Narrow Your Career Focus

January 14, 2013

In my last blog post, I hope I sold you on the idea of pursuing a career in information security. OK, you have questions: What education do I need? How about certifications? How can I build an effective resume that will make it easier to get one of these jobs? These are important questions, and I will address them in a future post, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Many who begin to pursue a career try to make themselves as broadly attractive to employers as possible. They assume that the more jobs they qualify for, the easier it will be to get a job. That is rarely the case.

In his book titled, Purple Cow, Seth Godin argues that the best way to get a job is to narrow your focus. Godin says, “In your career,… being safe is risky. The path to lifetime job security is to be remarkable.” If I can paraphrase him a bit, suppose you are the director of a major hospital and you need someone to handle your information security. You have resumes from tens, perhaps hundreds, of security professionals who have a solid education in security. Each has the right certifications and the right technical skills. But one applicant stands out. This applicant specializes in the security of medical records. She blogs about hospital security issues. She has attended conferences related to hospital administration that didn’t even have a security focus. She is competent in security and understands the specific needs of hospitals. Who will the director hire? One of the applicants with lots of broad experience or the one who specializes in hospitals?

You get the idea. Narrowing your focus helps you stand out and makes it more likely that you will have the career you want, not just the career you fall into. Before you start pursuing certifications, advancing your education, or even writing your resume, take the time to research various information security positions, industries that employ people in these positions, and specific companies of interest to you. Narrow your target as much as possible. Once you know where you want to go, figuring out how to get there becomes much easier.

What do you think? Leave comments or questions below.