Cybersecurity—the safeguarding of computer hardware, software, and data against malicious attacks—is a fast-growing field. Indeed, global cybersecurity spending is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020. And with the rise of the internet of things, cybersecurity will become even more critical. This presents an opportunity—for you.
Major security breaches make headlines every year. And not-as-publicized cyberattacks happen much more frequently. Research (which is one of our tips for getting a cybersecurity job) will tell you that small businesses are constant targets of cyberattacks. Companies of all sizes need people to help protect them from hackers.
Whether you’re almost finished with school and researching career options, or you’re a working professional interested in switching careers, cybersecurity represents a tremendous opportunity. So, what’s the next step to getting a job in the cybersecurity industry? This article details five actionable tips you can use to break into the field.
1. Narrow Your Focus
A cursory glance at the cybersecurity industry will show you how diverse it is. Engineers, consultants, forensic investigators, cryptography architects, analysts, programmers—these are only some of the job types you’ll find. And all of these jobs are entirely different from each other. That means you have to start your journey by researching what you’re most interested in.
For example, if you like the idea of (legally) attempting to breach a computer network, you’ll want to be a penetration tester. This is a reasonably advanced job title, but if that’s your goal, you can work your way there by starting out as a cyber analyst or in a similar position. As a security analyst, you’ll implement defensive measures like an intrusion detection system, anti-virus software, and firewalls. You have to know how defensive tools work before you can get around them.
Once you pinpoint a job that matches your interests, it’s time to learn more about the position. Find out what the career progression is like and what the estimated salary is. After all, you want a job that you’ll enjoy, but also that coincides with your financial goals. Keep in mind that you’ll get pay raises as you gain experience and obtain certifications.
2. Research Emerging Trends
Where is cybersecurity headed? To answer that question you need to know where computer technology, in general, is headed. New operating systems and applications present opportunities for attacks, so they also present opportunities for the defense. You’ll always need to stay one step ahead of hackers. This means you’ll be a student throughout your cybersecurity career.
But choose wisely. Studying Windows XP with the goal of becoming a help desk technician or system administrator is a bad idea. The older operating system is quickly becoming extinct. While it still works, Microsoft ended support for it in 2014. That means there haven’t been regularly scheduled security updates since then (although Microsoft has issued individual fixes for dangerous malware since 2014). Get ahead of the curve by studying the latest operating systems and applications, so you’ll have relevant skills that are desired by the market.
New malware emerges on a daily basis. Thankfully, most of it will never become widespread. But now and then, a new, dangerous type of malware will rear its ugly head and spread throughout the internet. WannaCry, Conficker, and Melissa are among the most notorious. As a cybersecurity professional, part of your mission will be stopping the malware before it spreads further. To do this, you’ll need to research how it works so you can implement defense measures at your company and home. Staying up-to-date with cybersecurity topics—especially those that are malware-related—will allow you to remain competitive in the job market.
3. Gain Basic Cybersecurity Skills
This tip is arguably the most important because of the points you can add to your resume. Recall that cybersecurity employers place high importance on required skills. These may even be the most crucial factor in their screening process when recruiters look for candidates. The more skills you have aimed at a specific job, the better your chance of obtaining it. One of the most concrete ways to show experience in cybersecurity is by obtaining certifications.
Even if you don’t have prior cybersecurity experience, you can get various certifications by passing an exam. Network+ and Security+ are considered foundational but necessary certifications. If you have zero knowledge of how networks work, you might want to start with Network+. If you have some prior tech experience or are obtaining a cybersecurity-related degree, you might want to earn a certification in Security+. There are plenty of online resources that can help prepare you for these exams.
More advanced certifications are obtainable over the course of your career. Some of them—such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)—have requirements. For example, the CEH certification requires two years of prior information security employment. You’re able to get around that requirement if you take the official EC-Council training for the certification. Do your research.
4. Network with Current Cybersecurity Professionals
Why not start a conversation with people who are currently working in a cybersecurity role? Reach out to those who now have the job title you’re targeting. These people will be able to steer you in the right direction. You might even consider them mentors. And, you never know, they might have an open position within their organization that on the market yet. It would be powerful for them to put in a kind word for you to the hiring manager. The more cybersecurity professionals you speak with, the more you’ll know exactly what to do to get the job you want.
Make good use of social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—you can use each of these platforms as you begin networking. Make sure your social media profiles are professional, especially on a business-focused platform like LinkedIn. If you have unprofessional photos, you’re going to want to delete them. In this age of technology, recruiters, and hiring managers are using social media to research potential hires.
Speaking of recruiters and hiring managers, network with them too.
Doing so shows initiative, especially in hiring managers. These professionals know what skills the company needs and will guide you as you take the next steps. These steps might include obtaining certifications, finishing your degree, learning a programming language, or even researching some new computer or web application.
Once you’ve started the conversation, keep it going as you achieve milestones. Eventually, someone in your network may offer you a position or point you in the direction where one is available.
5. Apply Even if You Don’t Meet Every Qualification
Now, there are usually required and desired qualifications within a job posting. That doesn’t mean you need to check off each criterion before applying, though. Above all, you should focus on the required skills because that’s what matters most to the employer. Having any of the desired requirements are additional measures of merit that will bolster your application.
It’s not impossible to get hired even if you don’t meet all of the job posting requirements. It’s a good idea to reach out to a recruiter or hiring manager before you apply for a job like that, however. You don’t want to waste an employer’s time or your own.
Cybersecurity is so exciting right now in part because there is a shortage of people with the necessary skills for the jobs companies need to fill. But that said, specific jobs will be competitive. You’re going to want to apply for numerous positions. And reaching for positions that don’t entirely match up with your current skill is an important strategy.
You’ll find that success in landing a job can be mostly trial and error. Skills on your resume matter most of all, of course. But there is a bit of luck in play. For example, you might score an interview for the first job you apply for, but then need a dozen subsequent attempts to get another one. There are a lot of moving pieces in play during the hiring process.
Here’s the key to finding a job: Don’t get discouraged, even if you apply for many jobs and don’t hear anything back. Keep applying, keep networking, keep researching, keep learning. Sooner or later, you’re going to get interviews and land your cybersecurity dream job.