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By Dave Howard
Senior Director, Cyber Operations

While there’s no easy way to land your first job in cybersecurity, there are many things you can do to improve your chances of being hired.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time interviewing and mentoring folks who are new to cybersecurity and looking to land their first role in security operations, threat intelligence, and security engineering. So, I’m familiar with the many ways applicants can strengthen or weaken their candidacy for a job. Here are eight tips that may give you the advantage you need.

Your 8 Tips for Jumping Into the Cyber Field


Hit the Books

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees offer foundational knowledge and technical proficiency, and cyber degrees are no longer rare. Target programs that are accredited by the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C). Obtaining a degree demonstrates your commitment to the field and ability to research, learn, and succeed.

Obtain Industry Certifications

Certifications are a must in our field. Baseline certifications such as CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ can validate your skills and knowledge to potential employers and are often a requirement for entry-level positions.

Gain Practical Experience

You may have no hands-on experience from a previous cyber role, but you can gain experience in other ways. Build a home lab. Complete a technology-related internship. Participate in a capture-the-flag event. There are a ton of options out there.

Stay Current on Trends and Topics

One of the questions I ask entry-level candidates is “How do you stay current in cyber?” Podcasts, books, and cyber news should be a part of your daily routine.

Demonstrate Your Soft Skills

To be effective in cybersecurity, you must be well rounded. The technical analyst or engineer who can’t explain a problem or solution to their audience is ineffective. Look for ways to demonstrate your writing and briefing, critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork skills. I can’t overstate how critical these soft skills are, not only for landing your first job but for your whole career.

Be Open to Various Roles

Many entry-level candidates I talk to dream of a job that will take some years to attain. It’s good to have goals, but you might first need to gain broad experience across other security disciplines. Also, the onramp leading to your dream job may not be what you expect. Be open to roles in networking, service desk, and systems administration ― all wonderful places to cut your teeth in cybersecurity.

Network, Network, Network

Your personal and professional connections could be your strongest advantage in your career pursuits. Network as much as you can — among friends and at school, conferences, and events ― and find a mentor who works in the field.

Prepare for Your Interview

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. In addition to being on time and dressed professionally, arrive for your interview ready to demonstrate your practical skills and your passion for cybersecurity. Once I’ve determined that a candidate has met my baseline requirements (degree, certifications, etc.), I want to see their passion, curiosity, and ability to solve complex problems. Keep that in mind as you interview.

Your Cybersecurity Job Will Be Worth the Work!

Depending on where you are in your education, certification, and job search, following these eight tips could take months or even years. As I said, there’s no easy way to land that first cybersecurity role. However, by following these tips, you’ll position yourself to enter an exciting, wildly important, and rewarding field that’s worth the work. Good luck!


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