Avoiding Cybersecurity Burnout

The threat landscape is ever-evolving, with cyber attackers becoming more sophisticated and capable with each passing day. For cybersecurity professionals, the aggressive state of breaches and exploits presents a daily reality. It’s a career that requires extreme focus, attention to detail, and sound problem-solving and decision-making under high pressure.

The stimulating nature of working in cybersecurity can provide a real “thrill” for those who choose to fight adversaries and keep our information safe for a living, and most cyber pros report enjoying their mission to protect.

According to new research from leading cyber security company Symantec, more than half of those working in cybersecurity believe it is a vocation―something that makes a positive impact on society in general. Additionally, the research found that 92 percent of cyber pros feel fully immersed in their work, even when it gets stressful. On the flip side, 82 percent of the 3,000 pros surveyed also reported feeling burnt out. It’s what some experts are calling the perfect storm: having a satisfying and lucrative career and, at the same time, being under constant pressure to perform at a high level.

5 Ways to Tackle the Stress and Still Thwart the Bad Guys

Everyone feels pressure to perform, work hard, and prove their worth. But burnout can reach crisis proportions in industries like cybersecurity, where mistakes can be especially costly and every task is mission-critical. The stress inherent in the field will likely never completely go away, so what can you do to minimize the pressure-cooker environment?

Start by recognizing the signs of burnout.

Chronic fatigue, ongoing health issues, insomnia, lack of concentration, and/or anxiety may signal the onset of burnout. Cybersecurity pros spend their lives protecting the interests of others, and often forget to keep their own well-being in check. The thing is, it’s hard to be effective in performing your own job or leading others if you are burnt out. It’s better to recognize there may be a problem, engage in the necessary self-care, and find your own form of resilience.

Don’t forget to talk about stressors.

It’s essential to speak up about the stress level in an organization or department before real damage is done. Find colleagues and supportive others with whom to share openly about excessive deadlines, work overload, understaffing, or whatever is most bothersome. The simple act of verbalizing about feelings of burnout can ease the stress and get the conversation going toward effective change.

Adjust your focus.

Do you tend to dwell on the problems? It’s quite common to think you can’t take your eye off the ball and still be a good data protector. But remember: a big problem can set the stage for a big win when a crisis is diverted or handled well. Often it’s a matter of changing the “can’t-do” perspective to one of “what will it take for us to move successfully past this?”

Collaborate and delegate.

If you are acting as the sole point person on a project, burnout may be in your future. Teams are put into place for a reason. They should be fully utilized whenever possible. If you are short on teammates, do the best you can to collaborate and delegate across teams, departments, or the organization as a whole. Cybersecurity is a companywide effort that should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few. If you are in a management role, it’s important as well to make sure your people understand their contribution is valued, and that their work has a vital purpose.

Prioritize succession planning, early.

According to a white paper published by Endgame, a cybersecurity operations platform, having an “ill-defined career path” is one of the top reasons many cybersecurity pros become burnt out and leave their employers. Typically, when your employer is open to discussing a succession plan you know that there is a junior replacement being prepped for when you are ready to advance. It may be hard for your employer to justify your advancement if no existing staff member is waiting in the wings, so it makes good sense to have a conversation about succession planning during the interview process or early on in your career with a company.

Burnout doesn’t just happen overnight. With a bit more awareness, dialogue, and purposeful planning, we all can defend against it, and win the fight to keep the world’s data safe.

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