This weekend my family took a trip to the DC area to celebrate my Dad’s 90th birthday. We were about two weeks behind his actual nativity, because I’d run into some work-related conflicts. But, better late than not at all, we took a long weekend in northern Virginia and nearby environs to spend time with family, catch up on old times and new, and see some genuine fall foliage on bright and showy display (not something we get too much of down here in central Texas). On Sunday morning, 7 of us piled into my sister’s van to go watch her son compete at a nearby gymnastics meet in Gaithersburg, MD, and also to enjoy a day of gadding about together as a family.
While at the meet I ran into a recent retired Navy veteran who had just completed his 30 years in the service, and moved back to the DC area from Hawaii to re-establish connections with his wife’s family, and to find himself a job in the teeming Washington DC metro area. He’d worked for a decade or more in information warfare roles, so I expected to hear that his job hunt turned into a quick and painless slam dunk. Given his various combat tours, high-level security clearances, and strong, relevant InfoSec experience on the job, I figured he would have his choice of plumb assignments from a nearly limitless list of opportunities with the countless Beltway bandits, consulting companies, and security specialist firms that make themselves at home near the seat of the US government and its intelligence community.
“Not so!” said he. Having entered the service at age 20, and never having completed a college degree or earned a timely or topical InfoSec certification — CISSP was the first target out of his mouth when I allowed as how I knew a little bit about IT certification in general, and InfoSec credentials in particular — he indicated that earning certification was high on his priority list. In fact, he wanted to sign up for a boot camp course on CISSP (a one to two week long intensive training class on CISSP concepts, terminology, and subject matter) but was afraid that with several potential job offers in the offing he’d find himself in a situation of having to demur from a “can you start tomorrow” kind of offer because of making a prior commitment to a bootcamp class.
At the time, I didn’t really have the opportunity to pause and reflect on his situation (we were all watching family members compete on the floor of the gymnasium, each with our own favorites to cheer for), so I didn’t chime in with advice or suggestions. Now that I’ve had time to do that, I have to say that any hiring organization would probably be more pleased than otherwise to hear that somebody they wished to hire for a specific job role related to information security was undertaking a bootcamp on a hot, relevant certification at his own expense on his own time. I can’t be 100% that my intuition is correct, but my intuition does tell me that most such organization would be inclined to say “Fine, we’ll set your start date right after you finish the class, and pass the exam.” How could they not, since they’re getting an employee who’s been made more valuable by taking the time and expending the effort to obtain a high-demand certification between the time of an interview and background check and the extension of a job offer?
This leads me directly to the point of today’s blog as well, as expressed in its title. If you want to get ahead, or develop your career potential and prospects, you have to put in some time and effort, and probably even spend a little of your own hard-earned cash, to help push yourself up to the next level of career attainment and capability. Don’t put off or push back what you can do sooner, even if it means having to delay important stuff — and certainly finding a job is about as important as it gets for a family man living in an expensive part of the country with a family to support, a house to buy, and a civilian career to get underway. Just don’t let any of this stop you from doing what you must to boost your credibility or capability in your chosen field of work. If you do, you’ll end up losing more than you gain in the long run.