A SOC analyst role is equal parts fulfilling and overwhelming. On one hand, the landscape is dynamic and the work is critical to protecting organizations. On the other, the weight of continual responsibility can lead to stress, anxiety, and cybersecurity burnout.
Understanding the importance of your mental health is crucial to maintaining productivity and preventing cybersecurity burnout.
Recognize the Reality: There Will Be Highs and Lows
The spotlight often shines on SOC triumphs, from successful threat mitigation to novel malware discovery to innovative security measures. But it’s just as important to recognize that there are also plenty of challenging, stressful parts of the job.
Some of the most common include long hours during the week, being called in on weekends and holidays, and the growing pressure of handling intricate malware attacks. Not surprisingly, this often leads to feelings of exhaustion and frustration combined with overwhelming alert fatigue.
In these difficult moments, feelings of anxiety and even imposter syndrome may creep in. The good news? It happens to all of us—and these moments don’t define your worth or capacity as a SOC analyst. Instead, it’s what you do in response to these moments that define what comes next.
The Good Outweighs the Bad
Despite tough moments, the good typically outweighs the bad. From the sense of achievement that comes with stopping a malware attack to creating SOC teams capable of handling the toughest challenges together, there’s plenty to like about being a SOC analyst.
To help navigate the tough times, it’s worth meeting regularly with your manager to take stock of your achievements. Even if it’s just a simple check-in, having someone to celebrate with and record your wins can offer a much-needed boost when things don’t go as planned.
It’s also critical to consider your career path. If you’re not feeling fulfilled in your role as a SOC analyst, that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. Instead, you can consider using your current role as a stepping stone to reach a more satisfying position in cybersecurity, such as a cloud security analyst, cyberfusion analyst, or purple team analyst.
Embrace a Growth Mindset in Difficult Times
Retaining a growth mindset can help you thrive as a SOC analyst and avoid cybersecurity burnout. In practice, three approaches can help you better manage SOC challenges.
1. Understand the Emotional Cycle
Challenges lead to emotional change. But these emotions often follow a predictable pattern. First, you’re optimistic—you can handle anything that comes your way. Then, concern sets in, followed by worry that you won’t succeed. If you stay the course, however, you’ll find your way forward and discover the answer. For SOC analysts, emerging attacks can trigger this response—by understanding the pattern, you’re better positioned to take charge of your emotions rather than simply riding shotgun.
2. Recognize the Risk Reality
SOC analysts deal in risks. But not all risks are equal. For example, risks that are highly likely and have a high impact are a priority. Those that have low likelihood and low impact, meanwhile, can be part of your to-do list but aren’t immediate concerns. Given the overwhelming amount of risk scenarios faced by SOC analysts, understanding the risk reality, and developing ways to effectively assess this risk can both reduce stress and improve SOC response.
3. Turn the Tables on Challenges
Despite your best efforts, sometimes things go terribly, disastrously, and horribly wrong. This is the nature of SOC analysis; sometimes the bad guys succeed. As a result, it’s easy to get frustrated, especially if you haven’t had a win in a while. To help navigate these challenges, think of them as lessons rather than losses. For example, if a new malware threat manages to break through network defenses, don’t waste time punishing yourself over mistakes. Instead, consider what you learned from the attack. What telltale signs can you spot next time? What steps can you take right now to reduce the risk of compromise?
No single method can guarantee success, but a consistent focus on what you love, coupled with an attitude of continuous learning, can greatly enrich your career. Navigating the journey and maintaining that zeal for achieving your goals—that’s where the real value lies.
Balance Career and Wellness
Start by talking to your manager about what’s working for you, what isn’t, and where you have concerns. While SOC analysis is a naturally stressful position, it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Potential options for finding a balance include more training to help you better manage emerging incidents, scheduled time off where you’re not on call and can fully reset, automation tools that can help manage alert volumes, and improved resource allocation to provide additional day-to-day support.
With a multipronged approach, it’s possible to better navigate the high-stress environment of cybersecurity and ensure that mental well-being doesn’t have to be sacrificed for a career choice.
Keep the Fire Burning
SOC analysts have a challenging job. They’re constantly under pressure to succeed in cybersecurity efforts and reduce the risk of emerging threats. The result? It’s easy for cybersecurity burnout to start creeping in. Left unchecked, it can sap interest in your job, create stress in your home life, and leave you feeling unsatisfied in your career.
To keep the fire burning, remember that the good outweighs the bad—the job you’re doing is important, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of catching bad guys in the act. It’s also important to recognize that bad times will happen. And when they do, look for ways to shift challenges into ongoing opportunities for growth. Last but never least? Don’t put your life on the back burner. By balancing career and wellness, you can find satisfaction in the work you’re doing, and become a better analyst as a result.
Ready to light it up as a super SOC analyst? See how with Devo’s SOC Career Guide.