Don’t be a needle in a haystack

“A winner is someone who recognises his god-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.”

Famous words from Larry Bird, a former NBA basketball player who was forced to retire from the game at the age of 36.

He’d had a seminal career though; part of the 50-40-90 Club, which in short means having had a “pretty fly season across the board”, a member of the Dream Team – the winners of gold at the 1996 Olympic Games – and to top it off, the only NBA basketball player to have achieved Most Valued Player, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year.

Now while the idea that some of us are destined to be great is debateable – born to do it so to speak – the suggestion that we are able to shape something we seem to be naturally good at is self-evident. We might find painting a work of art, kicking a football or quantum mathematics easy to do, but it is dedication to a discipline that really makes something out of nothing.

For security consultants, chief information security officers and the like, in the midst of looking for a new career challenge, there’s a question that needs to be asked: “What sets me apart from my contemporaries?”

It’s an important question and should not be mistaken for conceit. It simply is a short and simple way to analyse how far you’ve come, what knowledge and talents you’ve acquired and how this all plays into where you want to go.

In the IT industry, branches of which include information security and risk management, business continuity, ethical hacking and penetration testing, what matters most is leadership, a specialism, a flexible way of approaching projects and business in general, and a willingness to adapt.

With regards to a specialism, this speaks for itself. Businesses are looking for someone who has a command over a typical area, be it cyber security, sales and marketing or in disaster recovery. What we’re talking about here is clout, unwavering technical knowledge. Though general knowledge is important, you can’t be a jack of all trades. To stand out, one requires a marker: “This is me; this is what I excel in.”

In reference to flexibility and adaptability, this is about being able to respond to change and possessing the ability to be reactive to new developments. The IT industry is currently undergoing transformation on a daily basis and constant change is almost the norm. You have to be willing and able to grow, to progress in a personal and professional capacity. Those who are happy to do the same old thing had better look somewhere else. Dynamic is what it is all about.

So take a leaf out of Larry Bird’s book and be the kind of person you want to be. This industry is growing all the time and as more and more people come into it, competition for positions, though plentiful, is going to be greater than it has ever been. Be a leader and step forward.

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