How can you start a career in information security? Here are 4 tips to land your first job!
The Key is to Stand Out
The information security field boasts one of the fastest-growing job industries in the United States.
Couple that with a worsening cybersecurity skills shortage, and it seems like establishing a career in the field should be relatively simple, but many have met with resistance while trying to secure their first job.
The key to landing that first position is to effectively differentiate yourself from other candidates during the application process.
The tips below identify actions you can take to set yourself apart from the competition.
Research the Field
The information security field is massive. It’s comprised of hundreds of different jobs, many of which require specialized skill sets.
The first step to landing your first information security job is to identify one or several positions that interest you. I recommend starting at a high level, identifying different areas that sound appealing, and then drilling down into a position that best matches your skills and interests.
For example, if you have an interest in incident response, you may conduct further research and determine that you would like to pursue a position as a forensic analyst.
This simple step helps differentiate you because once you know the types of positions you are pursuing you can predict the types of skills hiring managers will be seeking. You can then leverage the countless resources at your disposal (many of which are free) to learn more about the positions and obtain relevant skills.
Depending on the types of positions you are interested in, you may be able to leverage your own equipment and resources to gain practical experience.
For example, if you are interested in becoming a security administrator, you can create your own local area network (LAN) and practice implementing and monitoring secure configurations within that network.
When going through the interview process, hiring managers will, in one way or another, want to find out why they should hire you. If you’re able to explain to them how you already have “hands-on” experience, it tends to make the rest of the conversation run much more smoothly.
Take on Responsibilities in Your Current Role
When hiring managers are comparing resumes of potential candidates, they are generally less concerned with titles, and more concerned with the responsibilities that applicants previously held.
If you are currently employed but not working within an information security department, see if your employer will let you take on additional information security-related responsibilities.
You can leverage this type of opportunity to gain practical experience for a future role, and show that you were committed enough to the field to add additional workload to your existing commitments.
Networking (Not the Technical Kind)
Networking is critical because it adds a human element to a competitive hiring process. Rather than being at the mercy of many less-than-perfect automated resume screening products, you can connect with individuals who can share insight into what knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed for a certain job.
Additionally, depending on prior interactions, they may even help you bypass the normal application process if you meet certain criteria.
Networking also helps you assess the culture of organizations. Culture is one of the very few things that are inimitable across companies. It often determines what your work/life balance will look like, how you will interact with co-workers, and overall, how much you will enjoy working for a company.
Click here for more tips on evaluating the culture of an organization.
Breaking into information security can be a challenge for many individuals trying to land their first job in the field. But with the correct preparation, candidates can demonstrate their value to hiring managers and enter an industry that is filled with opportunity.