Landing your Dream Tech Job
If the latest news reports are to be believed, the job prospects for new grads are dismal at best. Between a stalling economic recovery, outsourcing of jobs overseas and a lack of new positions due to attrition (most people are hanging on to the jobs they have), the job market is tighter than ever.
However, one field that’s actually gaining traction and expected to grow over the next few years is technology, especially in the area of information security. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that opportunities in Information Security will increase by more than 20 percent over the next 8-10 years, a faster than average rate.
Of course, in any field that is predicted to grow, competition is fierce, and Internet security is no different. So how do you set yourself apart from the competition, and land your dream job in technology security?
There’s no denying that education is a key way to put your resume at the top of the pile when you’re applying for IS jobs. At minimum, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a related field for an entry level job, but if you’re shooting for a higher level position, consider going for an information security master’s degree. Security positions that require a great deal of technical expertise, such as web architect or developer roles, definitely require a higher level of education and training.
However, because the IS world is constantly changing, a traditional academic degree is not always enough. While your resume will indicate that you’ve studied IS in an academic environment, during your interviews you need to demonstrate that you have a solid understanding of the latest developments in the field in topics such as encryption, information and data protection, confidentiality, hacking and more. You can accomplish this by reading and studying all you can on these topics and answering interview questions by citing your readings.
If you are struggling to land a position, consider returning to school to gain additional experience and knowledge. For example, seeking an online leadership degree while you hunt for a job (or even in the early days of a new position) gives you an additional credential and opens the door to higher level positions down the road.
Many employers won’t even consider an applicant that does not hold at least an entry-level security certification. Invest the time and the few hundred dollars necessary to earn a certificate such as the industry-standard Security + certification. To stand out even more, study for an advanced certification such as the CISSP, CISM or GSLC. These certifications demonstrate that you have advanced knowledge and abilities, and will often put you at the top of the list for a call back when you apply for jobs. Earning the advanced certification requires several years of work experience to qualify, but spend time preparing for the certification while you work in entry level jobs so you can qualify as soon as possible and upgrade your career prospects.
It’s the age old conundrum: you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. However, there are ways you can get experience in IS, and build your skills to impress employers. Take advantage of internship and volunteer opportunities while in school, and use your own inexpensive equipment at home to set up a security development and testing site. You can build your own private network and use free open-source software to test it, putting to use the knowledge you’ve gained and gaining hands-on experience.
Of course, no matter how qualified you are for a position, if you don’t present yourself well, you won’t get an interview, never mind a job. Get help developing your resume, making sure that your relevant certifications and education are immediately visible. Present yourself as a competent, confident professional in interviews. Do some practice interviews with a friend or mentor beforehand to test your skills and take time with your appearance. It’s the little things that matter when you’re looking for a job, and taking the time to best present your skills and abilities could mean the difference between landing your dream job and landing in the unemployment line.