This post was originally published here by (ISC)² Management.

If earning a professional certification were easy, everyone would have one. The truth is, making the decision to advance your career is a major undertaking. Planning for the process is the best way to set yourself up for success on the certifications you need to advance your infosec career.

In order to manage your expectations, it is important to be realistic about the commitment you’re making. Following these five steps will set you up for success by ensuring that you are choosing the certifications you need based on the skills you currently have and where you want to take your career.

  1. Know what you want and what you need. Let’s face it, there are a lot of certification offerings, and one practitioner certainly doesn’t need them all. The first step in facing the challenge of certification is determining what you need. Do your due diligence and research. Then, identify your ‘why’. Are you looking to overcome challenges presented by shifts in technology or hoping to advance your career? What do you want from a certification? Which qualifications do you have? What additional experience is required? When you can answer these questions, you’re on your way to success.
  1. Practice to prepare. It goes without saying that you should study for a test, but studying is different from practicing. In addition to review questions, you can also take advantage of practice exams to gauge your confidence before taking the plunge. Take the time to get to know the exam and continue honing in on the skills you already have as they might help you as you prepare.
  1. Identify your weaknesses to turn them into strengths. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify our own shortcomings. If you are able to recognize the skills, knowledge, and training that will advance you on your career path, you can focus on turning a weakness into a strength. The best way to serve your clients is to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know.
  1. Take advantage of training opportunities. Whether you are a traditional classroom student or prefer to work online at your own pace on your own time with or without an instructor, there are a variety of trainings to take advantage of. Look for training programs that offer the most current, real-world examples that allow you to apply the knowledge and experience you have, but be selective and choose the offerings that will allow you to grow and success as technology evolves.
  1. Mark your calendar. Set up a study plan and stick to it. Schedule time to study and train so that all of the work you need to do fits in with your life. Working toward a security certification demands not only your intellectual attention but also your time. Look at the dates that the exam is offered and pick one. Commit to it by marking the date on your calendar. Don’t stop there, though because you have practice tests to take and trainings to attend.

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