Is cybersecurity the right job for you?

As cyber staffing shortages put pressure on the public and private sectors, many employers are showing little patience for job seekers with entry-level skills.

Cybersecurity Hiring

Headlines, reports and keynote addresses describing a cybersecurity workforce crisis continue to dominate the IT security landscape, with thousands – even hundreds of thousands – of open positions for cyber pros. Are you one of the many IT workers looking to make the jump, only to fall short of getting hired? It's all too common, and there are some surprising reasons why.

At a time when cybersecurity is more important than ever, countless thousands of tech workers are looking to find a way into the lucrative and ostensibly wide-open field. A number of them, limited by a lack of security experience, the wrong educational background or inadequate skill sets, are being shut out, even as the staffing shortages mount. Combine that with a hiring process that doesn't quite fit the mission, and it's a recipe for confusion and frustration all around.

"The problems and shortages are so severe at this point, employers want people who can hit the ground running and who have that experience," said Hord Tipton, executive director of (ISC)2, a top IT education and certification organization, and former Interior Department CIO. "In many cases they don’t have the time, patience or comfort level for hiring entry-level people who have to learn on the job. So that makes it difficult, and fixing it won't happen overnight."

Even though workers with IT experience might not be considered entry-level, the lack of security-specific experience creates barriers to jumping into cybersecurity. But there may be deeper reasons, too: if you keep getting shut out, it might not be right for you.

"You have to have a passion for what you're doing. You have to have that natural sense of curiosity about how things work," said Fred Kerby, instructor at the SANS Institute and formerly an information assurance manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. "It's not something you can just get a certificate for and check that box on your resume. You can learn everything about the subject matter, but a good manager can see if the passion is there. And if it's not, then it's not the job for you. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that people wanting to get into cybersecurity should be thinking about."

Further up the chain, getting through the hiring filters can be a struggle. Tipton and Kerby both agreed that the traditional human resources process, through which applicants typically are sorted, might not work so well when it comes to cybersecurity hiring.

"Today all the applications are filtered by keywords and reviewed by people who don't necessarily understand what the mission is. If you don't understand what the mission is, how do you find the right person for the job?" Kerby said. "When I was hiring, I used to sit down with a candidate and tell them, I'm going to ask you 20 questions. Here's the 20 questions; it's not a pop quiz. There are no right or wrong answers. By the end of those 20 questions, chances were I knew whether that person was right for the job, but more importantly that person knew whether the job was right for them. You can't know, whether you're the manager or the candidate, if someone is right for the mission until you sit down with them and figure out what makes them tick. And that's hard to do when you're talking about huge numbers of workers and positions."

Tipton pointed out that with the growing awareness of cybersecurity – as evidenced by high-profile cyberattacks such as the November 2013 Target hack – even hiring managers are becoming more savvy. The hope is that broader understanding of cybersecurity will continue to grow as the field expands in two ways: vertically and horizontally.

"Vertically, we're going down now into grade school, finding kids with the knack for security and growing them up through college into places where they can get the right experience and certifications," Tipton said. "We also recognize that there are a lot of people out there ... that have to pick up and enhance what they know about security in order to operate in a very complex area. That’s more of a horizontal pathway."

Continuing education, certification and training all are key in getting hired, but success after the first day on the job also is an integral part of resolving cyber-staffing woes. Much depends on employers making known their expectations and requirements.

"Before I left my [Navy] job, one of the most important things I did was sit down and write down everything I did as the incumbent," Kerby said. "You have to have a clear description of what your requirements are before you can find the right person to meet those requirements and succeed in the role. There has to be that clear understanding on both sides."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.