for the market. In case you decide it’s time for a change in your life, it’s time to create a plan of action.
2 – Create a plan, and stick to it
If you are reading this tip, it means that you’ve decided that something needs to be changed in your life, work wise. First thing first, if you you’re not the sole decision maker in your house (meaning you have a family to care for), the first step to be taken is to get their buy in. You won’t get anywhere if your dear ones do not share your enthusiasm for a personal decision such as changing jobs. Once they understand your position and push you forward, discuss with them the possibilities and try to picture where you all want to be by the end of this year.
The plan of choice can mean a simple departmental change, or beginning a whole new life in a foreign country. In case you decide to move to a new position at work, it might involve building a better relationship with your potential new manager, get acquainted with the work to be done, and so on. In case you decide to move abroad, the process can be definitely painstakingly but as we risk managers know, the bigger the risk , the higher the profit (or loss, in case you fail to prepare a plan B).
Moving abroad might require you to capitalize yourself, apply for visas (which can be an extremely long process), a previous psychological preparedness, notifying your kid’s school, etc. Hence, the recommendation is to write down what your mission is. After that, break the plan down in smaller, manageable chunks and where possible, distribute some tasks among your family members so they all feel responsible and also rewarded once the plan turns out to be a success!
3 – Maximize your network
How many times have you heard of “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.”? Believe me, it works (personal experience included!). So why not use the so called media networking to leverage your career?
Taking my LinkedIn Group as an example, everything started when I searched for a group on Infosec Professionals to join at LinkedIn. That was September 2008, when the crisis was at its peak, and reading through the groups I noticed countless talented Infosec Professionals looking for a new position after being retrenched. That’s when I was struck by an idea: creating a group that would bring Infosec Professionals and recruiters together, promoting their interaction and bringing both ends together.
Today, a couple of years later, the group counts with more than 8000 members, several hundred topics are discussed on a weekly basis and my number of connections grew from around 100 to 500+ (I’m not an open networker, by the way).
In my case, 200 of those 500 are RECRUITERS. Needless to say, I usually get to know about a position being opened WAY BEFORE anyone else out there. My modus operandi:
Facebook – friends and leisure, with a page about the blog.
LinkedIn – Business
Twitter – Business
The underlying tip is: be proactive – search for like-minded people – expose your knowledge. Surround yourself with people who share a common interest.
4 – Invest in your career
Before anything else, allow me to open this advice with a very important statement: CISSP IS HARD. CISSP IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. Before I took the CISSP exam almos a decade ago, I was one of the guys who would bow when meeting a CISSP, until I achieved it myself. The general perception is: everyone that takes the exam comes back home 99.9% sure they FAILED. So did I. And so did every friend of mine after the exam, and ALL OF THEM, MYSELF INCLUDED, WERE SUCCESSFUL.
That said, my personal recommendation is: Go for CISSP or any other certification/graduation in your area, even if deemed hard. Preparation is key, but there’s plenty of valuable resources to study online. Just don’t make the matter bigger than it actually is.
PS: For those convinced to write about Infosec/RM/Compliance, I’m more than open to publish your article in my blog.
5 – Consider becoming an expatriate
I would dare saying that the world nowadays is more accessible than ever if you want to move away from your old life and start from the scratch, perhaps in a paradisiacal country (very subjective concept ) . Infosec professionals are a sought after species, and if you are good at what you do, you’ll certainly find a job abroad. This doesn’t mean that you should start sending out your CV to companies in Tahiti, Bahamas, UK, or Brazil. As mentioned before, PLAN.
In my case, I became an expat initially moving from Brazil to the Czech Republic, and once again when I moved to Australia. But each move required months of planning so to make my expatriate experience a pleasant one. Australia took me 1 1/2 years for the visa alone, since companies here do not hire if you don’t have the proper papers (in most cases).
But one thing is for sure, becoming an expat is not easy. You have to think about whether you speak the local language or if a drastic change of weather is a big deal for you (Finland is rated the #1 developed country, but since winters last nearly 4 months, would you want to move there?). Think it through and read more about it before making a decision!
6 – Get your resume professionally rewritten
I have to confess that I’ve spent a while to convince myself about that one, but as our relocation to Australia was getting closer and I hadn’t updated my CV for ages, I decided to give it a try. Actually, the trigger for me to get it professionally done was, believe me, an unsolicited e-mail. Like all of you, I hate SPAM, but since I was kind of receptive for any help in the daunting task of resume writing, why not?
It turned out to be a good experience. The service promised a free CV analysis, and since it was for free, why not giving it a try? Fortunately, the company was serious and they got back to me with a 5 pages e-mail explaining every shortcoming my CV presented, with very convincing arguments. Making the story short, if I compare my 5 years old CV with the current one, I tell you something for sure: the market requirements for a CV have changed 180 degrees.
Getting it rewritten cost me a few hundred bucks, but since I had spared a budget as part of my overall plan, the outcome was very satisfactory and definitely more aligned with the current market. That’s definitely a recommended service, but make sure the company providing the services has a reputable background and its customers are content with the outcome.
7 – Brand yourself
Are you a specialist for a given technology? Have you got several years of experience in a certain specific field? Let everyone know it!
Branding yourself is more than bragging about your skills or experience: it doesn’t come so easy. People should perceive you as an authority in your field, and what’s the best way of doing it, you ask?
Fortunately internet makes this task easier, giving you several different channels to share your knowledge. Let me mention some examples:
- Starting your own blog: Yes, I know, Internet is full of blogs already. But who said there is no space for your voice too? Taking my blog as an example, I can surely tell you it’s the most rewarding initiative of mine in the past couple of years. It definitely gives me pleasure to write articles and see people participating, no matter if complimenting or criticizing. The point is: I’m sharing my thoughts and opening a dialog with my peers, even though virtually.
- Asking and answering questions at LinkedIn: LinkedIn is another channel full of people striving to learn, which is a very fertile ground for sowing your seeds and get noticed.
- Participating in forums and discussion lists: Search for groups of your interest and take part. More than just sharing knowledge, you’re building a network around you with minimal effort.
There are several other options over there, being it a podcast, workshop or association. The point here is having people associating you with a specific knowledge. As said, Internet couldn’t be of more help.
8 – Work on your weaknesses
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: The first step to solve a problem is to acknowledge its existence.
I’m fully aware how hard it is to find our own weakness, let alone accept it. But a sincere feedback from your boss or close peers definitely aids the task. Becoming a better professional requires a huge dose of humbleness from you to accept a feedback that might sound nonsense at first, or even hurt you.
My advice to transforming a weakness into strength is:
1 – Ask people around you what they think your weaknesses are. Tell them to describe situations where they spotted it and try to look at yourself from their shoes. 99% of the time you’ll see they are right.
2 – Ask for their opinion on what you should do to improve that weakness. People will be glad to help you strengthening or developing a certain skill.
3 – Constantly consult with them to measure your progress. It will be rewarding to both of you seeing progress is being made!
9 – Believe
It comes without saying: If you don’t believe you can get there, why would the others? Look around you: you might have already achieved a lot in your life, but there’s still much to do. Keeping faith into your objectives only brings more strength to deal with the hurdles you might face. So look ahead, there is a whole new year ahead of you! Roll up your sleeves and start working on new life right now!
10 – Enjoy it!
Sounds like a paradox, but changes are the only constant in our lives. And when times of change arrive, you have 2 distinct choices: to welcome or to reject them. Being positive and accepting the fact that the unforeseen can happen only eases the transition to the new.
If you’re enduring unemployment or discontent about your current situation, sitting in a chair complaining about the fact won’t take you farther; only action and an optimistic attitude will change your situation.
So now that you’ve given an opportunity to write a new page in your life, make the most of it with passion and perseverance. Positive energy attracts positive things, so pull yourself together, put these advices into practice, and enjoy the changes to come!
Hopefully the tips have been useful to at least make you rethink your situation and perhaps spark some ideas to start different. Welcome to 2010!
-Adriano Dias Leite