A Cheat Sheet to Hacking Career Advancement

Posted by Ashley Preuss

We were thrilled to see numerous career track presentations on the agenda at BSides Austin this year. As a captivating way to kick off the event, Keith Turpin, CISO of Universal Weather and Aviation, discussed how to hack your career and take charge of your future. Here are some key insights to move your career forward in a successful direction.

When talking about careers in the security industry there’s often a lot of discussion about technical skills, certifications, and the specific requirements that are necessary to get a particular job. While these are all important factors to examine in any job search, what happens once you have a job? How do you continually advance your career and keep the momentum?

Keith Turpin reminded BSides Austin attendees to “never get so busy doing your job that you don’t manage your career.” While it sounds straightforward, so many professionals risk stagnation as they solely focus on keeping up with their day-to-day workload and juggling personal and professional obligations. However, we couldn’t agree more with the importance of Turpin’s distilling sentiment. Keep in mind, it’s not your car or your house that’s your biggest investment—it’s your career, and you need to develop goals and take action for long term success, something Turpin might refer to as “hacking your career.”

It’s never too late to change your career or the projection and future success of it, but it does require planning to come to fruition. It’s easy to put thoughts of the future aside as we concentrate our efforts on figuring out how to do our job at hand. However, the sooner you develop your plan and begin acting on it, the more successful you’ll be, and faster too.

Hacking Networking

As we’ve often reiterated, a staple for career success is networking. Whether you’re actively in job search mode or gainfully employed, it’s vital that you build and nurture your connections for future success. Turpin shared an early networking success story of his own that emphasized, “helping others succeed helps you.” While still in school Turpin provided help to his Dean and due to the rapport and relationship that naturally followed, the Dean was compelled to call Boeing in support of Turpin’s job search and five days later Turpin was hired.

Many professionals have similar networking stories that continually reveal how important relationships are to career success. Strong connections will benefit you throughout your profession, uncovering the hidden job market and giving you an opportunity to get your name in front of hiring managers and recruiters. So be sure to expand your network whenever possible by making connections at work, professional associations, meetups, competitions or at conferences. Turpin added that speaking at conferences led to his current job, further revealing the importance of not only networking with known colleagues, but also being active in your professional community as another means to enhance visibility and future opportunities.

Unlocking Your Potential

You hold the key to unlock the full potential of your career but you need to figure out what’s important to you first. Turpin listed several possible areas of priority you might focus on spanning pay, job title, work life balance, company culture, support for industry activities, and more. While the level of importance you place in these various areas will likely shift overtime, it’s important to recognize what you want so you can set a path to begin achieving your goals.

You may want everything on that list from increased pay to an employer who supports your industry activities, but we recommend picking two to three long-term goals that you can support along the way with short-term steps. And again, your priorities might evolve and your plan will need to be adjusted—so check in with yourself each year to appraise where you are and where you want to go in your career.

Opportunities in Disguise

While your goals and priorities will inevitably shift, some things are simply out of your control. However Turpin encouraged, “misfortune can be an opportunity in disguise.” He shared an instance in which his career path significantly changed from engineering to IT, due to staffing changes in his department. He followed the new opportunity that presented itself, which lead him on a journey to eventually become a CISO of a billion dollar international company.

It’s not always clear from the onset of our careers where we will end up, but if you’re open to the opportunities you find yourself facing along the way, the possibilities are endless—you might end up on an incredible path with new technology that didn’t even exist when you began.

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

During your career you may be asked to take on a new role in your company or to take the reigns of a significant project that possibly scares you. It’s okay to be intimidated, it probably means you’re facing an opportunity to grow and learn new skills. Turpin urged that you should do the things that scare you. Believe in yourself, put in the work, and keep trying until you master it. Don’t miss opportunities by waiting around until you think you’re completely ready.

The things that initially scare you might be the very same ones that help you to stand out, by allowing you to solve problems and continue learning new skills, demonstrating how you accept work beyond your role and exceed expectations—all things that can greatly support your next raise or promotion too.

When seeking promotions you often need to be able to show you’re doing work above your current level. Turpin’s advice is to first know the official requirements of your organization, and to also find out your manager’s expectations. It’s important to understand and consider both viewpoints to know what you need to do for the best outcome. It’s also fundamental to find out how pay decisions are made overall if you’re seeking a raise. Does your direct manager have sole control over the outcome of your promotions or does a group of managers decide together during annual salary planning? Turpin conveyed that if these decision makers don’t know you, you might be inclined to volunteer for their projects to get on their radar.

Whether you’re pursuing a higher title or a raise in salary, keep track of your accomplishments. Turpin suggests keeping a journal of your work and to show how you add value to the business. Maybe you saved the organization time, money, or resources, and increased the success of something by an impressive percentage. Including hard data where you can point out specific figures is always a great way to validate your achievements and support your proposition, whether it be for an internal promotion or as a candidate at a new organization.

You may find that to get that next salary bump you’re pursuing you need to change companies all together and enter job search mode—this is where that continuous networking you’ve been doing will greatly come in hand. However you move your career forward, believe in yourself and take opportunities. The path is yours to hack.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2019 4:05 pm

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