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Post layoff makeover, certs that attract attention

Sep 19, 20164 mins
CareersIT Jobs

Turn an unexpected layoff into an opportunity for growth

Lots of companies have either gone through, are going through, or will soon go through a merger or acquisition process. While M&As are usually good for business, they aren’t always good for individual employees. 

Many folks fear losing their jobs, and some have had to face the harsh reality that their position has been cut. A layoff isn’t always the result of poor performance, but regardless of why you are let go, the reality is that you need to find another job.

Of course, you want to find a new position in another company that will provide you with similar compensation and benefits. So, what do you need to ensure that you will swiftly be rehired if that dreadful day should ever come?

[ ALSO ON CSO: How to keep IT security at the forefront during a merger ]

Experience? Yes, without a doubt. But sometimes hiring managers are looking to see more than years served highlighted on a resume. Whether they are a true depiction of your expertise or not, certifications can help to get you noticed, especially when yours is only one application in a pool of highly qualified and skilled applicants.

James Stanger, senior director of product development at CompTIA, said, “Certifications help in two ways. First, they show that you have kept current. Second, certifications keep people who are current in their game.”

Certifications also help to show a certain gumption, “A stick-to-it-iveness, that the person is willing to submit him/herself to a certification or exam to show that they possess the skills that are necessary,” said Stanger.

A lot of young people these days will come out of some form of training with at least one certification. “Years ago, most education institutions saw certifications as competition or an irrelevant vocational thing. Increasingly, they realize that certifications are a good validation of their education program,” Stanger said.

Since more people are coming out of education programs, with degrees and certifications, it’s important for those with experience to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s hard to do, but someone who has been working for 20 years needs to ask, ‘Do I have skills gaps, and if so, what gaps do I have?'” said Stanger. The CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner certification is intended to fill in any skills gap that experienced professionals looking for new positions might have. 

For those who know that information at that practitioner level, Stanger said, “There is the CASP certification, the next step up, which shows managerial experience but also requires hands-on practice making security work.”

Maybe after working for 20 years, just before facing a lay off, you had your hopes of soon advancing to the next stage of CSO. “ISACA offers a series of certifications for those advanced levels,” said Stanger. Adding these to your resume might help you to see a quick turnaround into an even more desirable position.

There could be readers who are in a different camp all together. You’ve worked outside of the security industry for your entire career, you’ve been let go, and now you are thinking that perhaps you might get on board in this new field. There are certifications that will help you advance more quickly, especially since you will be the folks competing with the young bloods right out of college.

You’ll likely have to take an entry level security position at a help desk or as a field rep, said Stanger. In order to give greater value to the assets and skills your bring with your past experience, you can start out at the IT fundamentals level.

“This goes over the basics of networking or what the cloud even is. Once you take something like IT fundamentals or another intro level course, then you can step up to the A+ certification, which is the service support level, then the network technician level,” said Stanger.

That’s what will allow you to move into a position where you are working on the back end of network, learning about making the network work. Ideally, after a year of experience in supporting people and overcoming problems, you’ll be ready to move onward and upward to that management position only having had a minor set back in pay but having gained invaluable skills along the way.


Kacy Zurkus is a freelance writer for CSO and has contributed to several other publications including The Parallax, and K12 Tech Decisions. She covers a variety of security and risk topics as well as technology in education, privacy and dating. She has also self-published a memoir, Finding My Way Home: A Memoir about Life, Love, and Family under the pseudonym "C.K. O'Neil."

Zurkus has nearly 20 years experience as a high school teacher on English and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University (2011). She earned a Master's in Education from University of Massachusetts (1999) and a BA in English from Regis College (1996). Recently, The University of Southern California invited Zurkus to give a guest lecture on social engineering.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Kacy Zurkus and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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