Cybersecurity as part of an overall Information Systems environment has existed for many years, but recent cyber-attacks have forced companies of all sizes to focus on cybersecurity to enhance security, protect sensitive customer and employee data, and to prevent damage to their corporate brand. Maybe you are looking to jump into a cybersecurity career? I have some basic tips to help you make the leap to a rewarding career in cybersecurity.
- Skills – A company only wants to hire the best employees, usually for the lowest wage possible. Your salary is usually based on your skills, experience, and the local market. If you haven’t got any relevant experience, and you can’t demonstrate relevant skills, you may never get a cybersecurity job and you’ll definitely be underpaid if you do get a job. The best way to demonstrate skills without experience is an industry recognized certification. While having a degree in cybersecurity will open some doors, an EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA Security+, or many other certifications will help demonstrate you have the knowledge and skills to tackle the complexities of cybersecurity. Look at job postings to see what types of certifications are needed or common for the type of job you want to pursue. You can get a free certification called Certified in Cybersecurity from (ISC)², the same cybersecurity professional organization known for the popular CISSP certification. Just sign up as an (ISC)² Candidate. When you’re ready to sit for the exam, you can find your exam promo code on the Candidates benefits page. Please note that you may only use the exam promo code once. To register for your exam at a Pearson VUE test center, visit https://www.isc2.org/Register-for-Exam
- Experience – This can be the most difficult thing for a beginner to accomplish. How can you be expected to gain experience if you can’t get a job without experience? You can try internships, a part-time job, freelancing for a few friends or associates, volunteering at a local non-profit, or complete Capture-the-Flag (CTF) challenges. These are all great ways to gain hands-on experience in cybersecurity, maybe without giving up your normal job. These initial experiences will not only help you determine if this career is right for your personality and lifestyle, but it will also build your skills and experience to enhance your resume.
- Awareness – Most of what is happening in cybersecurity isn’t mainstream news. You need to follow some basic industry news sites (securityweek.com, thehackernews.com, bleepingcomputer.com, etc.) to learn about new attack methods, attend cybersecurity conferences to listen to experts and vendors, participate in free webinars to learn new skills, and join online or local communities to meet your future coworkers. These relationships and information are usually free (or low-cost) ways to stay informed about emerging threats, hacking tools, and industry best practices in the field. Being a well-informed cybersecurity professional adds value to your portfolio and can attract interest from an organization during an interview.
- Relationships – By networking and building professional relationships, you can create a strong professional network that can possibly offer you mentorships, job referrals, information about recent job posting, or just someone to talk to when you need a pep talk.
- Attitude – You’ll probably meet a few people who still think of security professionals as teenagers living in their parent’s basement trying to hack into the Pentagon or the local video game store. You’ll need to demonstrate your professionalism in actions and appearance. Cybersecurity professionals have access to critical and sensitive business information, so you’ll need to demonstrate you can handle that responsibility with the highest standards of conduct, ethical behavior, and professional demeanor. This includes while at a job interview, attending a conference, and while talking to colleagues or friends. Don’t give anyone a reason to second-guess the opportunity to recommend you for a job.
- Focus – Learn everything you can and stay focused on the prize. Don’t take half steps toward getting that dream job in cybersecurity. There are entry-level jobs out there, you just need to be persistent and patient to find the hiring manager willing to give you a chance. The more you know, the more you’ll find out how much you don’t know about cybersecurity. Accept your limitations and lean into finding an entry-level position. Stay curious and accept you have a ton to learn, but demonstrate a willingness and ability to learn.
These are the basic building blocks to finding a rewarding career in cybersecurity. Some people find it easy and get an entry-level job a few weeks into their job search, while others can spend months without any luck. It doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. Stay positive and focused and you’ll eventually find success.