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Socializing your way into a job in IT Security

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If you have been wondering how to get more opportunities and interviews, here are three quick suggestions. Please note, these suggestions have been tuned to the field of Linux Systems Administration. You should be able to find similar groups in your own chosen profession as well. If you can't think of any, comment on this article, and let the community help you.

1.) Use the social media of the profession.
Every techie interest has one or several email mailing lists which may or may not consider themselves Users Groups. These are places where people talk about and solve problems they have with that specific technology. Since this is a Linux and open-source group, I will use the example of the http://ale.org mailing list. This is an Atlanta-based list and the members meet monthly to see talks about Linux-related things. This is a great place to become a member of the usual crowd without being a guru yourself. There are a lot of extremely talented and experienced people on this list, and a lot of people who ask questions. When you see a post by somebody with a problem you just solved, you can offer the solution you found. It is reasonable to expect that people will have a large number of alternative suggestions, but rather than think of it as a competition...
Read the other answers as ideas that you didn't have to come up with on your own. Because the people that are offering ideas are often experts with years of experience, they may be a little sketchy on exactly how to do the thing.
Research answers before you just stick your hand out.
On mailing lists, the people offering their expertise FOR NO COST are often very short in answers to questions they believe the requester should have looked up themselves. It is useless (to you) to get mad at the answer.
For instance, here is a question you might ask and an answer that is likely.:
"I want to run an application to delete files older than 2 weeks from a specific folder"
Why you might want this: the script you are writing adds a log file to the /var/log/myscript folder every night. If it were left to do that for a while without intervention, it could easily fill the /var partition or even your whole hard drive.
An average answer might be:
"'grep' for the files and 'rm' them." or
"Use 'find' to delete the old files" or
With these accurate suggestions you could do...
Absolutely Nothing!
Unless you research 'grep' and 'find' quite widely to discover how anybody could use them. There is quite a lot of missing information in these 2 answers, but it is the information missing that implies that the writer assumes you are experienced and have just forgotten the answer to your question. A small nudge is polite, but an encyclopedic answer would be a little rude. If somebody asked you where the State Capitol of GA was, it would be reasonable to answer "Atlanta." This is the level of question above for the ALE list. A short correct answer beats a long rambling answer. If they really wanted to know the history and the reason behind the choice of Atlanta as Capitol, they then must needs resort to research.
Sometimes people give less than full answers because they themselves do not remember exactly how to do something because they haven't done it for a while. Then pressing them for specifics means they get the impression that you want them to do the research that you ought to be doing.
It would be easier and faster for them to refresh their memory about the issue than for you to discover it for yourself, but remember they are doing you a favour. Since one of your reasons for being on the list in the first place was to get a job, you are shooting yourself in the foot by developing a reputation as a "sponge" which is a person who expects everybody else to do the hard work for them.
User Group mailing lists vary in style immensely. The ALE list is light-hearted and also full of personalities a little like yours. Sometimes the responses are a bit tongue-in-cheek, and that often reads a bit snarky. If you are a person who comes in with a question like, "Which linux distro is best, X or Y" you will start a religious discussion. A technical list will handle only so many of these unfocused discussion questions. A post about a specific question or a specific solution you found will go over better.
If you come with a question like, "Why does my command-line string, that works when I type it directly into the command prompt, fail to give me the result I expect when I put it in a bash script?" you may get very interesting answers that will increase your knowledge much more than the previous question.

2. Go to Meetings
Being a list member may be all that is possible. If you are in Maine and they are holding meetings in Bangladesh, you will probably not make the monthly meetings. However, if there is any way you can get to a few meetings and meet some people, it is far better for your career. There are 2 reasons for this:
1. You become a real person to the others on the list who go to the meetings. If you are at the meetings you have sideband (non-list) conversations in which you may hear that jobs are available at XYZ corporation. Sometimes such things are announced on-list, but they are more likely to be mentioned in person.
2. If you know the people in the field who are going to meetings, they may help with your job hunt in other ways. You can add to your resume that you are a member of the user group, (in this case, ALE), on your resume. If an interviewer asks you about your membership in the group and all you can say is you read email, you don't want it on your resume.

3. Join an Open-Source Project
This is a little more specific than user groups. Joining a project in which you have an interest, is usually informal. Do some documentation or some how-to piece and give it to the project. Get the source code and read through it. If the project has a "To Do" list, see if there are any of the items you can do, and do it.
* You will be getting real experience that you can put in a new section on your resume called "Open Source and Community Experience."
* You will start becoming a known value on an international project stage.
* You are showing prospective employers that you are not merely driven by a need to eat, but would do this work even when it is not paying you.

All three of these steps are scary and take you out of your comfort zone. Accept this up front, and start going. The more people you meet at the events or the more people you interact well with, the less scary these things become, and the more likely you are to meet people you know from one venue at another venue. To find the best Atlanta-based IT Security social group, look up the Def-Con 404 group. Some of the best contacts you can meet in the Atlanta IT Security profession are on their mailing list and show up at monthly meetings at Manuel's Tavern.

Thanks for reading and Good Luck Out There,

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