How to Get Hired in the Cybersecurity Industry
Written by: Lindsay McKay
With over 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs in North America, businesses experiencing cyber threats and attacks every 4 seconds, and attacks becoming more sophisticated every year, the industry needs more and more knowledgeable professionals. You hear all the time about people trying to get into the cybersecurity industry, but they either cannot get past the first interview or get an interview at all. So, what are these candidates missing? Hiring managers are looking for hands-on technical experience and credentials, but also for a candidate that is curious and passionate about how things work and do not work. Many candidates are missing that practical experience. The following steps can help individuals with technical and non-technical backgrounds start their journey and get hired in the cybersecurity industry.
Whether you currently work in IT or not, the best place to start is find out what kind of position you are interested in and if you have any transferable skills, both hard and soft skills. Coming from a technical background, you may already have hard skills such as writing custom code, knowing how to defend against SQL injections, how to mitigate weaknesses in software, and/or some troubleshooting knowledge. Coming from a non-technical background you may have fewer hard skills, but you have acquired many of the soft skills necessary for working in cybersecurity. For example, if you are an avid writer and have a grasp on grammar, starting as a cybersecurity technical writer is not a bad idea to get your foot in the door. Communication skills, both written and verbal, are extremely important as many cybersecurity professionals have to communicate technical topics to non-technical people.
When you get started, it is also important to engage with the community by joining cybersecurity online communities, participating in cybersecurity competitions, and going to online and in-person networking events. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals and cybersecurity professionals you look up to can help you gain credibility, confidence, and help you learn specific skills of the industry.
Everyone starts somewhere and getting an entry-level technical role can be the start of your cybersecurity journey. The foundational knowledge needed for entry-level IT roles can be attained through cybersecurity courses such as our CompTIA Security+ training course and CompTIA Network+ training course. Earning these certifications will help you gain credibility with recruiters and recruiting search engines in any IT discipline. Credentials will get you the interview, but your knowledge and experience, even if it is learning at home, will get you the job. According to a survey done by the SANS Insititute of over 500 cybersecurity professionals at 285 companies, the five core skills that cybersecurity practitioners deem critical to have and that many potential job candidates seem to lack are:
- Common exploitation techniques
- Computer architectures
- Data and cryptography
Our CompTIA Network+ training course can help you acquire networking skills, while Ashton College’s Python for beginners course and Python Certification course can teach you the most popular and useful programming language.
Build and Practice Your Skills
Hands-on experience is a key component to getting hired in the cybersecurity industry, whether that is paid, volunteer experience, or at-home experiments. All of it will help you stand out to hiring managers. Volunteering or getting a job at a help desk will give you the best troubleshooting learning experience. If this is not possible, there are many other opportunities to build and practice your skills:
- Practice and learn the basics of security on TryHackMe, even when starting out as a beginner
- Set up your own hacking lab with a spare computer or server to practice and familiarize yourself with different operating systems
- Look at doing bug bounty programs, a deal offered by many websites, organizations, and software developers in which individuals can receive recognition and compensation for reporting bugs, especially those pertaining to security exploits and vulnerabilities. A great way to learn exploitation techniques.
- Collaborate and build projects on GitHub, you can think of GitHub as your portfolio of projects
- Get technology-related volunteer experience by offering technical support at non-profits and local organizations
Practicing and building up your skills takes time. Making mistakes is important to learn and get better. Combining your credentials, hands-on experience, and curiosity and passion for the industry will help you get hired and start your journey in the cybersecurity industry. But remember, do not be afraid to start in an entry level position and move into a cybersecurity role later on. After some time in the industry, earn the only intermediate high-stake cybersecurity certification with CompTIA CySA+ training to validate your knowledge and skills in the cybersecurity.
Have a job interview lined up? Read 7 of the Most Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions
Need more inspiration? Read The Roadmap to Your Future in Cybersecurity