26 August 2014


For those who know me well enough, they will be aware that I mentor people from various walks of life... For the others, this is my small way of giving back to the industries that have served me well throughout my career by sharing tips and techniques I have learned and tried over the years, such as they are... As I can only effectively mentor four people personally at any given time, I thought I’d write this post which I hope some of you might find useful...

Many have approached me with the same question:

“How do I break into [Infosec/ Payments/ Risk] (delete as appropriate),
as I am stuck in the catch 22 situation of requiring experience or certifications to be considered for the jobs I’m interested in, but cannot obtain said experience/ qualifications without a job in that field?...”

Ah yes. The conundrum.

Well, first of all, rejoice: IT IS POSSIBLE.
I have tried, tested and used (and still use) all the techniques mentioned in this post, and they seem to work OK :)))

I always like to be my own guinea pig...

Secondly, you have to be prepared for three months of consistent effort with no obviously visible result.

You’re still reading. Good.

Now that you’re committed and that I have set expectations, this is what I suggest you should do in that three month period:


  • Make sure there is a decent photo of you
    (people like to see people, not some anonymous entity, logo or favourite pet...)

  • Make sure your profile is up-to-date: I personally do not keep a separate Word CV. Each time someone requests a Word CV, I just extract my LinkedIn profile (you have the facility to export to PDF from the Edit view).
    (people like to see very quickly what you’re about, if they're hooked in the first 6 - Yes, SIX - seconds, they'll look at the rest of your story, otherwise you're a "No Fit")
  • Make sure your summary is written in the First Person: Be interesting. Be personal. Be human.
    (people like to talk to people, not to a third party PR agency writing about you)
  • Make sure your summary is engaging and factual, and avoid using jargon bingo words such as “best of breed”, “synergy”, “team player”, “results-driven”, “self-motivated”, “dynamic”, “hard worker” and my personal pet hate “strategic thinker”...
    Do, however, use words such as “achieved/ improved/ won“, “managed/ trained/mentored/ influenced/ volunteered”, “created/ launched/ resolved/ increased/ decreased”, “idea/ innovation” and something related to “revenue/ profit/ budget/ income" never goes amiss. You don't have to use all of these, but you get the gist...
    (people like facts and more facts, and numbers)

And if you don't believe me, can you think of anything more pukingly cringeworthy than this buzzword riddled profile that says nothing?...

  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile reflects what you want to be (not what you are right now) and make sure the skills listed (those that people endorse you for) actually are not only those that you have, but those that you want to be known for (you will get endorsements for what you're known for and as your skills develop, you will start getting endorsements for what you'd like to be known for - LinkedIn even allows you to re-order your skills). And don't forget to endorse connections for what you think they're good at (I personally set aside some time every month to do just that).
    (use keywords, list current and desired skills. Look at my profile for an example)
  • Learn from others: make a point (at least once a week) to send LinkedIn connection invites to about 10 people you would want to emulate. Make sure the connection message is written in an engaging way and personal.
    You'll be surprised how much people are willing to help.
    I personally do this several times a week.

    (connect personally, NEVER rely on the LinkedIn standard message)
  • Be part of your chosen community: (or communities) Whilst you make new connections, observe which LinkedIn groups they belong to. Try to belong to the maximum number of LinkedIn groups for your areas of interest (I think it's about 50) and choose groups with large numbers of members. Observe discussions and start contributing to them if you can. If anything, it's an excellent news and opinions source. I personally do this everyday.
    (be found where those that inspire you are)
  • Share interesting content: whilst you grow you network, you also want to be known for what you're interested in. The first step here is to post public updates of news articles that you find interesting and relevant. It's an excellent way of getting used to sharing information without actually having to create it. If you have other social profiles for use in a professional capacity (e.g. twitter, Google+), share on these simultaneously to maximise coverage.
  • Be consistent: if you have social media profiles other than your LinkedIn profile and you intend to use these professionally (e.g twitter, Google+, about.me, etc.), make sure they are consistent. There is nothing more off-putting than inconsistent and out-of-sync digital profiles...
  • Create interesting content: In the 3rd month (not before), start writing articles. Small at first, 500 words is enough (to give you an idea, this post has 1,168 words), and it should be easy if you write about something that really interests you. You don't even have to write regularly, only when you have something to say. You could use LinkedIn posts for that, or try guest blogging.
  • Set yourself realistic goals: I know you have a day job, but as with any change endeavours, you need to be able to measure success. Here are a few pointers as to what you should measure: number of LinkedIn connections you have initiated, number of relevant LinkedIn groups you belong to, number of twitter followers, number of people/ businesses you follow on twitter, number of articles you share, number of posts you've written, number of people that have requested to connect with you on LinkedIn, number of people that have added you to circles on Google+, etc. Whatever you choose to measure, make sure you establish your baseline at the start of the period, set your targets and measure your increase over the 3 months.

At the end of the 3 months, you should have grown your network, so people will start noticing you, and then they will start endorsing you, and then recruiters will start approaching you.
But remember, the key to all this is sustained effort, so it needs your absolute commitment... (and it doesn't cost any money, only your time, so spend it well)

As one of my mentors said to me many years ago:

"If you can't change the people, change the people.
Sometimes it's yourself" 

There you are. Thanks for reading and I hope you found this of help. 
Let me know how it goes for you, and give me a shout if you need any help...

Until next time,