Charting Your Path to a [Mostly] Rewarding Career in Cybersecurity

You already know that cybersecurity has become a critical concern for individuals, businesses, and governments. Threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated. The demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals is high as well. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, this article will give you some insights and practical tips to help you navigate your career path. Keep in mind, these are just my opinions based on my 20+ years experience in the IT field.

Why Cybersecurity?

Of all the jobs in IT you could chase after, you’re interested in Cybersecurity. Why? Probably because you know it’s an essential f area that organizations can’t ignore. There’s sensitive data tp protect, critical infrastructure to safeguard, and the overall integrity and resilience of a companies digital systems that need to be protected. The consequences of cyber attacks can be very severe, ranging from financial losses to a damaged reputation. If you are a Cybersecurity professionals, you play a key role in mitigating these risks. Bottom line: It’s important!

Five Practical Tips for Building a Career In Cybersecurity

These are my five practical tips that I think you need to consider. They don’t have to be in any particular order, except for the first one. I say this because you need to start somewhere. At any rate, here are the five.

  1. Develop a Strong Foundation
  2. Specialize and Obtain Certifications
  3. Build a Professional Network
  4. Continue to Learn and Develop Your Skills
  5. Consider Entry-Level Roles and Career Progression

Let’s break each one of them down.

Develop a Strong Foundation

You need to start somewhere, and when you build a house, you don’t build the roof first. Build the foundation. What should your foundation look like? It could be a degree in computer science or something related, but it doesn’t have to be. The goal should be to have a foundation layer of knowledge. Degrees can do this, but so can certifications, if you choose the right one. Be caution of vendor specific certifications because they tend to leave you with gaps in the overall picture. With the knowledge you also need hands-on. This is part of your foundation. Build some muscle memory in the basic things and also a comfort level in actually “doing” work and not just watching it. You should know networking, operating systems, a programming language, and general security concepts.

Specialize and Obtain Certifications

You usually start as a generalist and become a specialist. This is where the money comes from in many cases. Find an area you like and lean into it. This could be network security (which is my preferred area), application security, incident response, forensics, and so on. When you have an area you like then you should start to think about industry recognized certifications. You could look at the CISSP, CEH, and SANS certifications to name a few. Work in a bit of staying informed in this area as well. Whether it’s newsfeeds, using LinkedIn, X, or whatever, find the method you will use to stay up to date with current topics and best practices in your chosen area.

Build a Professional Network

For me this started on Twitter, now its mostly moved to LinkedIn. But you should consider joining cybersecurity communities, attend conferences, and participate in online forums when you can. These are ways to help create connections with people. Do this and seek mentorship opportunities.

Continue to Learn and Develop Your Skills

You have to agree to be a career-long learner. The tech changes, the threats change, the tools change. You’ll need to stay current with these things. Find trusted training and keep learning. Be cautious of “free training” on YouTube. This is often out of date or poorly developed. You get what you pay for.

Consider Entry-Level Roles and Career Progression

IT support can be a challenging role. It’s not always fun and you have a people factor to work with. You may not be a people person. Network administration is not always fun either. It can become mundane. A security analyst sounds fancy, but means you’re often looking at logs and passing tough stuff off to other people to figure out. Still, these all give you valuable work experience, so pay your dues. Get the time in. Use it to learn.

Wrap up

These are just a few thoughts I have today. But you can use this as a guide. Make a list, and start checking them off. If you hit all these areas I honestly believe you can have a rewarding career in Cybersecurity (or whatever other IT field you want to be in). But you have to put in the effort. You can do it. Just keep pushing and don’t give up. Feel free to reach out if you have questions! Happy careering!

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