Career Advice – Avoid Overplaying Your Hand

May 26, 2009

Not sure if any of you are poker players, but their is an expression in the game that tells players not to “overplay their hand.”  This is traditionally advising players not to think that your cards are better than they are, and cautioning them not to throw away money on this account.   Generally, this is good advice, considering that no one wants to sit down at a poker game and lose money.

When it relates to your career, this concept comes in handy as well.  Simply put, many Information Security professionals that , when interviewing, approach the interview with the belief  that their skills and experiences are more valuable then they actually are.   This generally leads to looking for more compensation then their market value and searching for more responsibility then they have proven they can accept.

Well, why is this dangerous?  Shouldn’t we all aim high.   Aspire for greatness.  Stretch ourselves to the limit.   The answer to these questions are a resounding, “Yes!, Yes!, and Yes!!”  However, it is also critical that you are able to honestly assess your skills and market value, so that you can make the correct career choices. 

When you do not understand the “market value” of your skills, it greatly affects your attitude in the interview process.  There is nothing wrong with being confident, but if you believe you are more valuable than you are, a dash of “cockiness” gets mixed in.  With most interviewers, this can be a deal breaker.  All employers are looking for Information Security “Rock Stars,” however they can all do without the “Rock Star attitude.”

In addition, overestimating your self worth can cause you to overlook opportunities that are better suited for your career development.   Simply put, there are many roles and opportunities that will help you acquire skills that are important for your career, that may not give you more responsibility then you currently have.  If you always believe that you are ready to move up the corporate ladder before you have developed the necessary experience, chances are you will not be as equipped as you should be,  and your probability of failure will increase.   You definitely do not want to have to explain a short duration of employment  to your next employer.

Finally, it could cost you financially.   There have been many occasions that people have called my office, stating that “I am underpaid for my skills”, but can not articulate why they think so, accept for the fact that they have “a friend” in another company that earns 20K more than them, and that they “do the same thing”.    When you place in your mind that your skills are worth a certain amount, you often overlook good opportunities that could elevate your financial situation, but not as much as you have perceived.  Last time that I checked, 5-10K more than you were previously earning,coupled with a better career opportunity,  is superior than maintaining status quot.

It is important to be confident in your skills and abilities, however unwarranted confidence can truly hinder your career development. 

A full house is a great poker hand, unless of course your opponent is holding a royal flush!

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Behavior, Uncategorized 


4 Responses to “Career Advice – Avoid Overplaying Your Hand”

  1. Rob Fuller (mubix) on May 26th, 2009 11:38 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Confidence and Ego share borders and self awareness is the key to finding yourself on the right side of that.

  2. B.K. DeLong on May 26th, 2009 12:23 pm

    Likewise, for people like me or those used to sitting behind a desk just doing a job there are many who haven’t been bitten by the bug and undersell themselves greatly.

    Maybe this has changed over the years in infosec – I suppose many in generic IT jobs suffer this more but it’s also getting to a point where understanding the business is just as important as understanding the tech.

  3. Andrew Hay » Blog Archive » links for 2009-05-26 on May 26th, 2009 4:03 pm

    [...] Career Advice – Avoid Overplaying Your Hand | Information Security Leaders Very good advice. (tags: career advice) [...]

  4. Security Briefing - May 27th : Liquidmatrix Security Digest on May 27th, 2009 7:50 am

    [...] Career Advice Overplaying Your Hand – Infosec Leaders [...]