We all know the IT and Cybersecurity industry was -and still is- booming with demand. With over 3.5 Million unfilled technical jobs, companies large and small need help with their security and technology. But as we've seen layoffs across FAANG companies (the colloquial term for American technology giants we all love to hate), that brought doubt and gave pause for questions like, "Is now the time to enter IT?" or "Should I switch jobs now or wait until next year?", or the biggest anxiety question - "What do I do if I'm laid off?"
Not to worry - We'll guide you through what to avoid when you're evaluating switching to IT or cybersecurity and convince you that now is the time to do it!
You've probably heard of red flags to watch for when applying for jobs, interviewing, or even building relationships. But there are professional certification red flag traps you should avoid.
I asked ChatGPT to answer the following: What is the worst advice to give someone wanting to start their career in IT? The AI chatbot did not disappoint; however, two responses were surprising. Here are the main points it provided, with a bit of color from me, a mere human.
- Don't bother with certifications or formal education.
The direct antithesis of why you probably found this article. This seems like an obvious one, but it's a trap that people can easily fall into because higher education and certifications are not easy and can be expensive. While experience is important in the IT industry, having formal education, training, or certifications provides a better understanding of how everything is interconnected. And, while five years ago, certifications and degrees were a competitive advantage that helped you stand out to employers, that's no longer the tried and true statement it once was. Many employers expect certifications and some type of training or continued education on a resumé, on top of hands-on experience, which feeds into the next point.
- Be satisfied with your current level of knowledge.
Another seemingly apparent point to avoid, but again it's so easy to lapse into that most people don't realize it is happening. Think about the last time you actively chose to do something out of your comfort zone, which might take a bit more effort but was ultimately better for your development. Was it at the start of the new year or before the holidays? Maybe after a missed promotion or other disappointing news? Whatever it is, it's important to remember that in the IT industry, it isn't just important - it's critical - to continuously learn and improve your skills to stay competitive. Technology changes fast, and cyber criminals act fast. Being content with your current level of knowledge can lead to complacency, which can limit your career growth and opportunities.
If you're just starting out and looking for a place to start, the CompTIA A+ certification course is an introduction to all things IT and can get you up to speed on all the basics.
- Stick with one technology or skillset.
In the IT industry, technologies and trends are constantly evolving. Sticking with only one technology or skillset early in your career can limit career pathways and make you less competitive in the job market.
*To clarify, this does not mean you shouldn't find a niche or specialty. The point here is to understand that it's often better to gain a wide understanding of varying areas and aspects of IT and cybersecurity before diving deeper into a select few. Don't dive so deep into one area that you feel limited later.
- Focus only on technical skills and ignore soft skills.
Just as you should not stagnate in your technical learning, you should not forget to nurture your soft skills. Most IT jobs require human interaction via phone, video, email, or in person. While technical skills are important, soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities, along with time management, perseverance, and organizational skills, are also highly valued by employers. Ignoring soft skills can be just as limiting to your career growth and opportunities as limiting technical knowledge.
- Don't network or build relationships.
Remember the point above about soft skills? Yeah, that applies here. Go to events and build a network. The world of IT and cybersecurity is simultaneously large and very close-knit. Knowing the right people can be the difference between getting that reference or job and settling for something else. Building relationships with other professionals in the industry is invaluable. It's another way people learn as they work and stay on the pulse of what's happening that could impact them - it can lead to job opportunities, mentorship, and valuable industry insights before it's "public knowledge."
- Ignore the business side of IT.
In addition to technical skills, understanding the business side of IT, such as budgeting and project management, is important for potential advancement. Every job within a business is tied back to increasing revenue. It's easy to see how a salesperson directly impacts revenue - they sell things. But what about the Human Resources department? They hire people so more work can be done (more developers to build products, more data analysts to interpret information for faster, more informed decisions). Whatever the role, technical or not, being well-rounded in how businesses and companies operate across teams and functions can only help! This will be a breeze for anyone reading this who's looking to make the switch to IT - your past experiences and roles can still benefit you moving forward.
If you're looking to start your IT or cybersecurity career, now is the time. It's hard to know where or how to get started, but if you know the red flags to watch out for, you'll find the right career track for your goals. Remember, technology is constantly changing, so continue to learn, build a professional network to help shape you and your career, and strive to understand beyond a narrow scope to increase your potential and develop you into a highly valued professional. It's not easy, but it is attainable.
On the hunt for a career path? Here are the three popular cybersecurity career paths.