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Getting a Job in Cyber Defense Requires More Effort than Just Obtaining a Degree

Getting a Job in Cyber Defense Requires More Effort than Just Obtaining a Degree
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Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

By James Lint
Senior Editor for InCyberDefense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

People often tell me that they want a cyber defense job. I tell them that’s great, but you must do much more than simply get a college degree.

For example, you must learn about your target industry and set goals to reach. You have many decisions to make beyond just where to go to college.

Spring Breaks Offer Opportunities for Cybersecurity Education

I asked one young man what he had done to reach his goals so far. He said he had just finished a master’s degree at a university. That’s good; he started to learn about his future profession.

I also asked this future cyber defense worker what he did on spring break. He said he did nothing this year, but on a previous break he went to Cancun, Mexico.

His time could have been better spent working toward his goals. For example, he could have taken a certification exam or gone on interviews for an internship.

He may have gained some cybersecurity education even during his spring break in Cancun. For example, was the style or speed of the Internet different in Cancun? Was the keyboard different because Spanish is the language spoken in Mexico? (Try using a keyboard in a cyber café in Korea or Russia, and you will see some differences.)

Did the cyber cafes he visited have antivirus protection or malware defense software? Was the system locked down or wide open, so he could see elements of the network that may indicate its level of security?

There’s lots to learn about cybersecurity, anytime and anywhere.

Summer Breaks Provide Chances to Work in Cyber Defense Jobs

There are many opportunities for educational internships in the summer; many are unpaid. Although you may not make any money during an internship, you will learn about corporate culture and get a different, real-world perspective on cyber defense than you will from a college education.

Summer is a time for job and internship hunting. It is not about your comfort or having a week-long party at the beach.

Are you pursuing your cyber defense career goals or hoping to obtain them by luck? How will you answer this question from a hiring manager: “What did you do on your last two summer breaks?” Your response tells the manager if you are focused on a cybersecurity job or if you’re a time waster.

Job Hunting Requires Active Effort beyond Job Fairs

I asked a recent graduate how his job hunting was going. He said he was waiting to find a good job fair.

My response to him was, “Why are you not sending resumes to corporate Human Resources departments?” HR departments like to maintain a large database of people who want a job with them. If you do not send them any applications and resumes, they will never know you are available.

When a recent graduate job hunter was asked what job series he wanted in the federal government, he simply said “cyber or maybe IT.”

However, in the federal government, you do not apply for a “maybe” type of job. You apply for a specific job with an assigned job series number.

If you do not know the four-digit number associated with the career you want, you lose credibility and need to do more research. Below are samples of some federal cyber defense job numbers:

  • 0854 Computer Engineering
  • 1550 Computer Science
  • 2210 Information Technology Management

Breaks and Weekends Are Optimum Time for Cyber Defense Job Research

Good hiring managers will assess how you use your time and how you focus on your goals. Use your free time wisely and set goals. Sample goals for a weekend may be:

  • Document and articulate your goals.
  • Discover, research and understand four federal job series.
  • Send two job applications to two different HR departments or to usajobs.gov.
  • Learn one new tidbit of knowledge by reading IT/cyber defense blogs.

Evaluate Your Goals and Job Focus

Professionals such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have a great focus and reach their goals. Evaluate your efforts to reach your goals and think about what you can do to improve your chances of success.

One question all job hunters should ask themselves is, “Am I actively pursuing my goals or hoping to obtain them by luck?” Guess which option will be more successful?

Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 49th scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. In 2017, he was appointed to the position of Adjutant for The American Legion, China Post 1. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book published in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a new book in 2017 Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.”

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