You really should read Lee Kushner and Mike Murray’s Information Security Leaders blog. Besides being good guys, they usually post good perspectives on career management each week. Like this post on Rats and Ships, where they basically address how to know your company is in trouble and when to start looking for what’s next. Obviously if the company is in turmoil and you don’t have your head in the sand, the writing will be on the wall.

You can't learn career ninjitsu in a school...I learned in the school of hard knocks that you always have to be looking for what’s next. I know that sounds very cynical. I know it represents a lack of loyalty to whoever you are working for now. You see, things can change in an instant. Your company can lose a big deal. You could be the fall guy (or gal) for a significant breach (remember blame != responsibility). Or you could have a difference of opinion with your boss. There are an infinite number of scenarios that result in the same thing: You, out on your ass, with no job.

Usually you expect it, but not always. The absolute worst day of my career was having to lay off a good friend, who had absolutely no idea it was coming. Because I couldn’t give him a head’s up that we were trying to sell the company, he was blindsided. When we closed the deal, almost everyone had to go. Some situations you can see coming, some you can’t. But either way you need to be prepared.

If you are in security, you are trained to think defensively. You look at a situation and need to figure out how you can get pwned, screwed, or killed. It’s no different managing your career. Always be aware of how you can get screwed. Hopefully you won’t and you’ll have a long, prosperous career wherever you are, if that’s what you choose. But that doesn’t get you off the hook for being prepared. You should always be out there networking, meeting people, and getting involved in your community and paying it forward. Read Harvey Mackay’s book “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” It’s the best book I’ve read about why you need to do something you likely despise – networking.

And let’s not forget that opportunity cuts both ways. You need to be ready to pull the rip cord when things come unglued, but sticking around can be worthwhile too. For one, less people around means more opportunity for you, especially if you are pretty junior. You may end up with far more responsibility than your title, salary, and/or experience would otherwise warrant. And if you can see it through to the recovery (to the degree there is a recovery), you are positioned to be an up and comer in your organization.

I guess the bigger message is to be aware of what’s going on, and to actively manage your career progression. Don’t let your career manage you. To the degree you want to do that. If you are really a glutton for punishment, start your own company. Then you can stop looking. Because you’ll know where to find all the problems.

Photo credit: “Virtual Defensive Driving” originally uploaded by Kristin Brenemen