Get your feet under you quickly for a job in the industrial security world
Starting a high-security profession can be daunting at first: There are countless acronyms to keep track of, dozens of requirements to meet and multiple dense government documents to wade through. In a career where you’re concerned with national security, it can feel like a lot of pressure to learn things quickly and not make any mistakes. While you’re not going to be able to learn everything immediately, there are steps you can take to make your adjustment period as easy as possible.
Acronyms and Documents
When you first start your security job, you’ll probably hear people throwing around acronyms left and right in every conversation. If there’s one thing government sector people love, it’s a good acronym. So until you know your SMO from your FSO from your ITPSO, you may feel pretty out of the loop.
One of the best things you can do is create an acronym guide for yourself. Ask a few of your coworkers for what they think the most important acronyms to know are and write them down. When you encounter one you don’t know, either in documents or from someone you’re working with, don’t be afraid to ask what it stands for and add it. This way, you create a reference tool you can keep handy, and the process of writing them down will help you memorize them. Plus, it could even be something you pass on to future hires as they get their bearings. Make an effort to be a good listener and notice the unfamiliar industry terms people are using in their day-to-day work.
When it comes to familiarizing yourself with documents like 32 CFR Part 117, NISPOM, there isn’t a workaround to avoid reading them. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit down and try to get through the entire thing in a sitting. Take 20 or so minutes out of each day to read it until you get through it, or take it a section at a time. You’ll retain more this way, and it will feel a little more manageable, rather than trying to tackle the whole document in a couple sittings. If focusing while reading is difficult for you and you do better with things like audiobooks and podcasts, try copying and pasting the document into a text-to-speech program and listen to it instead.
Give documents like the NISPOM a second read after you’ve been at the company for a few months. Your newly earned experience will offer further context for what you’re reading and help it feel less abstract.
Build a Foundation with Training and Research
Your STEPP training and CDSE courses are a great start for getting your bearings. Keep the course materials on hand, mark them up and reference back to them when questions arise. Take whatever courses you can and join available seminars so you can gain a wide variety of knowledge and perspective from industry experts.
In the security world, things are changing all the time, whether it be a new version of a major document or a change to the systems you’re expected to use. To keep on top of this, bookmark websites like the CDSE and DCSA, and set aside time to check them at least weekly for any news. Staying on top of these changes and updates will be crucial for helping your company stay in compliance.
Rely on Others
One of the most valuable resources you have at your disposal is the other security professionals at your company. If possible, find someone who’s willing to be your go-to for any questions you have or problems you run into, or seek out someone who will allow you to shadow them so you can see how they navigate things and hear how they use industry terms. If possible, see if you can share an office with a more experienced employee, and try to observe how they go about their daily work routine. Each professional you talk to will have experienced unique situations that gave them unique insights into the security world, so learn from a variety of people.
Lean on your team and see how you can help balance each other out. Not everyone needs to be an expert in everything. See if there’s a gap in expertise where you can slot yourself into, but accept the support your team offers you.
Learn by Doing
As you start your journey into the security world, experience will be your best teacher. While you can do your best to prepare through attending trainings and talking to other security professionals, at some point you’ll encounter a situation you will feel unprepared for and will have to work through.
Remember that some things can only come with time, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a few months to feel like you have a handle on things. However, if things start to feel overwhelming or you have questions you can’t find the answers to, Adamo can help. Our FSO support services can partner with you and your team to assist in FSO, FCL and PCL responsibilities and help you stay in compliance. If you’re learning the ropes in security, trust Adamo to be your guide.