Cyber security is an area that is simultaneously lusted after (professionally speaking) and crying out for talent. The opportunities are there but acquiring a job in cyber security takes more than just desire. As a freshly graduated 20-something you may already be on the right path to a career in cyber security or you may be looking for a way in. We share our tips to help you transform from IT aficionado into cyber security expert.
First, ask yourself, do you know what the basic skills required of a cyber security analyst are? Do you possess any of them? Cyber security professionals must be highly analytical, detail-oriented and excellent problem solvers. Fundamentally, you need to select a career path that plays to your strengths, particularly with cyber security as much of the technical elements can be taught or learnt but these qualities must be innate.
If you’re not yet involved in the tech space, start by reading up on or taking a course in IT basics. A CompTIA Security+ certification is a useful entry point too for candidates hoping to work in cyber security as unlike the CISM and CISSP it doesn’t require prior industry experience. These certifications though are undoubtedly what you should aspire to as you move through your career.
This is where experience comes in. Whether your goal is to acquire a solid understanding of general IT or specify from the outset in computer systems analysis or a network administrator role, for example; gaining related experience to the area of cyber security you’re aiming to pursue is vital to becoming a successful cyber security professional. What’s also important to remember here though is to try and make the experience you gain as diverse and extensive as possible, so don’t just put all your proverbial eggs into security. Become an expert in other areas like various scripting languages and administering multiple operating systems, with the aim of becoming the person everyone goes to with their security issues.
At the same time as you’re becoming the person to know, get to know some security gurus yourself because in this business, as in many, it is often who you know. Don’t forgo any opportunity to meet up and connect with other cyber security people. Whether you do it through membership to professional organisations like ISACA or (ISC)², involving yourself in open source or community projects, conferences, LinkedIn, online cyber security groups, social media or word of mouth introductions; network.
Twitter is a great resource for extending your online network and connecting with likeminded and perhaps influential individuals who can help you further your cyber security career. Follow the likes of Bill Brenner, Dave Shackleford and Gadi Evron to be part of the cyber conversation. Twitter is a valid news source to keep abreast of cyber security events, trends and product news and useful networking tool. But, like any social media outlet, use it wisely to project the cyber professional you aspire to be and use it as a way of marketing yourself to potential employers.
When it comes to interviewing for cyber security jobs you’ll most likely be asked about your home lab or network which is your opportunity to demonstrate initiative and self-directed learning. Aside from experimenting with your in-home system, it’s a good idea for an aspiring cyber security professional to read up on subjects like reverse engineering malware, the way social engineering manipulates human weakness in causing data breaches, or the methods of hackers and how to defeat them. Getting involved in open-source and community projects is another great way of adding value to the tech space and highlighting your commitment to it.