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Survey Hacks Security Career Conundrum

Security career coaches are taking the pulse of the security profession in hopes of making it more career-oriented

The security industry may be hot, but the career path for security professionals is not, according to a group of security industry experts.

With the near epidemic in data breaches and identity theft, and more mainstream awareness of hacking and cybercrime, you might be surprised to know that there are plenty of dissatisfied security professionals who are finding themselves at dead ends in their careers. “Almost everyone I talk to is unhappy in their jobs,” says Mike Murray, a security expert and career coach. Many feel under-challenged, and say they are hitting a brick wall when it comes to advancement or promotions in their careers, he says.

So Murray and Lee Kushner, CEO of security recruiting and career coaching firm L.J. Kushner & Associates, are on a crusade to help get the security industry onto an official career track. The security industry is still in its infancy compared with software development or other IT-related fields, they say, and it has mostly grown organically, with many self-taught hackers and other professionals. Murray and Kushner are conducting a comprehensive survey of security pros here to determine just where they stand -- the hope is for the resulting data to help yield career guidance and clear paths for security professionals entering this space, as well as for existing security pros. (See How to Land the Best Security Job.)

“We want to help people differentiate what they need to do to achieve what they want to accomplish” in their security careers, Kushner says.

Gauging how security pros are concerned about their career paths is useful, says Adam O’Donnell, director of emerging technologies for Cloudmark. “Codifying the number of people who feel stuck [in their jobs] would be really useful... Are we losing a lot of people because of this dead-end issue?” he says.

O’Donnell says the key is to provide security pros with a roadmap for their careers. Otherwise, there could be a brain drain in security, and in some cases, this has occurred, he says. “Many of the most talented people in security shift out of the field,” he says.

Recent Forrester Research data focused on the alarming problem of a lack of skilled security pros for hire. “We are regularly hearing from our security clients about their difficulties finding people with the right skills -- or when they do finally find them, these people are too costly to employ because their skills are in such demand,” blogged Forrester’s Jonathan Penn today.

Murray, meanwhile, says the security industry needs to catch up on the career front. “This is the weirdest industry to build a career in. You’re constantly learning [new things]... If not, you’re toast,” he says.

Meanwhile, the goal of the security career survey is to get security pros thinking about what’s next. “It’s about hacking your career,” Murray says.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

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