I hate the word “strategy” to describe common sense, but it’s language people can understand. In this quick post I explain common sensical steps I’ve taken and advised people to take that work. It’s not genius. It’s based on the principle of: Be serious, do your homework, work really hard.

Step 1 Understand what is expected of you

Speak with the hiring manager and discuss the role, the team, and her/his needs. Get a list of skills or technologies you’d need for the role. In preparing for your role, take on a mini-project to prove you’re serious where you learn a skill. For example, I once discovered the use of two particular databases that I had never used. Before the interview, I started two mini-projects to create each of the databases and write a crud script to interact with those databases. During the interview, the experience is used to justify your interest as well as your ability to learn new things quickly. Integrity is important for people working in security, and this exercise is an example of you having integrity and proving you’re still willing to learn.

Step 2 Learn about yourself

Before an interview you have a chance for self reflection. This is an important exercise. You should have a sit down with your professional life and create stories around particularly interesting events. If you’ve studied something, created something, solved a problem, or just tried a thing, you can create stories so you have examples when you interview. This helps you understand what you actually care about so you can get a job that you enjoy. You are lucky. There are far more jobs than skilled security people. If you can understand what makes you work and what motivates you, you can align that to jobs. That way you can build exciting, rare, and valuable skills.

Step 3 Practice if you get nervous

If you are an introvert or struggle with these kinds of situations, you should practice. Skills are important, but so are impressions. You should do anything you can to make a good emotional first impression.

That’s it, really. It’s not a secret. Work hard, be smart, and practice.