Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Should Computer Forensics Professionals Consider Changing Jobs in a Recession?

I had asked David Sullivan to write a couple of posts as my guest on Ex Forensis.  Here is the first of two articles he was kind enough to write.

In these tough economic times almost all areas are suffering and although computer forensics hasn’t been hit as hard as some sectors, recruitment in this area is considerably down. For the first time in my six years of recruiting in the computer forensics/electronic discovery area, I know well-qualified, experienced computer forensics professionals who are not currently employed and cannot find a new position.
It therefore follows that if you are in a (perceived) secure position at the moment then you should stay where you are and wait for the economy to pick up before you consider your career options. Or does it?
Maybe so but then again, this could be a great time to make a move. Ok, I recruit in this area so you may think it is clearly in my interest to say that, but consider the following points:

  • If a company is recruiting in these times, this is because the position is a key one of considerable importance to the organisation. This means job security should be as good as anywhere at this time;

  • Organisations recruiting at this time know that people are reluctant to move so it could be an opportunity to make a real advance in terms of the financial package;

  • Arguably, a company investing in new people at this time is confident in their future business so this is the sort of dynamic, successful organisation you want to join;

  • You may think your current role is safe, but in this market there is no such thing as safe: everything has changed and all is relative. What if your company has already let people go? In this situation keeping an eye out for opportunities must be a sensible idea?

  • Nobody knows how long this downturn will last. What if it is for three, five or seven more years? Are you prepared to just tread water in an unfulfilling position until then?
Even when the economy is booming, changing jobs is always a risk. Due to the lack of opportunities available now, if you realise a couple of months down the line that you have made a mistake, then it is much trickier to just find another position. So, if you are lucky enough to be offered an attractive new role, you must consider the following issues before signing a contract:

  • Some companies do work on a ‘last in, first out’ basis. Really take the time to discover the financial stability of any organisation you are joining using all available information;

  • Even if the company is releasing people from other parts of the business, this doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t looking to build their computer forensics capability. In addition to the normal questions about the role, department, responsibilities etc, discover if the role is replacing someone or a new position (a replacement role is likely to be less risky);

  • As they become leaner and sharper to survive, some organisations focus purely on their core activities: is computer forensics their core business? If not, is it an area that could be disbanded? Three months after joining a company this isn’t something that you really want to hear.

  • Before you go ahead and accept the position, ensure you negotiate a financial package that you are happy with as there are unlikely to be big pay increases on the horizon.
In summary, changing jobs in a recession is something that you much approach with caution. However, before you dismiss it out of hand, ask yourself if staying where you are is a greater risk.
David Sullivan


  1. A lot of what's posted here is based on location. Right now, in the metro DC area, there are many listings for entry-level analysts in CF and IR work.

    Over my career, I've watched companies go out of business (Winstar) and others just disappear (TDS, Predictive, etc.), many due to poor business decisions. Winstar was very similar to one of the recent data breach cases, in which the President and CEO of the company both started unloading all of their stock en masse, even as they told the employees that we were going to go through this process and come out the other end a stronger company...and then just weeks later, everyone was on unemployment and buildings were empty.

    People aren't stupid. People recognize that employers, for the most part, have no loyalty whatsoever, and yet when someone leaves an organization, their loyalty to the company is many times questioned. It's no longer about building a strong company that employs and grows people and provides a quality service to its's about the people at the top making as much money as they can, as quickly as they can.

    One of my friends recently mentioned Ayn Rand's works...I see "Atlas Shrugged" all around me...

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  3. Interesting comments, Harlan.

    I am pleased to hear that there are entry level posts in the DC area. Here in the UK, the number of opportunities for 2009 graduates in this area is significantly down on previous years.

    If you are feeling cynical about the motivation of some company leaders, I would suggest you go and have a look at some of the companies involved in the 'trashion' movement.

  4. I am pretty sure that trend started way back in the '80's.


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