Tips for Starting Careers in Security

Despite Downturn, the Right Jobs are Open for the Right People While other college graduates may not find it easy to land their first job, graduate students in information security have more than one option to choose from even before they graduate.

Steven Hernandez a recent graduate from National Information Assurance Training and Education Center at the University of Idaho is now working for the federal government at a civilian agency, handling information assurance and compliance training program. He started his job search process in the traditional method by directly applying to short-listed companies and workplaces he had interned with in the federal government sector through job boards like USAjobs.com and avuedigitalservices.com, and within a short period was called in for interviews and was hired for this position.

"Security and compliance still need to be in place whether the economy is weak or not," says Hernandez, "therefore security jobs are very much in demand both in the government and private sector".

Another graduate student, Alma Cole from University of Idaho, gainfully employed by the federal government, maintains "The federal government is hiring and needs skilled candidates with the right education. Obviously, the government does not pay as much as the private sector; however, the job stability is unmatched. Students need to be willing to accept a lower paying position which will hopefully lead to bigger and better things."

A contributing factor to increased security jobs within the federal government is also the scholarship for service program where students get funded by the federal government for their education, and in turn they have to work for the government for a period of two years, says Jennifer Burkett, Director of Career Services & External Relations, Information Networking Institute, at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

Burkett indicates that they are not concerned about students getting placed, as CMU holds a strong placement rate close to 100% for a number of years now, and most of their graduating students already have confirmed job offers within finance, technology and the federal government. "Security jobs are very much in demand, although things definitely have tightened in the financial sector," says Burkett.

"Most CMU students get a minimum nine to 10 job offers within security, a number which has definitely been affected by the weak economy," says Kalpana Chatnani, a graduate student from CMU who has a confirmed job offer from Ernst &Young in compliance and information security. "We are privileged to be in a situation to be able to get interviews from Fortune 500 companies and secure information security jobs in this economy."

Even though financial services may see headcounts contract in this economy, information security graduates can expect to be able to find positions in the industry if they have the hybrid set of business and information security skills that make them the "hire of choice."

Tips for students beginning their job search:

  • Broaden your job search throughout all sectors, including government, banking, retail, medical and even data warehousing companies and others where security needs may not appear obvious but necessary, as they may handle personal customer information and seek security professionals.
  • Take up internships, which are very critical and help in getting the foot in the door to get into these organizations.
  • Today just being good at encryption or risk management is not enough, students need to develop hybrid set of skills within information security to stand out, including acquiring a business mind to be able to understand security from the business perspective and communicate with executives in their language. An MBA or business management component is very essential in the overall security career option.
  • Polish resumes to ensure that you secure interviews in the first place. Work with career counselors for definite guidelines and make endless revisions on your resume to make certain that you are marketing yourself the right way.
  • Show experience and subject matter expertise. Pursuing some of the more major security certifications from (ISC)2 and other reputable providers is highly recommended. While these cannot be the ultimate measure of a candidate's ability, they do show general competency within the important topics and vocabulary needed.




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