This week we are diving into Networking, Mentorship & Conferences to learn how to break into cybersecurity.
I was asked recently, “what is your number one tip for someone trying to break into cybersecurity?” Beyond ensuring you are effectively trained and prepared with all the necessary skills, my answer is “networking, networking, networking.”
Networking is the most powerful tool to break into cybersecurity. The top two benefits of networking are the connections made that could lead to employment and gaining mentors. If you’ve never done this before, you may ask yourself, how do I start networking? Here are some very practical ways to get started:
- Find professionals in your chosen field on LinkedIn that are years ahead of you in their professional journey. Follow them and engage with their posts. Message them and ask a simple question. Do not make it too long, as most people are busy and don’t have time to read paragraphs upon paragraphs or your entire life story. After building some rapport, ask if you can have a 15-minute phone conversation.
- Keep in touch with former co-workers, even if you were in a different career field. You never know if they will have the same boss as the hiring manager who interviews you for your next job.
- Attend conferences and meet as many people as you can.
Start with who you already know. If you’re like me and have professional experience, especially in military service, your network may be bigger than you even realize. The age-old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is true regarding your job search. Carefully consider the following statistic. According to HubSpot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking. In fact, according to CNBC, 70% of jobs are never published publicly. These jobs are either posted internally or are created specifically for candidates that recruiters meet through networking.” So, if you’re not networking, you miss out on most opportunities.
As I previously mentioned, mentorship is one of the great things that can unfold through networking.
- Use Veterati.com, “an innovative mentorship platform that makes being a mentor and finding mentors effortless.” I am a mentee and mentor on this site.
- Use American Corporate Partners (ACP) to connect with career coaches for a 1-1 year-long mentorship.
- Enroll in CyberWarrior Academy. Every week, they host a Career Ambassador Speaker to mentor you. Some former speakers have been senior security people at Microsoft, Eli Lilly, and CISA.
I believe that having some great mentors helped potentially shave months, if not years, off my journey into cyber. The great thing about the cybersecurity community is that most people are more than willing to help. All you have to do is reach out and ask for it. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions. I am more than happy to help if I am able to. My dad always told me, “You have not because you ask not.” Thinking about that as I write this article, I realized how that sounds like a Yoda quote! However, it is so true. The worst that will happen if you ask someone for advice or even to be mentor, is they will say not right now or no.
Each mentorship relationship will be different. You need to find what works for you as well as the mentor. It is also okay to be a mentee, and at the same time be a mentor to others. Don’t forget to pay it forward to others who are trying to accomplish the same things you have been able to. Personally, I had a mentor help me transition out of the Army, a mentor to help improve my resume, a mentor who recommends books to read based on where I am at in my career and what my current goals are. I finish those books and then reach back out to schedule the next talk and we rinse and repeat. There are formal and informal mentorship relationships. You could have mentors from books or people you follow on LinkedIn. You can also have weekly or monthly phone calls scheduled with a more formal mentoring arrangement.
I highly recommend attending a local cybersecurity conference. Travel to one if needed. It will be worth it. Many of these conferences also have job fairs attached to them. Meeting these employers face to face can increase your chances of the hiring managers remembering you and offering you that cyber position.
Strategically attend one several months prior to you needing to land a job, if possible. Bring 25 copies of your resume to hand out to employers. Then in the months leading up to that goal date, keep in touch via email. Then apply for an open position. This strategy was effective for me landing my first job in cybersecurity.
If you’ve never attended a conference then it will be extremely eye opening to attend one. There may be multiple talks happening all at the same time in different rooms. So, you will want to look at the agenda to plan ahead on the ones you want to see. Most locations for conferences are pretty nice as well. Although the admission fee may be pricey, it will certainly be worth it. I attended InfoSec World this year and some of the talks that I heard were: How to Get What You Want from your CISO, The State of 2022 Cybersecurity Jobs, From Zero to Full Domain Admin: The Real-World Story of a Ransomware Attack, Defining the Culture of your SOC, Deep Fakes, Understanding Vishing from the Attacker’s Perspective, and a Fireside Chat with Robert Herjavec. To say that the conference was beneficial and valuable is an understatement.
If you are unfamiliar with cyber conferences, here are a few to get you started:
- National Cyber Summit (Huntsville, AL)
- InfoSec World (Orlando, FL)
- Blackhat (Las Vegas, NV)
- DefCon (Las Vegas, NV)
If you think this article series could help your friends, please share it! Also stay tuned for next week as we talk about your resume, relating prior experience and transferable skills, as well as selling yourself.
Welcome to part 4 of my series: How to Break into Cybersecurity with no Prior Experience (powered by CyberWarrior). From deciding to switch careers and go cyber it took me 10 months. In these articles I’m sharing my personal experience and what I believe helped me succeed in getting into this amazing field. The response from my first 3 articles has been amazing. I am enjoying writing these and sharing the iota of cyber knowledge and experience I have. Let’s continue to help each other in the awesome field of cyber!